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Archive for the ‘Nutrition’ Category


While the world runs away with lightening fast progress in the fields of sports medicine, sports science and sports performance and recovery nutrition, this is the kind of lousy, unscientific advice (see picture below) that our cricketers dish out to their juniors. And, to think that the Indian cricket board is the richest board and some cricketers feature amongst the richest of athletes in the world.

cricketers_sports_nutritionists_dhoni.jpg

Imagine for a moment, that I came out with a book on how to win the world cup (of cricket)! I’d be a laughing stock in cricketing circles, wouldn’t I? However, the other way around is – most often than not – allowed. People in the fitness – sports world (athletes, fitness models and bodybuilders-strength athletes) are allowed to dispense unscientific and sometimes, even downright wrong advice on nutrition.

Keith Baar, PhD, a researcher of muscle physiology at the University of California, says, ‘everyone thinks that they are an expert in fitness if they are fit.’ Well, ain’t that the truth?! Interesting to note here that if you happen to don a visible set of six-pack abdominals, you are on your way to becoming a ‘guru’. Whatever you say, will be taken as gospel…

In effect, Dhoni says here that you can eat anything – provided it is during the first half of the day! According to him, ‘burning it off’ is all that matters! Whatever happened to the nutrients you need (as a sports person) to perform and to recover?! I feel sorry for gullible fans of his, who also happen to be budding cricketers and therefore, likely to slurp up every piece of (such!) advice that he dishes out…

If you were to argue that he is just talking about what he does, well, this quote of his is included in the THE OFFICIAL BCCI CRICKETER’S HANDBOOK, © 2017 GoSports Foundation. So, it is likely to be followed to the letter by his followers.

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‘We do not realise that it (obesity) is the biggest problem that affects us…’ – Dr. Dee, CONDITIONING CLINIC

Obesity, some staggering numbers:

1. Worldwide obesity has nearly tripled since 1975
2. In 2016, (out of an estimated 7.2 to 7.4 billion people) more than 1.9 billion adults were overweight. Of these over 650 million were obese
3. In 2016, almost 40% of adults were overweight and 13% were obese
4. In 2016, off pre-school age children (under the age of 5 years), 41 million were overweight or obese
5. In 2016, in those aged 5-19, over 340 million were overweight or obese

Also, much of the world’s population lives in countries where overweight and obesity kills more people than underweight.

In more recent times, central (abdominal / visceral) obesity has emerged as a separate risk for development of metabolic syndrome (Met Syn) and cardiovascular disease (CVD). Of note, an estimated 17.7 million people die of CVD each year, world over; this equates to 31% of all deaths!

All this despite the fact that OBESITY IS TOTALLY PREVENTABLE!

Citations:

1. World Health Organisation. Obesity and overweight Fact sheet. Updated October 2017
2. Després and Lemieux. Abdominal obesity and metabolic syndrome NATURE, December 2006

 

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Background

Over the years, much has been written about vinegar and its numerous proposed health benefits. Vinegar as a weight-loss aid was reported as early as the 1820s, and more recently, it has received attention for its possible role in lowering blood glucose levels.

Vinegar is derived from beer or wine—or, as in the case of apple cider vinegar (ACV), from cider—and is a result of bacterial fermentation that produces acetic acid.

Contrary to the popular perception that ingesting ACV on a regular basis provides health benefits, there seems to be little scientific evidence in favour of the alleged health benefits of apple cider vinegar (see illustration). Furthermore – although ACV is considered safe when consumed in reasonable amounts – ACV in large amounts or when used on a longer-term basis, either alone or in combination with particular medications, can cause health issues.

Is there Any Basis for the Alleged Health Benefits?

Let us have a look at some of the health benefits people usually associate ACV with and whether there indeed is any proof of the benefits of ingesting ACV.

  1. BOOSTS METABOLISM: Nope! Absolutely no evidence at all to support this claim
  2. LOWERS SUGAR LEVELS: ONLY in specific circumstances it does so. Also, ‘there is a lack of evidence at this time to recommend vinegar as an adjuvant treatment for diabetes (Kohn 2015)
  3. DETOXIFIES: Well-known bullshit! If your detox-filter organs (liver & kidneys) weren’t working, you’d know…
  4. CURES CANCER: Total bullshit! Acidic-alkaline lie! No evidence to support this…
  5. AIDS DENTAL HEALTH: WTF! Vinegar dissolves enamel. And, in any case, your mouth does not need sterilisation!
  6. AND THE ‘MOTHER’? Bacterial cellulose & acid-producing bacteria, no known benefits!

acv_scam

Any Downsides to Ingesting ACV?

Yes, there are! As opposed to the general perception of ACV being healthy, adverse effects have been reported with apple cider vinegar tablets, and with vinegar ingested daily for several years. The risk of hypoglycaemia (decreased blood sugar) or hypokalaemia (reduced potassium which can be potentially life-threatening) with long-term oral use, alone or when used concomitantly with (some) prescription / over-the-counter medications and herbal supplements, is a concern.

TAKE HOME MESSAGE

Stop wasting your money on ACV, it won’t do you any good. In fact, it may cause harm!

For more evidence-based, no-nonsense health advice, feel free to follow me on Instagram or Facebook.

References

Kohn, Jill Balla. 2015. “Is Vinegar an Effective Treatment for Glycemic Control or Weight Loss?” Journal of the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics 115 (7): 1188. doi:10.1016/j.jand.2015.05.010.

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Himalayan pink salt or iodised table salt, which one should you be using? Let’s have a look.

Watch the YouTube Video.

Himalayan Rock (Pink) Salt

Is a type of rock salt mined in Pakistan. It is rich in calcium, potassium, magnesium; also contains trace amounts of zinc, lead, chromium and copper. These micro elements are the reason for the alleged health benefits of switching over to Himalayan salt. It, however, contains insignificant amounts (or lacks) of iodine.

Iodised-table Salt

Is a sodium salt (NaCl) fortified with iodine. It lacks the trace elements that pink salt is rich in, but you could very well do with the iodine – especially if you live in geographical areas that are endemic for hypothyroidism.

Take Home Message

info_pink_iodised_salt1.jpgSo, although it’s rich in minerals crucial for optimal health, switching over completely to Himalayan pink salt – because of lack of iodine in it – may undermine your thyroid health. This becomes doubly important if you happen to live in a geographic area endemic for hypothyroid goitre (the Indian subcontinent). Best strategy is to use equal portions of iodized table and Himalayan salt in your food; this will ensure sufficient amounts of both iodine and important other minerals.

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For individualised fat-loss or metabolic diseases reversal lifestyle and nutrition packages, ageing-well and sports conditioning and nutrition, please feel free to get in touch with us. Please see below for services on offer.

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Body-shaming – or fat-shaming – is a relatively new term; it means ‘the action or practice of humiliating someone by making mocking or critical comments about their body shape or size’ (Oxford Dictionaries).

Before we get into the nitty-gritty of what my opinion on the subject is, let have a look at some figures:

OVERWEIGHT AND OBESITY: INCIDENCE AND PREVALENCE

  1. In 2014, more than 1.9 billion adults, 18 years and older, were overweight. Of these, over 600 million were obese (WHO Obesity Fact Sheet, Updated Oct., 2017)
  2. Going by current trends, by 2025, 2.7 billion adults will be obese (World Obesity Day, 2017)
  3. At the end of the same year, 41 million children under the age of 5, were overweight or obese (WHO Obesity Fact Sheet, Update Oct., 2017)
  4. According to projections, 70 million kids in the pre-school age will be overweight by obese by the year 2025 (Commission on Ending Childhood Obesity (ECHO), WHO, 2017)
  5. ‘The annual global medical bill for treating the consequences of obesity is expected to reach US$1.2 trillion per year by 2025’ (World Obesity Day, 2017)

WHY OVERWEIGHT-OBESITY IS A PROBLEM

Compared with adults with normal weight, overweight-obesity are significantly associated with diabetes, high blood pressure, high cholesterol, asthma, arthritis, and poor health status. (Mokdad et al. 2003). Almost all modern non-communicable disease (NCDs), otherwise known as metabolic disorders (including cancer) are either associated with or show a strong causal relationship with obesity or overweight (Lumeng and Saltiel 2011).

Overweight-obese children and adolescents exhibit an earlier onset and raised risk of metabolic diseases such as type 2 diabetes, throughout life (Abarca-Gómez et al. 2017).

MY TAKE ON BODY-SHAMING

Having gotten all the technicalities out of the way; my point is that those who have worked in the field of obesity prevention and reversal will tell you that living a better and wholesome life involves being healthy and feeling good about oneself. Sorry to break your heart, but all of these things are connected. And, no matter what people say, you can’t feel good with a big belly. And for good reason – because obesity is a disease with all manner of inflammation (chronic, systemic) going on inside of you.

Given that being fat is sure to impact your life in a negative manner, I find it amusing that bloggers these days, instead of inspiring people to raise the proverbial bar (in effect, ‘body-shame’ themselves), tell people to ‘get comfortable in their own skin’. Statements like ‘you look great, the way you are’ or ‘it’s OK to be a plus size’ or ‘its OK to have a belly’, in support of people who have overweight-obesity-metabolic disease problems is like effectively supporting lifestyle diseases. Why would you do that? After all, you don’t support people having addictions or a criminal mindset, do you? You’d want them to change, wouldn’t you?

In my years of experience in the field of obesity, I’ve noticed that overweight-obese people tend to relax the moment they get some support from somewhere. And, that’s why I have a big problem with these ‘anti-body-shaming’ and ‘pro-plus-size model’ crusaders. Fair enough, it is wrong to body-shame others; I wouldn’t want people to body shame others. But I do believe, everyone should be incessantly body-shaming themselves (without being depressed about it, though). Not being happy with your own self, is the surest way to keep improving!

body shaming

 

More often, we are not critical enough of our own problems. Hell, if you look at the different stages of change, 80% of us rarely ever do anything about the problems we face in life – a whopping 40% of us don’t even realise there’s a problem, let alone institute changes!

Stages of Change

TAKE HOME MESSAGE

Being overweight or obese is not healthy. Don’t let anyone convince you otherwise, don’t let anyone tell you that it is OK to be a ‘plus size’ and never let anyone convince you it is OK to have a belly. Because, no it isn’t.

Weight, health-fitness, looks, being happy and excited about your own self and a productive, wholesome life are inherently interconnected.  Don’t wait till someone body-shames you (and even, if they do, take the criticism constructively); you should be body-shaming yourself. You should raise the bar high, and want the best for you.

PS: I wish, people – especially, the ones having a large fan-following – stopped spreading utter nonsense like ‘it’s OK to have a belly’. If you aren’t well-versed with the subject, please refrain from writing about it.

For enquiries on how to effectively treat-reverse or reduce the risk of overweight-obesity-metabolic diseases, please feel free to get in touch with me.

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REFERENCES

Abarca-Gómez, Leandra, Ziad A Abdeen, Zargar Abdul Hamid, Niveen M Abu-Rmeileh, Benjamin Acosta-Cazares, Cecilia Acuin, Robert J Adams, et al. 2017. “Worldwide Trends in Body-Mass Index, Underweight, Overweight, and Obesity from 1975 to 2016: A Pooled Analysis of 2416 Population-Based Measurement Studies in 128·9 Million Children, Adolescents, and Adults.” The Lancet 0 (0): 1–16. doi:10.1016/S0140-6736(17)32129-3.

Lumeng, Carey N., and Alan R. Saltiel. 2011. “Inflammatory Links between Obesity and Metabolic Disease.” Journal of Clinical Investigation. doi:10.1172/JCI57132.

Mokdad, Ali H, Earl S Ford, Barbara A Bowman, William H Dietz, Frank Vinicor, Virginia S Bales, and James S Marks. 2003. “Prevalence of Obesity, Diabetes, and Obesity-Related Health Risk Factors, 2001.” JAMA : The Journal of the American Medical Association 289 (1): 76–79. doi:10.1001/jama.289.1.76.

WHO. 2011. “WHO Fact Sheet, Updated Oct., 2017.” WHO Fact Sheet, Updated October, 2017.

WHO. 2016. “Report of the Commission on Ending Childhood Obesity.” WHO. doi:ISBN 978 92 4 151006 6.

 

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The whole town and his wife seems to be using whey protein.

Whey protein isolate – everybody knows – works; you know it works. It is the best protein for improving body composition (reducing fat while improving lean mass)! Or is it really?!

Whey protein isolate may be the best protein for you in most instances, that may not be the case always! Depending on your fitness goal, whey protein concentrate (and, even casein!) can sometime give whey isolate a run for its money. How is that?!

Well, read on to find out!

However, before we get into the nitty-gritty of which type of whey will best serve your purpose, let us get to know a bit more about why you should supplement with whey, in the first place.


Why should I take whey supplements?

Resistance training causes increase in muscle mass. This is due to increased muscle protein synthesis (MPS) that resistance training induces (Hulmi et al., 2009; Hakkinen et al., 2001; Hulmi et al., 2007). However, intense workouts alone are not enough to keep packing on lean muscle mass; you have to ‘stay anabolic’ most of the time to be able to keep that MPS working for you.

Without complicating matters, here’s a look at how resistance training increases lean muscle mass: a resistance training session causes muscle protein breakdown. This is then followed by repair of the damaged muscle tissue so that the muscles come out stronger the next time you hit the weights. For the muscles to get stronger, however, proteins ingestion (over and above normal needs) is crucial. Needless to say, the process of repair will suffer if you aren’t loading up on proteins.

That resistance training combined with protein supplementation causes muscle hypertrophy is well-documented (Moore et al., 2009; Hulmi et al., 2009; Cribb, Williams, Carey, & Hayes, 2006).  Ingestion of a whey protein supplement either immediately before or after a training session is – considered by some – to be the best for this purpose; also whey increases muscle protein turnover like no other protein. Furthermore, whey protein seems to work equally well in women as well (Josse, Tang, Tarnopolsky, & Phillips, 2010).

Another benefit of supplementing with whey is, improved post-workout recovery  This is likely due to the ‘anti-catabolic’ action of essential amino acids (Bird, Tarpenning, & Marino, 2006; Hoffman et al., 2010; Etheridge, Philp, & Watt, 2008).


What is Whey Protein?

You most likely know that whey is one of the 2 milk proteins – the other being casein. Casein is the more abundant of the two and it is casein that gives milk that white colour. In commercially available cow’s milk, 20% of protein is whey while the rest of it is casein (Hulmi, Lockwood, & Stout, 2010; Ha & Zemel, 2003; Etzel, 2004; Krissansen, 2007).

Whey is produced in large amounts as a by-product in the cheese industry. However, this whey has loads of fat, milk sugar (lactose) and salts in it and is not suitable for improving body composition.

During the process of whey purification, whey concentrate and isolate are produced sequentially. During the initial steps, larger molecules are separated out resulting in formation of whey concentrate. These larger molecules are proteins, lactose, immunoglobulins, amongst other less important ones. To produce whey isolate, cheese whey is passed through an ultrafiltration process (ion exchange or other methods). The ultra membrane filters fat, milk sugar (lactose), salts and other unwanted ingredients leaving behind a pure form of whey (Barile et al., 2009).

Hydrolysates, on the other hand, are formulations where large protein molecules are broken down into smaller fragments. The hypothesis is that this might further increase the rate of absorption of whey. However, this might not be totally true and hydrolysates may not offer much of an advantage over isolates or concentrates.


Types of Whey Protein

Whey is available commercially as either isolate or concentrate. ‘So, what’s the difference between them and which one should I be using’, you might want to ask?

The main difference between the two is the quality and the amount of protein content – isolate is purer and thus will contain almost 100% protein (well, 90-94% to be precise) while whey concentrate will contain protein ranging from 70-85%.

‘Well, that settles it – I am going with whey isolate!’, you might say. Hang on, not so fast! There is more to it than just protein content.


Comparing Whey Isolate and Whey Concentrate

Since whey isolate is higher in protein content, has a better amino acid ratio and thus bioavailability, it is absorbed into your system way quicker than whey concentrate (or any other protein, for that matter). That makes whey isolate the ideal post-exercise anabolic drink (Hulmi et al., 2009). Some researchers have suggested taking whey protein isolate before workouts as well in addition to your routine post-workout shake for maximum benefits (Esmark et al., 2001; Cribb & Hayes, 2006). Quicker absorption will mean almost instantaneous rise in blood amino acids which are then taken up by ‘hungry muscles’.

Having said that, the need for immediate post-workout protein supplementation in now being increasingly questioned (more below).

High protein content and higher quality of protein, however, that does not clinch the deal in favour of whey isolate. Concentrate has something up its sleeve that will make sit up and take notice!

As stated earlier, in comparison to isolate, whey protein concentrate will contain lesser amount of protein (in the range of 70-85%). However, somewhat similar to casein, whey protein concentrate will get absorbed slowly – this helps you stay anabolic for longer! Slower absorption also helps with absorption of other important nutrients from food like calcium. Not a lot of people know this but calcium plays an important role in causing fat loss (in addition to keeping your bones healthy)! Add to that the added benefit of appetite suppression for longer and casein suddenly become an important tool for your fat-loss goals or intermittent-fasting health journey…

Furthermore, whey protein concentrate is loaded with immunoglobulins – this helps boost your immune system and therefore may be beneficial in dealing with the intense stresses of training (especially if you happen to overtrain!).


Whey Isolate

Pros

    • pure; contains 90-94% protein!
    • purity means that it is great for gaining / maintaining lean mass while getting ripped (ideal when nearing competition or a photo shoot)
    • contains all essential amino acids in the best possible ratios
    • bioavailability for humans is best amongst all proteins – meaning, of the amount ingested, more is likely to be absorbed. For instance, in a scoop containing 25 g of whey isolate, almost all of the protein in there, will be going into your muscle
    • lightening fast absorption; ideal post-exercise drink – helps you get into the anabolic mode almost immediately

Cons

    • pricier than whey protein concentrate – to ensure purity, the commercial production of whey necessitates use of complex filtration procedure, hence the price
    • although whey isolate will help recovery after workouts, it loses out to whey concentrate in some respects. This is so because immune boosting constituents of milk protein like alpha – lactoglobulins and lactoferrins are removed during the purification process

Whey Concentrate

Pros:

    • lot cheaper than whey isolate
    • has a slower absorption rate than whey protein isolates; thus ensures a steady state of elevated amino acids in the blood and helps you stay anabolic for longer. This also reduces the need for frequent dosing
    • slower absorption helps with absorption of other important minerals like calcium and reducing blood glucose and lipid levels
    • induces appetite suppression which may help longer fasting interval, thereby improving body composition and metabolic disease parameters
    • contains immune boosting complexes (alpha – lactoglobulins and lactoferrins) which help post-exercise muscle recovery
    • helps fight diseases – for instance, chronic hepatitis C (Elattar et al., 2010)

Cons:

    • some amount of fat will be present so not ideally suited during times when keeping body fat% down is desirable
    • if you have any degree of intolerance to milk and dairy products, you might want to forget using whey concentrate on account of its lactose content – which is missing from the more purer whey isolate

TAKE HOME MESSAGE

In conclusion, isolate and concentrate are equally good – however, your circumstances – price, training goals and lactose intolerance – should tip the scales in favour of one or the other.


Recent developments

  1. More recently, the presence of a post-workout anabolic window (of opportunity) is being increasing questioned. ‘Not only is nutrient timing research open to question in terms of applicability, but recent evidence has directly challenged the classical view of the relevance of post-exercise nutritional intake with respect to anabolism’ (Aragon and Schoenfeld, 2013). The amount and quality of protein that you consume throughout the day is, now, thought to be more important than immediate post-workout whey ingestion.
  2. BCAAs (branched-chain amino acids – leucine, isoleucine and valine) may be overrated and ‘data do not seem to support a benefit to BCCA supplementation during periods of caloric restriction’ (Dieter BP, Schoenfeld BJ and Aragon AA, 2016).

Reference List

Aragon AA, Schoenfeld BJ (2013). Nutrient timing revisited: is there a post-exercise anabolic window? Journal of the International Society of Sports Nutrition. 2013;10:5 /1550-2783-10-5.

Barile, D., Tao, N., Lebrilla, C. B., Coisson, J. D., Arlorio, M., & German, J. B. (2009). Permeate from cheese whey ultrafiltration is a source of milk oligosaccharides. Int Dairy J, 19, 524-530.

Bird, S. P., Tarpenning, K. M., & Marino, F. E. (2006). Liquid carbohydrate/essential amino acid ingestion during a short-term bout of resistance exercise suppresses myofibrillar protein degradation. Metabolism, 55, 570-577.

Cribb, P. J. & Hayes, A. (2006). Effects of supplement timing and resistance exercise on skeletal muscle hypertrophy. Med Sci.Sports Exerc., 38, 1918-1925.

Cribb, P. J., Williams, A. D., Carey, M. F., & Hayes, A. (2006). The effect of whey isolate and resistance training on strength, body composition, and plasma glutamine. Int J Sport Nutr.Exerc.Metab, 16, 494-509.

Dieter BP, Schoenfeld BJ, Aragon AA.(2016). The data do not seem to support a benefit to BCAA supplementation during periods of caloric restriction. Journal of the International Society of Sports Nutrition;13:21. doi:10.1186/s12970-016-0128-9.

Elattar, G., Saleh, Z., El-Shebini, S., Farrag, A., Zoheiry, M., Hassanein, A. et al. (2010). The use of whey protein concentrate in management of chronic hepatitis C virus – a pilot study. Arch.Med Sci., 6, 748-755.

Esmarck, B., Andersen, J. L., Olsen, S., Richter, E. A., Mizuno, M., & Kjaer, M. (2001). Timing of postexercise protein intake is important for muscle hypertrophy with resistance training in elderly humans. J Physiol, 535, 301-311.

Etheridge, T., Philp, A., & Watt, P. W. (2008). A single protein meal increases recovery of muscle function following an acute eccentric exercise bout. Appl.Physiol Nutr.Metab, 33, 483-488.

Etzel, M. R. (2004). Manufacture and use of dairy protein fractions. J Nutr., 134, 996S-1002S.

Ha, E. & Zemel, M. B. (2003). Functional properties of whey, whey components, and essential amino acids: mechanisms underlying health benefits for active people (review). J Nutr.Biochem., 14, 251-258.

Hakkinen, K., Pakarinen, A., Kraemer, W. J., Hakkinen, A., Valkeinen, H., & Alen, M. (2001). Selective muscle hypertrophy, changes in EMG and force, and serum hormones during strength training in older women. J Appl.Physiol, 91, 569-580.

Hoffman, J. R., Ratamess, N. A., Tranchina, C. P., Rashti, S. L., Kang, J., & Faigenbaum, A. D. (2010). Effect of a proprietary protein supplement on recovery indices following resistance exercise in strength/power athletes. Amino.Acids, 38, 771-778.

Hulmi, J. J., Ahtiainen, J. P., Kaasalainen, T., Pollanen, E., Hakkinen, K., Alen, M. et al. (2007). Postexercise myostatin and activin IIb mRNA levels: effects of strength training. Med Sci.Sports Exerc., 39, 289-297.

Hulmi, J. J., Kovanen, V., Selanne, H., Kraemer, W. J., Hakkinen, K., & Mero, A. A. (2009). Acute and long-term effects of resistance exercise with or without protein ingestion on muscle hypertrophy and gene expression. Amino.Acids, 37, 297-308.

Hulmi, J. J., Lockwood, C. M., & Stout, J. R. (2010). Effect of protein/essential amino acids and resistance training on skeletal muscle hypertrophy: A case for whey protein. Nutr.Metab (Lond), 7, 51.

Josse, A. R., Tang, J. E., Tarnopolsky, M. A., & Phillips, S. M. (2010). Body composition and strength changes in women with milk and resistance exercise. Med Sci.Sports Exerc., 42, 1122-1130.

Krissansen, G. W. (2007). Emerging health properties of whey proteins and their clinical implications. J Am Coll.Nutr., 26, 713S-723S.

Moore, D. R., Tang, J. E., Burd, N. A., Rerecich, T., Tarnopolsky, M. A., & Phillips, S. M. (2009). Differential stimulation of myofibrillar and sarcoplasmic protein synthesis with protein ingestion at rest and after resistance exercise. J Physiol, 587, 897-904.

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You’d probably find this hard to believe but empirical physicians like Galen and Hippocrates, many millennia ago, predicted the ‘epidemic’ of  human obesity and the problems that it would cause (1)! Despite such warnings, most cultures of the world, even to this day, have tended to look upon obesity as a sign of good health (2).

More often than not, you are made to believe that lack of physical activity (PA) combined with overeating leads to (overweight and) obesity. However, that is now being questioned. Notwithstanding the reasons for overweight and obese, being overweight or obese puts you at a greater risk of metabolic disorders like diabetes, cardiovascular diseases, arthritis and cancer, to name a few (1-7).

According to NHANES, up until the end of 2010, of the adult US population (older than 20 years), 33% were overweight, 35.7% obese and 6.3% were classified as extremely obese (8) – that makes for a staggering 75% of adults with ‘weight problems’! While those figures are from 2010, one can only imagine what the picture must be like now!

In other parts of the world, prevalence of obesity and overweight is quite similar to (if not more extreme than) that in the US. According to Jacob C. Seidell, obesity is as common in the UK as in the US (9). Countries undergoing rapid economic growth – notably in Latin America and Asia – reflect similar figures as well (10).

As if these figures aren’t frightening enough, get a load of this – in 2010, medical bills for treating obesity and overweight individuals in the US alone was $270 billion (11;12)! Add to that, the costs for treating the associated ill-effects – cardiovascular disease, diabetes and others – and you’d understand why humanity can no longer afford to be overweight anymore.

3-Meal-a-Day? Really?!

Owing to the current ‘epidemic proportions’ (I have tended to call it a pandemic – and rightly so!) of obesity and its ill-effects – our dietary patterns have come into sharp focus. Although, ‘3-meals a day’ is the norm in most geographical areas of the world, there is no scientific basis for this being the best strategy for achieving optimal human health. In recent times, therefore, researchers have begun to question the rationale of the traditional ‘3-meals a day’ diet and have wondered if reduction in the number of meals (less than 3) may prove to be beneficial in fighting obesity.

6-Meals-a-Day?! Get out of ‘ere!

Most dietitians, fitness and weight-loss gurus are likely to recommend ‘6-meals-a-day’ type of diet (snacking) for weight-loss. The general perception is that smaller, frequent meals during the course of the day increase metabolic rate and are generally better for maintaining a healthier weight. However, contrary to popular belief, there is no scientific proof – none whatsoever – that ‘snacking’ bumps up your metabolism and will help you lose weight! There is some evidence that increasing the frequency of meals (snacks) – while keeping calories constant – may affect physiological parameters favorably – lower serum glucose, insulin and lipid levels (13;14). However, the proof in favor of reduced meal frequency (as compared to snacking) in preventing metabolic diseases as well as obesity is much stronger.

In addition to the lack of evidence for its effectiveness, there are several downsides of frequent snacking. Reducing meal frequency, on the other hand, may prove to be a win-win situation for you!

Downsides of frequent snacking

    • A snack when eaten in a non-hungry state, may cause weight gain – this is likely due to the calorie-dense nature and high sugar content of the snack; such snacks, by default will be poor in nutrients; these lead to decreased satiety and subsequently, increased hunger (15)
    • Even if your snack was high in protein (a protein shake, for instance), it wouldn’t amount to much suppression of hunger. Consequently, the energy intake during the next meal would still be higher than after a ‘no-snack’ (or skipped meal) period  (16)
    • Furthermore,  frequent  snacking  has  been  shown  to  increase  the  risk  of developing type-2 diabetes (17)

Positives of reduced meal frequency (and intermittent fasting)

(13;17-21)
    • reduced body weight,
    • arrested development of metabolic diseases,
    • improved quality of health, and
    • longevity

Interestingly enough, the benefits derived from reduced food intake work independent of the number of calories consumed (18;20).

Based on these observations, recent dietary trends (although not by ‘mainstream nutritionists’) have tended to recommended reduced meal frequency (and intermittent fasting) over frequent snacking.

So, what exactly are the health benefits that you can expect by reducing the number of times you eat in a day? In addition to the obvious benefits on body weight and body composition, there are other benefits to be had as well. Here are some (18;22;23):

    • decreased blood insulin levels
    • decreased blood glucose levels
    • decreased blood pressure
    • decreased heart rate
    • decreased predisposition to cardiac or brain cell injury
    • enhanced immunity

Improvement in the above mentioned physiological parameters will help you prevent or reduce the severity of disorders like obesity, diabetes – type 2 and cardiovascular diseases. In case, you are wondering why reducing meal frequency would work for you, have a look through some of the theories that have been proposed by researchers for the alleged benefits of reduced meal frequency.

Theories for Benefits of Reduced Meal Frequency

Oxidative Stress Theory

The processes of ageing and development of ‘ageing-related diseases’ are due to oxidative stresses that our bodies are exposed to on a daily basis; the dreaded free oxygen radical (otherwise known as reactive oxygen) is responsible for these stresses. Reduced meal frequency and intermittent fasting tends to slow down and reduce the production of these oxygen radicals and thereby, the oxidative processes (17;19;24); hence, the reported benefits.

Energy Metabolism Theory

The Energy Metabolism Theory suggests that dietary restriction – either as reduced meal frequency or intermittent fasting – has a positive influence on calorie equation. Furthermore, it increases sensitivity to key hormones, especially, insulin (25). And, since insulin resistance plays a major role in the development of obesity and other metabolic diseases, increased insulin sensitivity as a result of reduced meal frequency is more than likely to be of benefit.

Cellular Stress Response Theory

The Cellular Stress Response Theory is quite an interesting theory; it proposes that decreasing your meal frequency induces a stress response from cells. The stress response involves up-regulation of receptors and genes – this makes cells stronger so they can cope with all kinds of physiological or pathological stresses (24). The end result – a healthier you with better chances of fighting metabolic disease.

Data obtained from animal studies has supported the fact that reducing meal frequency can be beneficial to general health and well-being (18;26-28). Additionally, human clinical studies have also reported the benefits of reduced meal frequency (26). Also, regular consumption of breakfast (although, I am not a big proponent of the ‘healthy breakfast’ idea, a story for another day) while reducing the frequency of meals through the rest of the day seems to have an even bigger effect – both on obesity and disease prevention (27-29).

TAKE HOME MESSAGE

Six-meals-a-day diet is history! Reducing meal frequency is the ‘in-thing’. Regular breakfast consumption while reducing the frequency of meals through the rest of the day has several positive benefits on human health such as:

    • improvements in body composition,
    • reduction of risk for cardiovascular-metabolic diseases, and
    • an anti-aging effect

A WORD OF CAUTION THOUGH – don’t go overboard and eat tons of calories at one go, suddenly; you’d have build up gradually if were to, let’s say eat a 1500 calorie meal of nutrient-dense foods and then fast for 20 hours!

Another thing you need to be wary of is that this kind of diet would work best if you added some amount of exercise training to it – short and brutal workouts like high-intensity interval training, sprint intervals or Olympic lifting would work wonders!

I don’t know about you, but with an impressive ‘benefits profile’ like that, I’d be certainly tempted to give reduced meal frequency a try.

PS: This article is more relevant for those looking to lose weight and improve general well-being and health; sports-specific nutrition is a totally different ball game!

 

References

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(18) Anson RM, Guo Z, de CR, Iyun T, Rios M, Hagepanos A et al. Intermittent fasting dissociates beneficial effects of dietary restriction on glucose metabolism and neuronal resistance to injury from calorie intake. Proc Natl Acad Sci U S A 2003; 100(10):6216-6220.

(19) Guo Z, Ersoz A, Butterfield DA, Mattson MP. Beneficial effects of dietary restriction on cerebral cortical synaptic terminals: preservation of glucose and glutamate transport and mitochondrial function after exposure to amyloid beta-peptide, iron, and 3-nitropropionic acid. J Neurochem 2000; 75(1):314-320.

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(23) Wan R, Camandola S, Mattson MP. Intermittent fasting and dietary supplementation with 2-deoxy-D-glucose improve functional and metabolic cardiovascular risk factors in rats. FASEB J 2003; 17(9):1133-1134.

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