According to a recent study published in the Journal of Chiropractic Medicine, the most effective route to healthy weight loss—as well as decreased cholesterol and risk of heart disease, diabetes, and some cancers—may require a bit of gastric subterfuge.
In other words, trick your stomach.
The study, conducted by the New York Chiropractic College and patterned on the Beachbody Ultimate Reset, combined a diet comprised of low-energy-dense foods and a targeted supplement regimen over 21 days. Results showed significant weight loss and lower cholesterol and blood pressure levels.
What are “low-energy dense foods” and how do they work for healthy weight loss?
Low-energy-dense foods are those that maintain a high ratio of physical volume to calories. Examples of these foods include nutrient-rich leafy green and cruciferous vegetables like kale and broccoli, complex grains like millet and quinoa, and high-protein legumes like almonds and flaxseeds.
Consuming these low-density foods—especially those that are high in fiber—is as filling as eating high-density items like dairy, meats, and fatty processed foods, but with significantly fewer calories.
The result is meaningful weight loss; in this case an average divestiture of 8.7 pounds in three weeks. A fiber-rich diet is also associated with a host of additional health benefits, like lower LDL cholesterol and blood sugar levels, decreased incidence of colonic diseases including cancer, and, of course, bowel health and regularity.
Why isn’t everyone talking about low-density foods then?
The piece that’s often missing for many people looking for healthy weight loss plans, or to simply improve their health, is simple nutritional awareness. That’s according to lead researcher, Dr. Mary Balliet. Considering that obesity rates have more than doubled for women and effectively tripled for men since the 1970s, she has a point.
“Many people are not familiar with such healthy, fresh vegetarian and vegan options,” says NYCC’s Balliet. “Learning how to cook these things and eat in this way, plus the supplements, makes a huge difference.”
It’s easy to see how a nation could lose its dietary way via eating energy-dense foods: they’re cheaper. A study by France’s Conservatoire des Arts et Métiers2 determined in 2004 that low-energy-dense diets are more expensive than those high in fat and low in fiber and water content, i.e. refined grains and sweets. Of course, when you hold these costs next to medical bills generated by our obesity epidemic, this point is moot.
Healthy weight loss requires a plan
For the NYCC study, researchers selected 36 female and 13 male participants from the school’s faculty, staff, students, and community. Research on vegetarian, vegan, and Mediterranean diets reveals a link between low-energy-dense food like fruits, vegetables, and whole grains and overall health and maintaining a healthy weight, so subjects were provided with mostly vegan prepared meals—similar to those in the Ultimate Reset—three times a day to the tune of 1,200 to 1,400 daily calories for the women, and 1,600 to 1,800 daily calories for the men.
Next, citing evidence that suggests a relationship between the microbial ecology of the digestive tract (the bacteria that live in your intestines, for example) and obesity, the subjects were given supplements formulated to remove toxins, regulate acidity, and restore the natural environment of the digestive tract before each meal. The supplements changed for each stage of the 21-day program.
In addition to the subjects’ average healthy weight loss of 8.7 pounds, in 21 days, blood pressure decreased from an average of 116/76 to 112/72, body mass index (BMI) was trimmed by an average of 1.4, waist circumference narrowed by an inch-and-a-half, and total cholesterol dropped an average of 30 points. In men, testosterone increased.
The conclusions of the NYCC study are expected to help healthcare professionals address issues of time, knowledge, and cost concerning the promotion of healthy eating. However, the findings of the study weren’t without some drawbacks.
While fat mass decreased by over five pounds, an average of one pound of muscle loss was also recorded, underscoring the importance of adequate protein in a healthy diet.
Other adverse effects included headaches and fatigue typically associated with caffeine withdrawal and low-calorie dieting. Intense exercise is not permitted on the program, but up to 20 minutes of low-impact activities such as walking, yoga, or tai chi were allowed.
There was also no scientific control group, unless you compare the results to our sedentary, fast food–loving culture. However, without one, it’s unclear how much of the health benefits experienced by the participants can be attributed to diet and how much to supplementation. Balliet believes both components are vital.
“It was the whole program that was effective. Everyone I’ve had do it since then has taken all of the supplements and eaten the food to results at least as good as in the study. Some better.”
Source: Beachbody Writer Jordan Burchette