That’s the line I read in Body & Soul a few weeks back. What a headline.
It sure caught my eye. I’m sure it caught a lot of eyes. Dietitians, nutritionists, personal trainers, anyone with an interest in nutrition, fitness or health, and probably anyone with 2016 aspirations of abs & thigh gaps.
The article opens with “Forget the 5:2 diet. Get the same weight-loss results without starving yourself..”.
I start to question whether my explicit language in my grandparents living room was actually called for. Somedays I do speak too quickly.
But then comes “…with the ground-breaking new discovery of “sirtfoods”
What the freekeh are sirtfoods?
Before I’m caught too off guard questioning how in my 6 years (combined) of study and working in the area of nutrition, I have not come across such a term, the author wins my heart by talking about the shitty side effects of fasting: hunger, irritability, fatigue and muscle loss. They even go on to point out that ongoing fasting regimens could put us at risk of malnutrition. Yes.
However, just as hope comes knocking on my door, they call these sirt foods ‘wonder foods’ which I immediately translate into superfoods #cringe. Again these foods (blueberries, apples, kale, green tea, dark chocolate, general healthy foods etc etc) sound like they can do everything from increasing the efficiency of your muscles to stopping your ex-boyfriends ex-girlfriends brother cheating on his girlfriend. All because these foods activate our ‘skinny gene’. I’m not cringing.
So wait, what exactly is a sirtfood?
Let’s get science-y. Sirtfoods are high in polyphenols, naturally occurring compounds, that have the potential to activate sirtuins. Sirtuins beings proteins in our body, coded by the SIRT1 gene, said to help protect our cells from dying or inflammation, and some research has shown they can help regulate your metabolism, increase muscle and burn fat. So, like, the more you eat of them, the more your ‘skinny gene’ is activated, the more you burn fat and lose weight. Amazing, right?
If only it was that easy.
Following on, because in this day and age we are sick of being told what we can’t eat, the author reinforced the diet being more about what we should be putting on our plate. Nice one.
And then, there it is. For day 1-3 you can only eat 1000 calories per day.
Hello 911, my suspicions have been confirmed & poor language justified. 2016 has brought our next fad diet.
The authors sell this new ‘sirt diet’ as a sustainable way of life, with no restriction (I’m baffled with this bit) & they clearly say all the right winning at innocent, non-cynical hearts shit to get you in.
But, has anyone tried to eat only 1000 calories in a day?
Cue hunger, irritability, fatigue and muscle loss.
Cue a restricted, unsustainable way of life, in hell.
As with many of the diets we have seen over the years, the sirtfood diet ticks many of the same characteristics.
– It promises a quick fix. 3.2kgs in one week is unrealistic and unsustainable. Fat loss takes time so a proportion of this is likely fluid. If you do wish to lose some weight, 0.5-1.0kg per week is the general recommendation, it’s both achievable and sustainable
– 1000 calories. The average 60kg woman needs approximately 1300 calories just to function & breathe air. It’s likely this dramatic weight loss is the effect of calorie restriction rather than the extra green smoothie you enjoyed/chugged down. Plus in those initial restriction days, your body will resort to using glycogen (a store form of carbohydrate) in skeletal muscle and the liver for energy. When we store glycogen, we also store 2.7g water per gram, so when we lose glycogen, we lose water and voila, we lose weight.
– It promotes foods that have special powers. (If a blueberry can have powers, imagine those freakshakes?)
– They mention cleansing our body of toxins. Again, the authors forget we have livers, kidneys and all those other wonderful organs
– The goal is weight loss
– It is based on few studies and little evidence.
While there is no harm done by including sirtfoods in your diet. Goodness you’ll find these often on those ‘healthy food’ lists anyway. It’s just that there really is no need for these to form the blueprint of your eating habits. There is no need to think about foods as potential activators of genes that can potentially help us lose weight. There is no need to include a green juice of kale, parsley, rocket, celery, green apple, lemon, matcha green tea with optional lovage leaves unless you really do enjoy such a concoction. There is no need to diet.
If you are seeking advice on nutrition, please see an Accredited Practising Dietitian.