It is that time of the year again – to engage in the annual ritual of digesting the life lived over the past 12 months and of whipping up some goals for the next 12. ‘Lifestyle improvement’ is the No. 1 resolution each year. And dieting, or changing eating habits, is a major component. This is a perfect time to develop an appetite for dieting.
There is a smorgasbord of options to sink one’s teeth into:
Multiple choices do not make decisions easy. It’s quite the opposite in most instances. Assessing the competing claims of these various options can be a recipe for indigestion. A business framework approach to dieting suggests that the decision is along three axes:
What to eat (fruits, vegetables, carbs, proteins).
The quantity question has been researched since the 1930s, and studies have shown the benefits of reducing calories. Data is available in microbes, multiple animals, and in humans. Reduced intake provides many benefits that we seek – weight loss, a desirable biochemistry profile, and healthy aging. (Please note that aging benefits in humans are deduced based on improved biochemistry markers and not proven directly.) Our hunger for optimisation, however, makes us forage beyond this simple and proven intervention.
The debate turns spicy at ‘what to eat’. Proteins, carbs, fats? From animals, plants, dairy? Each diet has its own supporters who are ready to devour the arguments of the other camps. The conflict exists because the data is confusing. Also, history suggests that today’s flavour-of-the-day diet can leave a bitter taste in the mouth tomorrow.
Remember the now discredited US low-fat craze in the 1990s? It is an unpalatable story and can make one cynical about any nutrition ‘truths’. Another example is eating multiple meals in a day. After a total reversal, today’s special is to confine all eating within a short window.
The data does not provide certainty, because most studies are conducted in animals (some in microbes). The applicability of such results to humans is an open question. The timeframe of studies is short (multiple weeks). As a contrast, a cardiovascular drug is studied in humans for about five years.