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by Lucy Taylor •

LIFESTYLE NUTRITION

What you need to know if you’re considering the sirtfood diet

Epigenetics for weight loss We all know that a diet rich in plant foods is highly beneficial for our health. Many plant foods and herbal medicines contain powerful constituents and phytonutrients which have the ability to switch on and off certain genes that control various aspects of our health. Epigenetics is the study of those constituents which have the ability to positively (or sometimes negatively) influence our genes and thus our health. It is undoubtedly a powerful tool, and one which the sirtfood diet claims is helping people lose weight.   Sirtuins are ‘master metabolic regulators’ The sirtfood diet places an emphasis on particular foods which are rich in sirtuins, proteins believed to have the ability to alter gene expression and influence the metabolic rate of the body and improve fat metabolism, leading some experts to dub sirtuins as ‘master metabolic regulators’. Foods rich in sirtuins include kale, red wine, strawberries, dark chocolate, matcha green tea, walnuts, blueberries, and even coffee. Sounds delicious and almost too good to be true, right? Well, maybe it is…   Calorie restriction in disguise A fundamental part of the sirtfood diet is two stages of calorie restriction, three days with 4200kJ (1000 calories) and four days with 6300kJ (1500 calories), which is repeated for the duration of the diet. So while sirtuins may be helping to improve fat metabolism, any diet which focuses on dramatic calorie restriction will lead to rapid weight loss due to losses in glycogen, water weight and muscle mass- rather than fat. Unfortunately, weight that is lost this way is unsustainable and will almost always be regained when the diet is discontinued and calorie intake is increased.   Negative effects of calorie restriction Just like sirtuins are thought to increase metabolic rate, it is also thought that calorie restriction can turn on genes that will slow down metabolism and lead to increased accumulation of fat when calorie restriction is discontinued. This is because our genes interpret calorie restriction as starvation, and slowing metabolism and storing fat is an important survival mechanism for humans. When calories are increased after the end of a diet, our body’s will compensate by storing extra fat tissue to prepare for the next period of starvation.   Healthy weight management The most sustainable way to maintain a healthy weight is to make long-term changes to your diet and lifestyle that are beneficial for your overall health, not just your weight. If you eat mainly wholefood and an abundance of fruits and vegetables, maintain an active lifestyle, and manage your stress levels, you’ll be well on your way to creating a healthy body regardless of your size or weight.   Photo by Deryn Macey on Unsplash