18 January 2016

Dieting in January for a healthy new you?

You know what I hate about January? 'New Year, New You' type-slogans and detox diets that will make you believe that you are full of toxins and extra poo that you need to evacuate at all cost for a healthy new you.
I wish it was that simple to be honest but let's face it, there's no miraculous quick fix to a healthy body, it's a long-term no breaks-allowed job. I covered 'detox diets' on my other sciencey blog 'Science is So Sexy' a while back and unfortunately it's still true.

And why January? It's not just because it's the beginning of the year but also because we feel so guilty about all the December binge eating. It feels natural to believe that it would be a good idea to go on a lighter diet full of healthy stuff.

I recently came across a study* done on mice whereby they compared the gut flora from mice on a healthy diet with mice on a 'plentiful' diet, and interestingly with mice on an alternate diet reminiscent of our human habits around December/January.

Researchers found that when presented with delectable rich food would binge eat while clearly under-eating when then presented with their healthy chow. Sounds familiar, doesn't it? I doubt it was a conscious decision as it is for us, nevertheless the following results are quite scary:

And because I try to walk the walk, here is me doing leg exercises, aka seesaw for my son, while typing this!
When they analysed the poos from mice on the rich diet or the alternate diet, they found their microbiota species were similar  to one another but also to the species that are usually found in obese mice. The mice on a constant and healthy chow diet had completely different species, associated with being lean.

What it means for us (if you translate this research from mice) is that after eating amazing and rich food during the holidays, dieting in January (or any other time after a Sunday lunch, an office party, a wedding, a birthday, etc...) makes no difference to your gut flora!

In a previous post, we saw that it really is our microbiota that ultimately determines how many calories we extract from food and that species in 'obese' people are just better at it than species in 'lean' people.

Harbouring the right kind of species in your gut is essential for a lean you and is dependent on what your normal diet consists of. However occasional dieting won't make a difference at all because it takes time for your gut species to understand and accept changes (lean species have to fight for their space and obese species have to be restrained in numbers - it really is a jungle in there).

Ultimately this means that healthy eating should be a forever and ever constant in our life if we want to keep a healthy and constant weight. I'm not saying anything new here but including microbiota in our reasoning is inevitable now that more and more research shows their influence on not only what they make out of our food but also on how we choose our food (coming soon).

Are you a January detox person? Or a healthy-eating-after-heavy-eating-repeat person?
If you'd like to share your thoughts, please feel free to leave me a comment, I'd love to read them.

* The study is Kaakoush et al. Mol Nutr Food Res 2016.

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