It’s impossible not to feel overwhelmed by the ever changing nutrition and diet advice we hear every day. Whether it’s low fat vs. high fat, Paleo, Keto, Raw Food, or whatever is new and trendy in the diet world, how are we supposed to sort through all of the noise and get to something that actually works? We aren’t talking about short-term fixes, but rather a nutritional perspective that is built for long-term success and longevity. Our advice? Bring a healthy dose of skepticism to the table when you hear about any “life-changing” new diet or nutrition plan.
The reality is that most of us don’t have the time to read all the latest research or dig into a study’s design, methods and funding sources. With very little time or patience, we either rely on the experts to tell us what to do or we just dive right into a diet to see how our body responds. Typically the benchmark for the latter approach is, “Did I lose weight? How quickly?”
Go back to any period of time and you’ll find similar experts preaching about diets that are now considered unhealthy … and sometimes even crazy. The low fat diet trend is a good example. So why should you trust that today’s diets aren’t going to suffer the same fates in 5 to 10 years?
It’s also important to understand the dynamics of the food industry, particularly what groups are funding the research and supporting these experts. We encourage you to do your homework on which diet and nutrition professionals you listen to while understanding that the research is constantly evolving.
Short-Term vs. Long-Term Thinking
We live in a society that expects to get everything we want instantaneously. It’s also in our nature to seek out the easiest and quickest solutions to challenges like weight loss. Diets that achieve rapid results are always going to get the biggest headlines and spread like wildfire among friends and family.
But should your only measure for success really just be short-term weight loss? While weight loss is an important consideration, we challenge you to try out some slightly different filters when choosing a nutrition plan that is right for you.
Some of our top questions include:
- Is it sustainable? While many diets can lead to great short-term results, many can be very difficult to follow long-term. Ask yourself whether this is an eating plan that you could see yourself following for years. If not, you may find yourself putting that weight back on once you step away from the diet.
- Is it healthy? There are many unhealthy ways to lose weight. Make sure that you aren’t cutting out plant-based, nutrient dense foods. Diets that promote a very high amount of meat consumption might help you lose weight, but how will those diets affect your cholesterol, risk of certain cancers or any number of other health markers?
- Will it also promote longevity? Take a look at Blue Zone populations (places with a high centenarian populations). Are these populations eating zero carbs or doing monthly juice cleanses?
- How long has this diet been around? The latest diets tend to have very little research supporting their efficacy, and even if there is some research out there, it won’t give you any information about the long-term consequences of that diet. Be suspicious of anything that doesn’t have a long track record and plenty of supporting evidence.
Food for Thought
As a final exercise, we’ll take a look at a diet getting a considerable amount of attention recently and see whether it stands up against some of our earlier questions.
The Ketogenic Diet is a high-fat, moderate-protein, low-carb diet that has been growing in popularity as a great way to lose fat and increase energy levels. The diet pushes the body to burn fat rather than carbohydrates/glucose for energy. The diet’s name comes from the fact that the body converts fat in the liver into ketone bodies which replace glucose as a source of energy. The Ketogenic Diet was originally developed to combat seizures in children, but has since gained more attention for its success as a short-term weight loss program.
While this diet has been around since the 1920s (as a seizure therapy), it has only recently become a popular weight loss protocol. And while there are some research studies out there, most of them have simply looked at short-term weight loss results, rather than the long-term health consequences. There are now some concerning studies that show negative health effects related to a low carb diet, including shorter lifespan.
Looking at the research and the recency of the diet as weight loss solution, we’d say there is very little evidence that this is a health protocol that is backed by robust long-term studies. In addition, there are some studies out there that seem to indicate that it may have adverse long-term health consequences. The Keto Diet may show some promise as a short-term weight loss protocol, but we’d recommend people hold off on following this diet until more research is done.
Stay Skeptical My Friends
To recap, the most important thing you can do when it comes to fad diets and food trends is to stay skeptical. Try to find trusted experts, do your own research, ask yourself those important questions and don’t dive into anything just because it promises quick and easy short-term results.