Updated: Feb 17
Just a quick note that The Biome Protocol has been included in this blog because it incorporates the first two diet styles – but not in the typical way, so it provides some additional benefits that will be explained towards the end.
The weight loss industry is estimated to be an 80 billion-dollar market - and it’s not surprising because diets are temporary measures that may actually be designed to fail – it seems like the market is counting on it!
It is estimated that about 20% of dieters will succeed in maintaining the weight they have lost long-term but it’s important to note that this “success” has been defined as “individuals who have intentionally lost at least 10% of their body weight and kept it off at least one year.” That’s not much for someone who weighs over 100 kgs, but even a 5% weight loss is considered significant because it reduces the risk of illness and death. It’s also important to note that the average weight loss for those who attempt any diet is only about 6kgs per year…
That’s not really the kind of weight loss most people are hoping for. Those over 100kgs want to lose at least 20kgs and those who only need to lose 5kgs, want to lose it asap! And everyone wants to keep it off.
There is an endless list of reasons why diets fail; they’re either too restrictive or lenient (for example the points system or “everything in moderation”), they can be vague, or include processed foods, packaged meals or shakes with various additives that actually prevent fat loss. Add to that the accepted, but very flawed, standard dietary guidelines – usually directed by big companies, the expectations of friendly food pushers and the obesogenic environment we live in – easy access to highly processed food, high levels of stress and no time for self-care - it’s no wonder almost 70% of us are either overweight or obese.
What’s more concerning is that many diet plans – even those that are medically-supervised or endorsed - don’t necessarily address the underlying physiological factors that contribute to weight gain. These factors include dysbiosis, leaky gut, inflammation, toxicity, metabolic abnormalities, hormonal dysregulation and neuroinflammation (inflammation in the brain that actually interferes with our ability to resist cravings). There is a large body of evidence linking these factors to obesity – unfortunately, it continues to be ignored. More on these here.
And finally, life happens - we eat more at social events, weekends and holidays and many people turn to food when something unexpected occurs. These are high-risk situations that often result in a relapse into old habits. Statistically, you only have about an 11% chance to return to a lower weight after you’ve had a relapse – even if you’ve gained only 1-2kg of fat. Research shows that individuals who maintain their weight long term are those who follow a consistent diet throughout the week and don’t increase their intake on weekends, holidays or any other opportunities.
Most research shows that on average long-term success remains similar across diets, however those at the better end of the spectrum have these in common:
They provide rapid weight loss in the initial period - which is a great motivator.
They’re designed to reduce appetite and cravings.
They increase a general sense of well-being such as improved energy, sleep and mood.
They address at least some of the underlying factors that contribute to weight gain - by doing so, they give you a much better chance of long-term success.
New diets – such as the Ketogenic Diet and various forms of Intermittent Fasting - when done correctly – tick most of the boxes. The key caveat here is “when done correctly”. These diets can be unsafe if continued too long or if practised by individuals with certain medical conditions.
Here is a discussion the features of three popular diet plans and how The Biome Protocol compares.
The Ketogenic Diet
Studies into the ketogenic diet date back to the early 1900’s when it was used to control epilepsy in children. The ketogenic diet has also been shown to help with other neurological conditions as well as metabolic disorders and autoimmune diseases. Its many benefits include fat loss, reduced inflammatory markers, improved metabolic markers and better cognitive function.
The ketogenic diet is a self-directed eating style that advocates a high fat, moderate protein and very low carbohydrate intake. Fat makes up 70-80% of the diet, while protein makes up 15-25% and carbohydrates the remaining 5%. This macronutrient composition allows the body to shift from being dependent on glucose for energy (from carbohydrate-rich foods) to using fat stored in the body (which is often in large supply). Stored fat becomes converted into ketones which provide energy to fuel the brain and other organs. Ketosis also reduces cravings, which makes the diet easy to follow. More information here
There appears to be no physiological need for carbohydrate-rich foods because the body is able to convert fats and proteins into glucose, however this may take a few weeks– and it only occurs if the diet is being followed correctly. More often than not, people under-estimate the amount of carbohydrates and protein they eat so their body doesn’t reach a state of ketosis, making it hard to lose weight and resist cravings.
One downfall of many ketogenic plans is that they recommend highly processed foods such as keto bars, that may have the correct macronutrient proportions to maintain ketosis, but they’re also packed with additives to make them taste better. These additives may contribute to inflammation, which is the driver of weight gain and resistance to weight loss. In addition, long-term ketosis leads to physiological insulin resistance – a fat-storing state - and this is because insulin receptors reduce in numbers when they’re not needed, and they’re not needed when there’s no glucose in the bloodstream. However, this only becomes a problem if you sneak in some carbohydrate rich foods every now and then – they will most likely be immediately stored as fat rather than being used for energy.
Another reason the ketogenic diet may fail is that it’s not for everyone. Those with adrenal or thyroid problems may find that their symptoms worsen, and they may actually experience weight gain while following the diet. Women also do worse than men due to hormonal differences. This is why many people experience some success in the initial period (as with any diet you follow) but eventually run into problems.
Side effects are common and include symptoms like nausea, vomiting, fatigue, insomnia, exercise intolerance, constipation, and headaches. These usually resolve within a couple of weeks when the body becomes fully adapted to using fat stores for energy.
And finally, just something to think about – diets high in animal protein and fat have been consistently shown to be inferior to plant-based diets when it comes to health. Long-term avoidance of plant-based foods also has detrimental effects on the microbiome – a key regulator of health. Studies that have looked at the effects of long-term ketosis on the microbiome have had varied results. Most keto proponents agree that the ketogenic diet should only be used as a short-term weight loss tool and ideally under medical supervision. There are some medical conditions for which long-term ketosis is recommended, however these cases must be strictly monitored with regular medical check-ups and blood tests.
While the diet can be used in the short-term to kick-start weight loss, guidance from an integrative doctor is highly recommended.
The Fasting Mimicking Diet (FMD)
FMD was developed by Cell Biologist, Professor Valter Longo. It is a plant-based, very low protein diet that uses calorie restriction, intermittent fasting and specific calorie and macronutrient proportions to recreate the effects of fasting. This means you can eat food while still enjoying the health benefits of fasting, such as autophagy (or cellular cleansing).More information here.
FMD is backed by extensive and very impressive research boasting a wide range of health benefits in both mice and humans, such as protecting against diabetes, cancer, neurological disorders, autoimmune conditions and obesity. These results are seen with repeated courses – 5 days each month for 3 months. It has also been shown to regenerate the immune system in humans and the gastrointestinal tract in mice, within in one 5-day cycle.
The 5-day plan can be ordered through medical practitioners and costs about $250 US (plus cost of consultation). It comes with packaged food that include soups, crackers, nut bars, olives and a glycerol concentrate drink. These products contain a good amount of prebiotic foods to ensure a healthy gut microbiome is maintained, however some also include ingredients such as sugar or common food allergens such as nuts, yeast and soy, so it’s not for everyone. FMD also comes with a multivitamin and omega-3 supplement.
It’s important to note that FMD is not intended to be a weight loss plan but rather a plan that sets the stage for cell renewal. It stimulates autophagy genes that help clear our damaged cells and their components.
Side effects of FMD are minor, and may include symptoms such as headache, hunger, fatigue and dizziness. They usually resolve after day 3.
On completion of the 5 days, you must reintroduce proteins and healthy foods that help regenerate cells. If you’re more inclined to choose processed foods at that stage, you may actually make things worse than they were to begin with.
You can expect to lose between 2 to 4kgs over the 5 days, depending on how much you weigh to begin with. Some of this weight will be fluid loss and in order to continue further weight loss, you will need to either repeat the diet – which can be costly - or move on to another diet plan.
FMD was developed purely to improve health but it can be used to kick-start weight loss. As the calorie restriction is short-lived and it has a moderate carbohydrate intake, its unlikely to worsen adrenal or thyroid problems. If you are pregnant, breast feeding or have any medical conditions, its best to discuss your options with an integrative doctor.
The Biome Protocol
The Biome Protocol is a protocol that aims to restore the gut microbiota and support physiological processes relevant to weight loss. The premise for this focus is that by restoring physiology, it is easier to lose weight and maintain it long-term. The protocol itself has not undergone clinical studies however the dietary recommendations and the nutrients added to the formulations in the protocol, are backed by scientific evidence.
The Biome diet is a low carbohydrate version of the Mediterranean diet and it incorporates short-term calorie restriction and intermittent fasting. This combination of styles means that participants experience the benefits of all of these eating styles. In addition, they are likely to experience intermittent ketosis (particularly overnight), which means they get the benefits of ketosis without the potential risks that come with long-term ketosis. Fluctuating in and out of ketosis enables the body to become efficient at using both glucose and fats. This appears to be safer than continuous ketosis. It is also less likely to result in insulin resistance – a fat-storing condition.
The Mediterranean diet, which includes plenty of vegetables and healthy fats, has consistently been shown in research to have the most beneficial effects on the gut microbiome, as well as improving a range of metabolic and health parameters including longevity. The low carbohydrate diet has consistently been shown to provide better appetite control, improved mood and weight loss compared with a low-fat diet. And, intermittent fasting has been shown to improve the gut microbiome, reduce inflammation and stimulate autophagy – amongst a very long list of other benefits. More information here.
The Biome Protocol therefore includes the benefits of all of these plans.
The program comes with a six-week supply of 3 nutrient formulations that do not contain any additives, fillers or sweeteners - only pure form nutrients. These are compounded formulations which means they have undergone strict quality-control tests. The nutrients are added to a smoothie - that can be adjusted to your taste - first thing in the morning and that’s it - you have everything you need for the day.
The protocol has two stages – the first stage focuses on restoring the gut microbiota and reducing inflammation while rapidly losing fat. The second stage incorporates additional nutrients to support detoxification, mitochondrial function, appetite regulation and brain function, while continuing to assist with fat loss at a slightly reduced rate. During the second stage, participants are guided on how to find their ideal carbohydrate intake and continue losing weight. There is also a large amount of information on how to maintain weight loss, identify food intolerances and how to find a long-term eating style that suits your individual needs. For those who haven’t reached their goal weight on completion, the protocol explains how to continue losing weight by making dietary modifications or by safely incorporating various fasting techniques. The expected weight loss is 6-10kgs during the 6-week course.
Side effects are often minor and transient and include symptoms such as headache, fatigue, light-headedness and cravings that resolve within 3 to 5 days.
The protocol is not overly restrictive or excessive and contains safe doses of nutrients, so there are very few contraindications. Participants complete a short health questionnaire which is assessed by a practitioner (no consultation needed). The practitioner then modifies the plan according to individual needs in order to cater for those with certain symptoms or medical issues such as thyroid, adrenal or gut conditions, allergies, food intolerances, insulin resistance, PCOS, hormonal imbalances and autoimmune conditions – to name a few.
This is a protocol that is designed to rebalance the body in order to effectively lose fat. It can be also be implemented prior to commencing a more restrictive plan such as the ketogenic diet – or for long-term maintenance on completion of such a plan.
The Biome Protocol comes with 3 nutrient formulations as well as a probiotic/digestive enzyme combo and costs $795.
This Table Summarises the features of each of these diet plans.
Please note that these findings are only valid if the diet program is implemented according to best practice.
* The dietary recommendations and nutrients chosen for the formulations have been included in The Biome Protocol based on scientific evidence for their beneficial effects in these areas.
** These are self-reported results.
If you would like more information on any of these diets, or to find a practitioner who provides these diets, please contact us.
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