The Blowout Diet
There's always some new diet claim that appears from nowhere and tries to tip well researched advice about weight loss on its head. The media certainly try to make sure a story is as eye-catching as possible - a headline like the 'Blowout diet' is sure to get all of us eager to to know more.
Recent research with rats, by Dr Mark Mattson, a neuroscientist at the National Institute on Ageing in Baltimore, suggests that giving them intermittent rather than regular feeding patterns provides them with health benefits that link to healthier hearts, better weight control, and reduced risk of diabetes and Alzheimer's disease. The rats in his study were starved for one day then allowed to eat as much as they liked the next day.
Of course, people are different to rats, and apparently Dr Matteson has just finished a study with people who ate all their food in a two to four-hour period in the evening. The results have not been analysed fully but he is optimistic that they will also show beneficial health and weight control effects.
According to Dr Matteson, intermittent eating may help our health because 'our basic metabolism was set up when we were hunter-gatherers, when the eating pattern would have been a mixture of feast and famine. Maybe we’d go several days without food, then splurge when a supply was found.' It is thought the diet works by encouraging the body to produce proteins and other chemicals normally released during short periods of stress such as exercise. These include compounds that for example, protect brain cells from degeneration.
Dr Matteson also points out. 'Until clear results are obtained in well-controlled studies specific recommendations concerning meal frequency and health are inappropriate to make.'
Will it Work?
Now that you have read the facts behind the headline hopefully you will be relieved to know that night binges are not the new way to lose weight! While this study is interesting it is just one study, with rats.
It is important to compare this with the large amount of evidence that links regular, structured eating patterns (starting with breakfast) to better weight control.
In fact, eating little during the day, then not being able to stop munching when you get home at night, is an eating style most linked to having a weight problem.
We live in a very different environment to our hunter gatherer ancestors - and we aren't rats. For us, food is easily available all of the time and we have to make a conscious effort to make wise choices and to be active. We also eat for all different reasons - for comfort, to celebrate, part of our culture, out of habit, to cope with stress - not just in response to hunger.
Structure, planning and regularity help us to eat wisely, and basically learn to cope as best we can with the food-filled, busy society we live in.
We also can't change the laws of thermodynamics. We only lose weight if we consumer fewer calories than we burn. So if rats or humans lose weight more easily with an on-off eating pattern it will be because it is helping them do just that.
As different approaches suit different people, maybe this style of eating will suit some people. But from my experience, restricting then overeating can make some people more vulnerable to food preoccupation and binge eating, generally making it harder to look after both their weight, and their feelings of well being.
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