Weight Control Strategies

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Calorie restriction and alternate-day fasting boost healthspan and lifespan in rodents and other species, and can promote leanness, but are too rigorous for most people to stick with as a lifestyle. This essay reviews proposed alternative strategies that have the potential to achieve a measure of the same benefits, but with greater practicality. Carbohydrate concentration diets, in which the bulk of the day’s carbohydrate intake is confined to one meal daily, and insulin levels are kept low for most of the day, are likely to be useful in this regard, and are highly practical, since people are allowed to eat three meals daily and consume the foods they like – albeit at specified times of day. The efficacy of this approach can be amplified by excluding protein-rich foods from the high-carbohydrate meal, inasmuch as co-ingestion of protein can markedly boost the insulin response to ingested carbohydrate. Hence, in this strategy, high-carb/low-protein meals are alternated with high-protein/low-carb meals, the intent being to minimize daily insulin secretion. Maintaining lower insulin levels decreases the growth factor activities which drive the aging process and cancer induction, while also promoting the burning of stored or ingested fat.

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Diets in which the ratio of saturated to unsaturated fats is low – such as “Mediterranean” or most plant-based diets – tend to be associated with good muscle insulin sensitivity and a compensatory reduction of daily insulin secretion. Since insulin acts on the body’s fat cells to promote storage, retention, and synthesis of fat, it is proposed that reduced daily insulin secretion may help to account for the relative leanness of people who are long-term practitioners of vegan or Mediterranean diets low in saturated fat.

Published in Medical Hypotheses 2010;75(1):14-6.

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Nesting sessions of moderate intensity aerobic exercise within 12-14 hour fasts is a logical and effective strategy for burning off stored fat; that’s because insulin and glucose levels remain low during and for some time after the exercise. If you choose low-fat foods when you do eat, progressive fat loss is almost assured. This “mini-fast with exercise” strategy was tested in an open clinical trial at Oasis of Hope Hospital; on average those who finished the 12-week protocol lost a quarter of their initial fat mass, while actually increasing their lean mass. This is a sustainable strategy that can help to achieve and maintain leanness; it is compatible with carbohydrate concentrated-dieting, and with vegan or Mediterranean dietary choices.

Originally published in Medical Hypotheses 2009;73(4):619-22.

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A straightforward, non-technical narrative which describes how the mini-fast with exercise strategy for leanness was developed.

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An attempt to explain why people on very-low-carb ketogenic diets tend to lose weight and body fat faster than people eating higher carb diets of the exact same calorie content. Proposes that activation of thermogenic (heat generating) processes in the liver may account for this.

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Suggests that a portion of the favorable impact of ketosis on brain function and health may reflect activation of the “cell cleansing” process known as macroautophagy in brain neurons. Proposes a mechanism whereby ketosis might achieve this.

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A summary of the evidence supporting the utility of carbohydrate-concentrated diets for enhancing healthspan while promoting leanness. Delves into the molecular biology which may mediate these benefits.

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This article attempts to rationalize the contrasting results of the rhesus monkey calorie restriction longevity studies still in progress at the National Institutes of Aging and the Wisconsin National Primate Research Center. The “take home” lesson from this analysis is that relatively modest degrees of calorie restriction – analogous to the 11% or so calorie restriction once practiced by long-lived Okinawans – may be sufficient to achieve an optimal prolongation of longevity in humans. Quite conceivably, a carb-concentrated diet may enable many people to achieve calorie restriction of this magnitude, without the inconvenience of calorie counting.

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