Category Archives: Diet Myths

Little and Often

grazing-dietThis is a great question we received on Saturday……does eating little and often encourage fat loss or benefit your health?

Let’s cut to the chase: No!

This dietary “gem” relates to conventional dietary wisdom favoured by health and fitness establishments who suggest this eating little and often will help you keep your metabolism up and stoked and thus increase your fat burning possibilities.

Running alongside this dietary myth is the idea that if you eat less than once every three hours, your body goes into starvation mode and your metabolic rate slows down causing you to store more fat.  Kind of like a hibernating bear…..

Let’s review the science: our metabolic rate is determined by the energy required to keep our cells alive and functioning in good order.  This is our basal metabolic rate and remains at a constant level.  It will increase if we gain weight as we have more cells requiring energy but if our weight is constant then we will still burn this amount of calories throughout the day through existence and routine alone: not eating or eating does not affect that; it is simply the amount of calories that we require in homeostasis.

And not eating: does it slow down out metabolic rate?  The science says a definite “no” – for example, in a study putting people under starvation conditions for three days they saw no drop in metabolism and in fact saw a slight increase in metabolic rate after 36 hours of fasting (starvation)  and slightly higher again after 72 hours….

In another study at the Pennington Biomedical Research Centre, men and women who fasted every other day for a period of 22 days, experienced no decrease in their metabolic rate.

This confirms that our metabolic rate does not decrease at all when we don’t eat for three days and confirms that eating little and often to keep your metabolism up is not necessary as it doesn’t drop in the first place!

But you are right: so far we have only demonstrated that not eating does not slow our metabolism…what is the affect increased eating has on weight-loss: does it increase our metabolic rate and does it reduce muscle loss?

In a study using participants at a healthy body weight (BMI between 18 and 25), individuals were compared eating three meals a day with those eating one meal a day at the same calorie levels (although not focusing on calorie restriction) but instead at maintenance levels not intended to cause weight-loss (but to study the effects of decreased meal frequency) actually found that eating one meal a day decreased body fat levels by 1-2kg over the 8 week experimentation period.  There was no change in body fat for the three meal a day group.  The fact people lost body-fat from eating the same number of calories in a single sitting rather than across three meals shows that eating more frequently has no advantage.

In anther study using 16 obese individuals divided into two groups and comparing 6 meals a day against three meals a day with the same calorie consumption for 8 weeks found there was no difference in weight loss between the two groups and no signs of increased metabolism from the higher frequency meal group.  There was no difference in lean muscle preservation either, the muscle loss was exactly the same too: the hunger levels; and satiaty were similar showing that eating more often does nothing to improve the sensation of fullness.

Comments we have received on this subject illustrate the pitfalls of eating in this way: one client in particular confirmed what common sense would dictate: small meals are never enough and the opportunity to overeat is therefore ever present.  Another client remarked that this advice came from body builders – now wait a moment, surely a body builder’s objective is to bulk up and what’s your objective with fat loss……counter intuitive when you start thinking about it?  With no practical advantage to fat loss and a practice more akin to cattle, we urge you to quit grazing, go back to basics, heed the advice above (and Prince Charles)  and eat when hungry and stop when you are full.

Once again:  The little and often myth is busted!

5 a day ? No Way!

5-a-day5-a-day? No Way!

This has to be the most widely promoted well known public health campaign in the country.  And given that fact, you might be forgiven for thinking the advice was based on medical evidence and scientific fact?

Well, you’d be wrong!  Because there is no scientific evidence.  In fact, this campaign was invented in California in 1991 by the American National Cancer Institute and the Produce for Better Health Foundation who’s members comprise vegetable growers, packers and the logistics world of …..that’s right, fruit and veg growing and fruit and veg packing. Yes the very organisations that have the most to gain (financially) by convincing the world to eat more fruit and veg.

So what’s the theory?  Fruit and veg are recommended (in conventional dietary wisdom) to prevent heart disease and cancer because of their antioxidant properties: they are supposed to prevent the creation of damaging free radicals.  Interesting but is it this true?  The most recent study was published in April 2010 in the Journal of the National Cancer Institute.  The study involved 142,605 men and 335,873 women  for the period 1992 – 2000.  The review found that eating five portions of fruit and vegetables a day had little effect on cancer risk and concluded that the very small difference observed could be attributable to other factors: giving up alcohol or smoking, obesity, exercise, taking the Pill or HRT.

There are a remarkable number of other studies which also fail to support the claims made.  For example, in 2002 the University of Helsinki studied the effects of high and low intakes of vegetables and berries and apples on oxidation in subjects consuming diets high in unsaturated fatty acids.  They found “no significant differences between the diets”

In 2003 THE CARDIO 2000  study results were published.  The study was looking at fruit and vegetable consumption in relation to heart disease.  The study found in favour of fruit and vegetable consumption and concluded that it could reduce the risk of heart disease but signficantly it did not need five portions a day to achieve this. “Consumption of two or more servings a week is associated with a 70% reduction in relative risk” the researchers concluded.  And yes, you read that right,“two or more servings a week”.

In fact,  Professor Sir Charles George (medical director of the British Heart Foundation) said during an interview with the Daily Mail about the study results and the obvious conflict with government guidelines that “there is some argument about how much you need.  I think five may be an arbitrary figure.”

So what’s the problem  and why are Paleo Works flagging this up?

Simply this: what we have is a marketing campaign with no provable significant benefit for public health.  The campaign is based on neither medical evidence nor scientific fact.

Worse still this campaign is fuelling the obesity epidemic.  Why?  Because of the high levels of fructose contained in fruit and the effect it has on our bodies (not to mention teeth – if parents knew the damaging effect fruit juice had on their children, the likes of Tropicana and Sunny Delight would be out of business by tomorrow).  Take a look at this article we wrote on the damaging effects of fructose.  In summary we state that the high sugar content of many fruits means that they are not something to emphasise in your diet if weight loss and optimal health are your goals.  This is particularly so if you do not tolerate carbohydrate well (specifically: diabetics, type 2 diabetics, those who suffer from metabolic syndrome or are insulin resistant).

If you are going to eat fruit, eat it sparingly and opt for berries which are relatively low in sugar and offer a better deal in terms of nutrient content.  Avocados are also a good choice given the high good fat content.  Every day fruit: apples; peaches; pears; plums; citrus fruits – eat these in moderation and by that we mean watch your body and how it reacts.  High sugar tropical fruits (pineapples, mangoes, paw-paws, passion fruit) : these should be avoided until you hit your weight loss targets  And don’t eat dried fruit, period!

Vegetables are a great choice on the paleo diet especially those that grow above the ground such as broccoli, cabbage, cauliflower and kale.  These tend to be low in carbohydrate and highly nutritious containing folate, vitamin C, phytochemicals and soluble fibre.  If you are looking to increase calcium in your diet choose:  collard greens, spinach or turnip greens.  Vegetables that grow below the ground are richer in carbohydrate content and should be eaten less frequently: carrots, parsnips, swedes, sweet potatoes, squashes, pumpkins.  Avoid white potatoes for their effect on your insulin.   Great alternatives to mashed potato are mashed cauliflower or mashed  celeriac (mash with cream or butter or both, add seasoning) Onions are fine (impossible to overeat onions) and mushrooms are relatively low in carbohydrate and rich in vitamin D and tasty (especially in a fried breakfast)!

In summary – avoid fruit in favour of vegetables if weight loss and great health are your goals.  And be selective int he vegetables you chose.  Follow the paleo diet and in this way, your weight will continue to fall off.  Finally avoid those public health campaign messages….or at least investigate for yourself and check that the findings are based on scientific evidence and not fuelled by an industry with a vested financial interest! So the very next time you hear a food manufacturer or distributor telling you it’s part of your five-a-day, you’ll be saying No Way!

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