As a former biochemist, I know what Sirtuins are (SIRT for short.) What I don't know is whether they are "the magic bullet" or if we can effectively change their role in our metabolisms.
So I was happy to take a peek at The SirtFood Diet when it came across my desk.
What is it?
A food plan that includes 20 major "SIRT" food and a little longer list of minor foods
Short-term calorie reduction
No real exclusions
No command to exercise
What do I think?
The short: I don't know. Sounds interesting. I would have to do more research and modify the food options to fit my lifestyle.
The long: For some time, I have been working on a theory regarding energy metabolism and food signalling. So the SIRT food list was something I wanted to see - to compare notes. Some of the foods I have identified as metabolic improvers were on the list, but not all of them. Those that slow metabolism where not on the SIRT list. That proves nothing, but I found it to be interesting.
I have to step back and talk about the book as "a diet" first then I will dive into "the science." As a diet - it is sound and most people would be healthier for following the guidelines in this book over the standard American diet.
There are almost no processed foods in the diet. Instead, it is filled with whole foods, colorful vegetables, whole grains, meats, etc. I read through every recipe and did not find a disagreeable ingredient (from a health perspective.)
Unfortunately, I found the list of SIRT foods to be off putting. Meaning, I don't like many of them. I love vegetables and fruits. I have eaten almost every documented north American wild food. I have my own organic garden and recently bought 40 acres just so I could experiment with growing even more!
So for the SIRT foods to be the exact foods I don't like is outrageous! You may not have this problem. (for the record: I like 4 1/2 of them - meaning 3 I eat all the time, 1-2 I would eat as a seasoning occasionally)
There are green drinks in this diet plan. Hate them. And a 1500 calorie/day diet. Personally, i would starve at that level. Actually, I counted calories once and "starved" at 1800. I did it for 3 days and lost 6 pounds. It took me a long time to gain that weight back. We are all different. But....this is a perfect time to talk about the science.
It's almost non-existent. This is why I started by saying - "the diet is sound." If you want to try it as the new thing, go for it. You will probably be better for having done it. But there is nothing in the book (studies or references) to suggest that these specific foods actually effect SIRT1.
The authors reference one study regarding the SIRT diet. It was a 7 day study with 39 participants. There is almost no way any results from this type of data could be considered significant and the author's make no statistical claims.
But let's humor this ridiculous 7 day study with 39 people. The first 3 days, participants ate 1000 calories/day, the last 4 days they ate 1500 calories/day. Holy bananas. That is a low calorie diet.
The diet participants ate 1 SIRT meal and 2 SIRTfood green juices per day. There was no control group and the participants were actively exercising during the study.
If someone is used to eating 2000 calories/day that is 5000 calorie deficit. 5000/3500 is 1.42 pounds of fat and everyone knows that the first week of a "diet" causes massive water weight loss and is the time when your body will dump weight without trying to reset your metabolic set point. The participant were active exercisers and exercised during the study - meaning they were most likely more metabolically active and using more calories per day.
If someone is used to eating more than 2000/day (for example I eat between 3-4000/calories a day) then a large weight loss from starvation alone would be expected.
The actual results: an average of 7 pounds of fat lost in 7 days, an average of no muscle loss. The range is not given. How many gained weight? How many of the overweight or obese (17 of the 39) lost way more than 7 pounds? How many people actually lost muscle? Was it more likely in the overweight or healthy weight individuals? Even though the "average" is 7 pounds lost, 0 pounds muscle lost - there is now way to know if the SIRT foods are responsible for this weight result and/or if the results are even accurate. There was no control group on a comparable non-SIRT 1000/1500 calorie diet and none of the data range was given or any information on what happened to the healthy weight versus overweight individuals. We all know that 1000/1500 calories will result in weight loss and studies have shown that low calorie diets with strength training exercise (there is no indication of what exercises were used) can limit muscle loss for a short time. This study was 7 days!
This type of science is hogwash and it enrages me to no end! Yes, it might be okay for a "pilot" study. But a control group is still needed and there was no larger study conducted or referenced! This is the type of study that gets plastered on news magazines and facebook pages - encouraging people to buy products and change their lives without giving any real scientific proof! Garbage!
Throughout the book there are tons of "case studies." These are individual people's success stories. Great. This again proves nothing. If my sister eats cake for every meal and remains svelte, does that mean anything to you? No.
But hold the phone. I did say that most people would be better off following their plan. Why?
Have you ever finished a "green drink?" Not one full of sugar. Yep, they are gross and turn you off from eating. But healthy, right? Maybe. Could better than having breakfast at a fast food restaurant. Either way, fluids fill you up and I'm going to guess it will take you longer to finish the green drink than it would take to finish a soda.
If you are overweight - any calorie reduction will probably help you short term - as a jump start to your body's cleansing mechanisms (resetting your leptin/insulin sensitivities, clearing out fatty deposits, etc.) and 7 days isn't all that bad. But for healthy weight individuals that want to improve their health, the authors do not recommend the calorie restrictions - just adding the SIRT foods. There is nothing to be argued with here - if you can stomach the choices.
The recipes are all clean and wholesome. But they are wholesome in the quinoa/tofu way or the medjool date energy bar way. Good or Okay. But the type of food that sinks in your gut and stays there. Still - an improvement for most people and for people that need to retrain their sweet taste buds and wean off of processed food.
The bottom line - this is not a magic bullet but the book may have recipes you would enjoy. If you want to figure out your metabolism, SIRT1 is a great place to start. Spend some time on Pubmed and branch into NAD+ (you'll find it as soon as you start reading about SIRT1), mitochondrial function, antioxidant and mineral functioning, the elecromagnetic frequency of the sun/mitochondria, the actual science behind omega-6 polyunsaturated fats, epigenetics, and how food/sun/exercise effect your hormone function. It's rad stuff and it's never ending. So grab a notebook before you jump down that rabbit hole. Then remember to get outside and eat real food - real GOOD food and enjoy your life. You only get one!
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