Critique of the October Fest Diet
With all the trendy new diets and mass amounts of research available on specific foods and food groups, it seems a bit old school to count calories for weight loss. My nutrition professor would always say, “If people knew it was a simple as calories in versus calories out, I would be out of a job”. While I agree that portion control is important, certainly not all calories are created equal when it comes to weight loss.
For example, there are many research studies showing that increasing intake of coconut oil actually helps people lose weight. One might say, “Weight loss is due to getting in more calories from fat, so you are less hungry and eat fewer carbohydrates. It isn’t because it is coconut oil”. Fortunately, researchers have already disproved this hypothesis and showed that coconut oil had greater improvements in weight loss and/or waist circumference than soybean oil (63-64) and olive oil (65). Research indicates that this is due to the fact that the medium chain triglycerides (MCT) found in coconut oil are more water soluble and have a “thermogenic effect on foods” (66). Put simply, MCT actually help you burn calories.
One man decided to do a radical diet he called, “The October Fest diet”. His diet was high fat, high animal protein, high alcohol, and high gluten. A diet considered offensive to both “Paleo” dieters and vegans alike. While I strongly disagree with such a diet program, I find it to be a fascinating example for which to explore the research to its rationale.
This man was eating ONLY sausage and beer for the month of October. The catch is that he was limiting his calorie intake by approximately 600 calories less than he usually consumes. He described the diet as, the “a little buzzed, a little hungry” diet. Everyone can agree that a reduction in calories would likely result in weight loss, but most would be surprised that this diet also improved his cholesterol by 30%.
So how can it be that a diet high in saturated fat, sodium, gluten, and alcohol can improve cardiovascular markers? First let’s put to rest the obvious debate on cholesterol. Most of the cholesterol in our body is produced by the liver. It is the precursor to all our steroid-based hormones and has numerous other important functions in the body. Cholesterol is not the bad guy. Research has shown that cholesterol in food is not associated with cardiovascular risk (1-3). Now let’s take a closer look at what is going on physiologically. What happens when someone loses weight? When someone gets rid of excess fat they are actually decreasing inflammation in the body. This is a big reason why weight loss improves cardiovascular markers (4). Inflammation has proven to be central in cardiovascular disease (5-12). Our fat cells, also known as adipocytes, secrete hormones and have a significant impact on our immune system and inflammation (13). Therefore, when we are losing fat, we are decreasing negative hormone and immune signaling which perpetuate inflammation. Remember, inflammation is not just a risk factor for cardiovascular disease; it is connected to most diseases of the body [i.e. Osteoporosis (14-15), Autoimmune conditions (16-18), Diabetes and Obesity (19-25), Neurological and Neurodegenerative diseases (26-32), Cancer (33-42), Pulmonary conditions (43-46)] .
What most people do not know…
Everyone knows that insulin controls blood sugar, but most do not know that insulin levels also significantly impact cholesterol synthesis and cardiovascular health (47-59).
So what impacts insulin? Carbohydrates! There are very little to no carbohydrates in sausage (depending on what they use for fillers). How much carbohydrates are in beer? Not as much as you may think. Most of the calories in beer are due to the alcohol content. This “dieter” claims to be drinking approximately 6 beers per day. That is just under 5 servings of carbohydrates a day. That is less than the average pasta dinner at your local Italian restaurant.
What about the role of alcohol on insulin levels. Long term alcohol consumption is not good for the liver, and a damaged liver can negatively impact the endocrine system (60). However, there happens to be a study which showed that when healthy men changed from 7.2 alcoholic beverages a day down to 0.8 a day for one month, there were no changes in insulin sensitivity, fasting insulin, or glucose (61). In fact, another study showed that short term alcohol consumption may even improve insulin signaling (62). Based on this information, it is unlikely that the alcohol consumed in this 30 day October Fest diet negatively affected insulin due to the short duration of the diet, and the “dieter” being in relatively good health.
Does this mean we should adopt the, “a little buzzed, a little hungry” diet?
If you are in good health and do not have food sensitivities, it will likely not have any ill effects short term. However, this diet will not provide proper support for long term goals for optimal health. This diet has no fiber or phytonutrients. Long term, that will impair digestive and immune function and increase risk of disease. There is no need to feel “a little hungry”. You can stay low calorie and add in non-starchy vegetables high in phytonutrients and fiber to fill you up. As mentioned previously, long term alcohol consumption is bad for our liver, which can cause a cascade of other issues. Substitute the beer with fruits, starchy vegetables, and whole grains high in fiber and phytonutrients.
Remember, “diets” are something you do for a certain amount of time, then it is over. Adopting healthy lifestyle practices is key for long term weight management and optimal health!
To more about this article go to: http://www.greenmedinfo.com/blog/octoberfest-diet-what-can-we-learn
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