If there’s one thing you can rely on in this world, it’s that there will always be another fad diet that hits the mainstream from time to time. Whether it’s low fat, low calorie, low carb, keto, paleo, or one of countless other diet schemes, if there’s a new plan, people will try it. One big reason fad diets can suddenly become all the rage is celebrity endorsement. So when people heard a rumor that someone like British pop star Adele lost weight because of the sirtfood diet, they wanted to try it, too. But is it really effective?
It’s unclear whether Adele actually followed this particular diet, but that hasn’t stopped thousands of people from talking about it and adopting it. The diet itself comes from a book called, unsurprisingly, The Sirtfood Diet, co-authored by Aidan Goggins and Glen Matten, two UK-based nutritionists. Their approach to weight loss is based in part on research on Mediterranean-style diets behind some of the healthiest and longest-lived populations in the world.
One of the common themes in the diets of these healthy groups is an emphasis on plant foods. More specifically, these foods are all high in compounds called polyphenols. These naturally occurring organic compounds are believed to have many wide-reaching health benefits, including antioxidant and anti-inflammatory properties. In theory, a diet high in polyphenols would help negate the potential damage caused by the kinds of free radical molecules that have been known to lead to various chronic diseases.
Research on the health benefits of polyphenols is still in somewhat of a nascent stage, but the current literature suggests that long-term consumption of high-polyphenol foods may protect against cancer, type 2 diabetes, cardiovascular disease, and numerous other conditions. As promising as the research is, there have also been some harmful effects reported when high doses of supplements have been ingested. For example, certain polyphenols seem to interfere with thyroid and kidney function as well as have cancer-causing effects in some people with pre-existing conditions.
While the overall case for the health benefits of polyphenols seems to be solid, more research is needed to support a key claim in The Sirtfood Diet: that some kinds of polyphenols are able to activate signaling proteins known as sirtuins. Recent research has shown that sirtuins, referred to by Goggins and Matten as “skinny genes,” indirectly regulate fat and glucose metabolism. The idea behind the sirtfood diet, then, is that a diet high in the kinds of polyphenols that activate sirtuins (hence sirt-foods) can essentially mimic the effects of fasting and exercise, thereby promoting weight loss.
Many plant foods are high in polyphenols, but not all of them have the crucial polyphenols that can activate the sirtuins. The list of foods on the sirtfood diet is both diverse and fairly limited, though the list of foods isn’t meant to necessarily be restrictive; you can eat other foods, but it is recommended to emphasize those on the list. Below is a list of some examples of sirtfoods:
Another key component of the sirtfood diet plan is regular servings of “green juice.” Sirtfood green juice is a homemade beverage that utilizes numerous ingredients on the foods list: kale, arugula, parsley, celery, apple, ginger, lemon, and matcha powder. The beverage can be made in any kind of juicer, and it is loaded with vitamins and minerals in addition to the coveted polyphenols.
The authors of The Sirtfood Diet present the program as more of a long-term shift in eating habits than a temporary weight loss plan. Because even though weight loss is a stated goal, the potential benefits of the diet extend further. And even though there is still insufficient evidence that polyphenols are the precise reason, the broad health benefits of a Mediterranean-style diet have been known for many years. This includes reduced risk of heart disease, diabetes, early death, and all manner of obesity-related diseases.
To start the diet, and as a means of easing into a new approach to food, there is a recommended eating plan that covers the first three weeks. The first phase lasts for seven days and involves significant calorie restrictions. During the first three days, you should have three sirtfood green juices (about 250ml each) and one sirtfood-rich meal for a total of 1000 calories. Then, during days four through seven, you increase your calorie intake to 1500 from two sirtfood green juices and two sirtfood meals. The diet’s creators claim that most people will lose seven pounds in the first week as a result of a metabolic shift.
Where phase one was meant to jumpstart weight loss, the 14-day second phase is meant as maintenance phase. There isn’t a specific caloric restriction in the second phase, but the diet does call for three sirtfood-rich meals and one green juice each day. In all, the three-week program is meant to help you adjust to a sirtfood-intensive diet that you can continue to practice over the long term. Weight loss will continue, but the overall health benefits are even more important later in life.
As noted, more research needs to be done on both the effects of polyphenols in general and whatever sirtuin-activating properties they may have. Doctors and nutritionists who have analyzed the diet point out that the extreme calorie restriction for the first three days is not recommended for most people. Additionally, one of the most popular diet claims is that you can lose seven pounds in seven days; while it’s possible to lose that much weight in one week, it would be mostly due to fluid loss rather than burned fat.
The bottom line: polyphenols may very well have significant health benefits, but there is still far too little evidence for the claims of the diet’s developers. Moreover, there are some legitimate concerns about the included foods. For instance, the sirtfood diet offers the allure of eating dark chocolate and drinking red wine, but consuming either in significant quantities would essentially negate the potential benefits. Also, because the food list is so restrictive, it may sometimes be difficult to obtain enough of the recommended foods, especially when traveling or when some are out of season.
Like the majority of diets, the sirtfood diet promises a lot but probably won’t deliver for most people. If you’re tired of endless yo-yo dieting and are looking for a new approach to weight loss, it may be time to consider an alternative weight loss solution like we offer at True You Weight Loss. Our non-surgical endoscopic procedures are designed as a long term solution that can help you lose weight and keep it off. If you would like to learn more, please contact us today to request a consultation.