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Why one-size-fits-all diets don’t work

By February 27, 2017November 13th, 2023Fat-Burning Journal, Nutrition

Low-carb, ketogenic, low-fat, high/low-whatever is really just hype.

Billions of research dollars are spent trying to understand why people are overfat, but if you’re among the sheep the herd is headed for the cliff.

Whenever a researcher gets close to showing how certain dietary components influence insulin and its effects on body fat stores, the publishing game is to state that “more research is needed.” In other words, “we’re not sure yet so give us more research money.”

This can be great ammunition for junk food companies that claim there is no research to confirm sugar is unhealthy, and keeps politicians from implementing useful policies directed at improving the health of their constituents (especially considering that Big Sugar lobbies overshadow them).

Since most people are strongly influenced by recommendations in the media and those promoted by governmental agencies regarding their health, it’s no surprise that the general population continues to be more overfat and unhealthy. However, those individuals willing to take charge of their own health can break from the herd and enjoy the benefits of wellness and reducing excess body fat.

As is well known, insulin is strongly associated with body fat — too much production of the former can contribute to the latter. Other associated secondary problems include chronic diseases such as type 2 diabetes, cancer, cardiovascular diseases, and many others.

The pharmaceutical industry knows the research. Drugs that reduce insulin also reduce body fat. But this is not an answer as lifestyle changes can do the same, only better — you just have to know which eating pattern works for your body’s fat-burning needs. Obviously, drugs come with side-effects, are expensive, and don’t address the cause of the problem — eating junk food.

Lifestyle factors that promote increased insulin and body fat are numerous. They include genetics, the number of beta-cells in the pancreas and other factors we have little or no control over. Diet is the most influential lifestyle factor. While micronutrients such as vitamins, minerals and phytonutrients can affect the insulin-body fat process,  macronutrients — fat, protein and carbohydrates — are the most powerful influence.

Fat: Dietary fat can sometimes, in some individuals, increase insulin, but this occurs more often in the presence of carbohydrate. A diet too high in fat and carbohydrate may be the most common way millions of people eat, and certainly a reason why up to 76 percent of the world’s population is overfat. Eating only natural fats and natural carbohydrates is key.

Protein: Dietary protein can increase insulin stimulation too, and in this case can increase fat storage as well. The most influential amino acids in this regard are arginine, and the so-called branched-chain amino acids — isoleucine, leucine, valine, tyrosine and phenylalanine. Eating moderate amounts of concentrated protein foods work best, choosing from eggs, dairy and meats.

Carbohydrate: Whether in combination with fat and or protein, carbohydrate foods are the most powerful stimulator of insulin and contributor to increased body fat. In particular, refined carbohydrates are most potent due to their glycemic influence. Avoiding junk food in all its disguises remains rule No. 1 not only if you want to reduce excess body fat but for overall improved health and fitness.

There are plenty of studies that demonstrate how fat, protein and carbohydrate influence insulin, body-fat storage and poor health. There are even more on the carb-insulin issue. These usually have cautious results that often appear conflicting because there is clearly considerable variability in the relative responses to these foods between individuals. Yes, we all respond a bit differently to food. Unfortunately, no study has simultaneously compared the responsiveness to dietary fat, protein and carbohydrate.

Because carbohydrates are the most powerful lifestyle factor influencing insulin to raise body fat storage, it’s the best place to start to make healthy changes for most people. It’s why the Two Week Test was developed. It’s your very own research, a study of one — you.

Our variability in response to food is one of the unique human features we each possess as individuals. A recent scientific review by Nicole Templeman and colleagues (the Journal of Endocrinology) states that, “Genetic profiling studies could be used to understand the mechanistic underpinnings of this variation [individual responses to macronutrients]. Answering this question could usher in a new era of nutrigenomics to minimize obesity and diabetes risk.”

But wait. Don’t the most intelligent individuals already do this? In addition, some clinicians have been helping individuals discover their specific dietary needs for decades, without a one-size-fits-all diet.

Individualization is the only real proof in human health studies. While usually taken as an excuse why things may not work for everyone — a study of one — the scientific approach of looking for the answer really means looking for that one size that fits all, and when it’s not found it leads to the notion that “more research is needed.” Each of us already possesses this unique ability to find what works best for our individual needs.