Why has intermittent fasting (IF) become so popular in the past few years?
One of the main reasons is simplicity. There are a million and one diets that involve specific foods or nutrients, but IF skirts all those details. Let’s see what the main types of IF are, and what the evidence shows about weight loss and other health effects.
Also known as time-restricted feeding, IF alternates periods of normal food intake with extended periods (usually 16–48 h) of low-to-no food intake. This approach lends itself to different variants, including those:
Alternate-Day Fasting (also known as Alternate-Day Modified Fasting). This diet can take different forms: you can eat over 12 hours then fast for 36 hours; you can eat over 24 hours then fast for 24 hours; or you can eat normally over 24 hours then eat very little (about 500 kcal) over the next 24 hours.
Eat-Stop-Eat. You fast or severely restrict calories for 24 hours, either at regular intervals (two days per week in the 5:2 Diet) or just from time to time.
Random Meal Skipping. You skip meals at random throughout the week.
Feeding Window. You can only eat during a set period of time every day (from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m, for instance).
Should you decide to try intermittent fasting, pick a variant you think you can stick with for at least a few weeks.
Effects on Weight
Yes, IF can lead to weight loss, but all variants may not be equally efficacious. For instance, simply skipping breakfast led to weight loss in one study but not in another. In both studies, the control groups were provided with a standard breakfast, such as oatmeal, but neither group was restricted in what they could eat the rest of the day.
It’s also possible that people with more weight to lose may benefit more from an IF approach, but one thing is sure: if you compensate for the meals you skipped by eating more later in the day, or the next day, or the next, you won’t lose weight. The weight-loss equation is simple: you need to ingest less calories than you burn. IF is just one way to make this happen, but it is a way that some people find easier than the more common “eat smaller meals” approach.
To lose weight, you need to burn more than you eat — or, conversely, to eat less than you burn. Some people find this goal easier to reach through intermittent fasting than through the traditional “smaller meals” approach.
Effects on Health
The body of evidence on IF is still relatively small, but a growing number of studies have reported improvements in various health markers aside from weight, notably lipids. Further, those studies suggest that IF may provide unique metabolic benefits over the “eat smaller meals” approach.
The most intriguing of those benefits, but also the most debated, is a longer life. Fasting can kick-start some regenerative processes in the body, and extended lifespans from caloric restriction have been reported in many animal models (but not all). Keep in mind, however, that those animals were either fed low-calorie diets or rotated through periods of fasting for most of their lives. It is unknown if IF can extend the lifespan of human beings, and if it can, which variant is best and how many weeks, months, or years are required to make a difference.
Assessing the potential metabolic benefits of IF is a long-term endeavor. As a systematic review of the literature noted in 2015, preliminary evidence looks promising, but solid research is still sparse, so that “further research in humans is needed before the use of fasting as a health intervention can be recommended”.
Recently, scientists set out to examine this issue further. They conducted a meta-analysis of randomized controlled trials that compared low-fat diets to low-carb diets.
Here, we provide a detailed summary of the main results.
Low-fat diets have traditionally been recommended for weight loss.
There are two reasons for this.
First off, fat is the most energy-dense macronutrient. Second, saturated fat used to be believed to increase the risk of heart disease (3).
However, many studies do not support the idea that low-fat diets are very effective for weight loss (4, 5, 6).
In fact, strong evidence points toward low-carb diets being more effective. These diets typically limit carbohydrate intake to less than 20–30% of total calorie intake, and are higher in protein and fat (7, 8).
A group of US researchers compared the effectiveness of low-carb and low-fat diets on causing weight loss and improving risk factors for heart disease.
This was a meta-analysis of randomized controlled trials that compared the effectiveness of two weight loss diets: low-carb and low-fat.
The researchers selected 17 randomized controlled trials that included a total of 1797 overweight and obese participants.
These trials had a few things in common:
They ranged from 8 to 24 months in duration.
The low-carb diet contained less than 120 grams of carbs per day.
The low-fat diet contained less than 30% of calories from fat per day.
This analysis compared the effects of low-fat and low-carb diets on changes in body weight, lower blood sugar and blood pressure.
Bottom Line: This was a meta-analysis that combined the results of 17 randomized trials. These trials compared the effects of low-carb and low-fat diets on weight loss and risk factors for heart disease.
Finding 1: Low-Carb Diets Cause More Weight Loss
While both low-carb and low-fat diets may cause significant weight loss, low-carb diets seem to be more effective.
In fact, the probability of greater weight loss on a low-carb diet, compared to a low-fat diet, was more than 99%.
Tip: Most people on high carb diets tend to consume higher glycemic index foods which studies show are bad for weight loss and many health problems.
The chart below shows the difference in weight loss between groups.
These findings are supported by previous studies on low-carb diets (8).
Part of the reason for this may be that low-carb diets also tend to be higher in protein than low-fat diets. Protein can have beneficial effects on body weight.
Bottom Line: Both low-fat and low-carb diets can help you lose weight, but people tend to lose more weight on low-carb diets.
Finding 2: Low-Carb Diets Are Better For Heart Health
Both diets reduced risk factors for heart disease.
Low-carb diets caused greater improvements in HDL-cholesterol and triglycerides, while low-fat diets affected total cholesterol and LDL-cholesterol more favorably.
The chart below shows the changes in blood lipids in both groups.
Additionally, improvements in systolic blood pressure were slightly better in the low-carb group, with a difference of 1.7 mmHg between groups.
The probability of a low-carb diet causing a greater reduction in heart disease risk was calculated as 98%.
Overall, these results are consistent with previous studies on low-carb diets (8, 9).
Bottom Line: Low-carb diets caused greater improvements in several heart disease risk factors. The differences were modest, but statistically significant.
This study appears to have been well-designed and followed a precise protocol.
However, there were a few limitations to the trials included in the analysis.
First, patient-level data was not available for all of the studies. This limited the researchers’ ability to fully evaluate the quality of the studies they used.
Second, a substantial amount of the studies’ participants dropped out, and the drop-out rate differed significantly between studies. However, according to analyses, this should not have affected the overall results.
Finally, the scores calculated for heart disease risk were based on assumptions that were not verifiable.
The study was supported by a grant from Atkins Nutritionals, a company that produces low-carb products. This does not invalidate the findings, but should be mentioned.
Bottom Line: This study was well-designed and followed a strict protocol. The limitations appear to be minimal.
Summary and Real-Life Application
In short, this study found low-carb diets to be more effective for weight loss than low-fat diets.
Many nutritionalists and dietitians are joining the chorus of fans of ketogenic diet. And certainly it is more effective that even the best diet pills like Garcinia Cambodia.
However, there are some health professionals concerned about the use of ketogenic diets for diabetics.
Addressing this concern, a recent randomized controlled trial investigated the safety, tolerability and effectiveness of a 4-month, very low-calorie ketogenic diet in 89 obese people with type 2 diabetes.
Here is a detailed summary of its findings, in addition to some background information.
The ketogenic diet contains minimal amounts of carbs.
This forces the body to burn fat and leads to ketosis, which is characterized by elevated levels of ketone bodies in the blood. The ketone bodies partially replace glucose (blood sugar) as fuel for cells.
Additionally, eating sugar, especially sugar-sweetened beverages, may promote overeating. Sugar may also be addictive for some people, making them susceptible to cravings and overeating.
For these reasons, high sugar intake is probably one of the main causes of weight gain and obesity.
A ketogenic diet eliminates most dietary sugar, as well as the health problems associated with it. However, eliminating dietary carbs means that you have to eat more fat or protein instead.
Increasing fat intake doesn’t seem to be a problem if the diet is also calorie-reduced. Studies indicate that high-fat diets are more effective for weight loss than low-fat diets. This is probably because high-fat diets contain much fewer carbs (1).
Additionally, limiting carbs is more beneficial for weight loss and blood sugar control, compared to a low-fat diet or high-carb diet (2, 3).
Yet, some researchers are concerned that a high protein intake on a very low-carb diet may adversely affect diabetic people with kidney problems (diabetic nephropathy) (4, 5).
Others have pointed out that very low-carb or high-protein diets may not be feasible in a real-life setting (6).
In 2008, the American Diabetes Association even concluded that very low-carb diets were of limited use for people with diabetes and should only be considered as part of a structured weight loss program (7).
However, few studies have examined the safety and effectiveness of a calorie-reduced, very low-carb ketogenic diet, compared to a standard weight loss diet.
This study examined the safety and effectiveness of a low-calorie ketogenic diet in obese diabetics.
This randomized controlled trial evaluated the safety, tolerability and effectiveness of a low-calorie ketogenic diet in obese people with type 2 diabetes.
A total of 89 men and women, aged 30–65, participated in the study. They followed a 4-month weight loss program, which included lifestyle and behavioral modification support.
The participants were randomly assigned to one of two groups:
1. Very Low-Calorie, Ketogenic Diet (VLCK)
This was a commercial weight loss program (DiaproKal Method) based on specific protein supplements provided by Pronokal Protein Supplies in Spain.
The program consisted of three stages:
Active phase: Very low-calorie diet (600–800 calories per day) containing less than 50 grams of carbs from vegetables and 10 grams of olive oil. Protein intake ranged between 0.36–0.55 grams per pound of body weight (0.8–1.2 g per kg).
Metabolic stabilization: When the participants had reached a pre-specified weight loss target, they began a low-calorie diet and gradually started to incorporate different food groups.
Maintenance phase: Finally, the participants went on a weight maintenance diet that was balanced in carbs, protein and fat and ranged between 1,500–2,250 calories per day.
2. Standard Low-Calorie Diet (Control)
This was a standard weight loss diet based on the American Diabetes Association Guidelines (8).
It aimed at reducing calorie intake by 500–1,000 calories per day, depending on the participants’ basal metabolic rate.
The diet provided 10–20% of calories from protein, 45–60% from carbs and less than 30% of calories from fat.
In both groups, the participants attended nine individual support sessions with a dietitian and were contacted by telephone twice a month.
The researchers measured the participants and took blood samples on four occasions: 1) at the start of the study, 2) after 2 weeks, 3) after 2 months, and 4) at the end of the study (after 4 months).
They measured the following parameters:
Renal function: Biomarkers of kidney function were measured in blood samples.
Liver function: Biomarkers of liver function were measured in blood samples.
Ketones: Levels of ketone bodies in blood samples were measured to confirm that those in the VLCK reached ketosis.
Body weight, body mass index and waist circumference.
Blood sugar control: Fasting blood sugar, insulin and HbA1c were measured in blood samples. Insulin resistance was calculated using the homeostasis model assessment (HOMA).
Blood lipids: Fasting triglycerides, total cholesterol and LDL cholesterol.
Dietary adherence: Assessed using the Eating Self-Efficacy Scale.
Conclusion: This was a randomized controlled trial examining the safety and effectiveness of a calorie-reduced, very low-carb ketogenic diet in obese people with type 2 diabetes.
Finding 1: The Ketogenic Diet Caused Greater Weight Loss
The participants in the VLCK group lost an additional 22 lbs (10 kg) of body weight, compared to the control group.
Specifically, they lost 32 lbs (15 kg) in the VLCK group and 11 lbs (5 kg) in the control group.
They also experienced a greater decrease in waist circumference, as shown in the chart below.
Some researchers have speculated that the ketogenic diet helps people lose weight only because it’s much higher in protein than the standard weight loss diet.
One study suggests that going on a ketogenic diet without increasing protein intake has no lasting effect on the amount of calories burned and doesn’t lead to additional weight loss, compared to a standard, high-carb weight loss diet.
Conclusion: The ketogenic diet led to significantly greater weight loss than the standard low-calorie diet.
Finding 2: The Ketogenic Diet Led to Greater Improvements in Blood Sugar Control
Insulin resistance decreased significantly more in the VLCK group, compared to the control, as shown in the chart below.
Fasting blood sugar levels reduced similarly in both groups.
However, the decrease in HbA1c was significant only in the VLCK group. HbA1c is a marker of blood sugar control that represents the previous 3-month average of blood sugar levels.
These findings are supported by previous studies showing that very low-carb diets improve blood sugar control in diabetics (9, 10).
Conclusion: The ketogenic diet significantly improved blood sugar control, compared to a standard weight loss diet.
Finding 3: Self-Reported Adverse Effects Were More Common on the Ketogenic Diet
The researchers detected no significant differences in safety parameters between groups. However, self-reported adverse effects were more common in the VLCK group.
Mild adverse effects were reported by 80% of the participants in the VLCK group but only 41% of those in the control group. These included headache, nausea, vomiting and weakness.
Additionally, constipation and low blood pressure when standing up (orthostatic hypotension) were more common in the VLCK group at the end of the study. No serious adverse effects were reported.
Adverse effects became less frequent as the study progressed. The authors concluded that the ketogenic diet is a safe, well-tolerated weight loss method for people with type 2 diabetes.
The adverse effects reported in this study are similar to those generally associated with very low-carb diets (11).
Conclusion: Blood analyses revealed no significant differences in biomarkers of liver and kidney function between groups. However, self-reported adverse effects were more common in the VLCK group.
Participants in the VLCK group received protein supplements provided by Pronokal Protein Supplies in Spain.
Additionally, five of the nine authors received research grants and advisory board fees from the company, creating a conflict of interest.
Otherwise, the study appears to have been well designed.
Summary and Real-Life Application
In conclusion, a weight loss program based on the ketogenic diet was significantly more effective than a standard weight loss program.
It appeared safe and reasonably well tolerated by people with type 2 diabetes and caused greater weight loss and improvements in blood sugar control.
Recently different methods such as intermittent fasting are gaining popularity.
A randomized controlled trial compared the safety and effectiveness of alternate-day fasting to a traditional, calorie-reduced diet. Here is a detailed summary of its findings.
When people diet, they eat less than they normally would.
Typically, an effective weight loss diet involves a 20–30% calorie deficit, relative to the amount of calories needed to maintain weight. It generally leads to a moderate 5–10% weight loss over a 6-month period (1, 2).
However, sticking to a calorie-reduced diet for a long period is extremely difficult for most people (3).
For this reason, alternative strategies are growing in popularity. One such strategy is intermittent fasting, which involves eating little or nothing for specified periods and normally the rest of the time.
One common intermittent fasting approach is alternate-day fasting (ADF), which involves eating little or nothing every other day.
Like most other weight loss methods, ADF reduces the risk of heart disease and diabetes. It may also cause beneficial changes in appetite hormones (4, 5, 6).
Studies in overweight or obese adults indicate that ADF may cause 3–8% weight loss over a period of 2–12 weeks (7, 8).
Yet, it’s still unclear whether ADF is an effective weight loss strategy. Until now, no studies have compared ADF to a traditional weight loss diet (9).
This was a randomized controlled trial comparing the effectiveness of alternate-day fasting to a standard weight loss diet.
This was a small, 2-month randomized controlled trial examining the safety and effectiveness of alternate-day fasting, compared to a traditional weight loss diet.
A total of 26 obese adults participated in the study. They were randomly assigned to one of two groups:
Alternate-day fasting (ADF): Participants fasted every other day. On non-fasting days, they could eat as much as they wanted. On fasting days, they were only allowed to consume water, calorie-free beverages and stocks or broths.
Traditional weight loss diet (TWD): Participants followed a calorie-restricted diet (a deficit of 400 calories per day) for two months.
In both groups, all food was provided by the study kitchen, and food intake was closely monitored. Additionally, the participants’ macronutrient intakes were standardized with 55% of calories from carbs, 15% from protein and 30% from fat.
At the start and end of the study, the researchers measured the following:
Body composition: Measured using dual-energy X-ray absorptiometry.
Blood lipids: Total cholesterol, triglycerides and HDL were measured in fasting blood samples.
Blood sugar control: Evaluated with a glucose tolerance test.
Resting metabolic rate: Assessed in the morning using standard indirect calorimetry.
Appetite hormones: Leptin and ghrelin were measured in fasting blood samples.
Brain-derived neurotropic factor (BDNF).
When the study was over, the participants received standard weight maintenance advice. The above measurements were repeated after a 6-month unsupervised follow-up.
Summary: This was a randomized controlled trial comparing the safety and effectiveness of alternate-day fasting to a traditional weight loss diet.
Finding 1: Alternate-Day Fasting and Standard Dieting Caused Similar Weight Loss
Alternate-day fasting (ADF) and the traditional weight loss diet (TWD) caused similar weight loss.
Specifically, those who fasted every other day lost 18.1 pounds (8.2 kg), on average, whereas those who dieted every day lost 15.7 pounds (7.1 kg), as shown in the chart below.
Although the weight loss was slightly higher among those who fasted every other day, the difference was not statistically significant. However, the relative weight loss (percentage of body weight) was nearly significant.
Further studies with a greater number of participants and more statistical power are needed to determine whether this difference is real or just a chance occurrence.
Summary: Alternate-day fasting led to weight loss similar to that of a standard weight loss diet with a moderate calorie deficit.
Finding 2: Alternate-Day Fasting Led to a Greater Calorie Deficit
Participants who fasted every other day achieved a greater calorie deficit.
They consumed 376 fewer calories per day, on average, compared to those who were on the traditional weight loss diet.
The chart below shows the differences in calorie deficit between groups.
This is a large reduction in calories that should lead to considerable weight loss over two months.
However, this extra calorie deficit didn’t seem to significantly affect weight loss, as shown in the previous section.
Possible explanations include the underreporting of food intake in the ADF group or a reduction in the number of calories burned.
Summary: Alternate-day fasting seemed to cause a greater calorie deficit, on average, compared to a traditional weight loss diet.
Finding 3: Alternative-Fasting Had Favorable Effects on Body Composition
After the intervention part of the study had ended, the researchers followed the participants for an additional six months.
During these six months, there were no significant changes in weight regain between groups.
However, when the researchers compared values from the start of the intervention, changes in percent fat mass (FM) and lean mass (LM) were significantly more favorable among those who fasted every other day.
These findings are presented in the chart below.
These findings should be interpreted with caution since there were some between-group differences in body weight at the start of the study.
Summary: Alternate-day fasting appeared to beneficially affect body composition, compared to a traditional weight loss diet.
Finding 4: Resting Metabolic Rate Decreased in Both Groups
Both alternate-day fasting and traditional dieting caused a drop in the number of calories burned at rest (resting metabolic rate).
This effect is known as metabolic adaptation or starvation mode — the body’s response to a calorie deficit.
When the decrease in resting metabolic rate (RMR) was adjusted for fat mass and lean mass, the difference between groups became marginally significant. The findings are presented in the chart below.
Summary: Both alternate-day fasting and a calorie-reduced diet caused a decrease in resting metabolic rate.
Finding 5: Alternate-Day Fasting Caused an Increase in BDNF
Previous studies suggest that fasting may improve mental performance, possibly due to changes in brain-derived neurotrophic factor (BDNF).
BDNF may also be involved in the regulation of energy balance (10, 11, 12, 13).
In the current study, there were no differences in BDNF levels between groups.
However, at the end of the follow-up period, the researchers discovered that levels of BDNF had increased significantly among those in the ADF group, compared to the TWD group, as shown in the chart below.
These findings suggest that ADF may lead to long-term changes in the formation of BDNF, which might promote weight loss maintenance. This needs to be studied further.
Summary: Alternate-day fasting led to an increase in brain-derived neurotropic factor. The health relevance of this is unclear.
Finding 6: Effects of Alternate-Day Fasting on Appetite Hormones
Previous studies indicate that alternate-day fasting increases fullness after meals, as well as levels of the satiety hormone peptide YY (14).
In the present study, the researchers measured leptin (a satiety hormone) and ghrelin (the hunger hormone) at the start and end of the study. The findings are presented in the chart below.
There were no significant differences in hormone changes between groups.
ADF also led to improvements in blood lipids. Once again, there were no significant between-group differences.
Summary: Alternate-day fasting and a traditional weight loss diet similarly affected the appetite hormones ghrelin and leptin.
The main limitation of the study was its small size. The low statistical power may explain the lack of significant differences in some of the outcomes.
Second, physical activity levels weren’t monitored. This might have affected the results.
Third, the researchers didn’t know how many of the participants continued following the ADF or TWD during the follow-up period.
Finally, food intake was strictly controlled, and the findings may not be generalized to a free-living population.
Summary and Real-Life Application
In short, this study suggests that alternate-day fasting is safe and at least as effective as a moderate, calorie-reduced diet.
It did not raise the risk of weight regain during the first six months after the weight loss program finished.
Although weight loss wasn’t significantly different between groups, there were some signs that alternate-day fasting may be more beneficial than continuous dieting. These findings need to be confirmed by larger studies.
The study was a randomized, crossover study in normal-weight and overweight children, aged 8–12.
A total of 35 girls and boys participated, but only 29 completed the study.
The children were randomly assigned to one of two groups:
High-protein breakfast: This breakfast contained 21% protein (18 g), 52% carbs and 27% fat. The calorie content was 344 kcal. It consisted of an egg, egg whites, butter, orange juice and two slices of white bread.
High-carb breakfast: This breakfast contained 4% protein (3 g), 67% carbs, and 29% fat. The calorie content was 327 kcal. It consisted of a frozen waffle, butter, maple syrup and orange juice.
Since the study had a crossover design, all participants had both types of breakfast on separate occasions.
The two breakfasts had a similar calorie content. The fiber and fat content was also controlled.
Immediately after eating breakfast, energy expenditure, fat and carb oxidation, appetite and blood sugar were measured over a 4-hour period.
Additionally, food intake was estimated at the end of the testing period by providing participants with a free lunch buffet and recording how much they ate.
Bottom Line: The study was a randomized, crossover trial in overweight and normal-weight children. The study compared the effects of high-protein and high-carb breakfasts on appetite and calories burned.
Finding 1: High-Protein Breakfasts Help Burn More Calories
Apples are all carbs, with no fat or protein, which normally isn’t great for weight loss.
However, the do have a very low Glycemic Index, are very high in Antioxidants, dietary fiber, flavonoids, and often make most lists of Top Healthy Foods
The antioxidants and nutrients may help reduce risks of hypertension, diabetes, cancer, and heart disease (27).
For weight loss, a 12 week study showed women that added one and a half large apples daily to their diet lost on average about 3 pounds (28).
The fiber in apples is Pectin, a soluble fiber that has been shown to increase satiety, improve metabolic health, and decrease caloric intake, weight gain, adiposity (30,)
This low energy density, glycemic index, and soluble fiber make it an excellent food for weight loss for most people, although the 25 grams of carbohydrate is problematic for those on Low Carb or Ketogenic diets.
[box]Conclusion: Apples are a great portable, nutritions snack food that can alleviate a craving for sweets, while giving a little boost to your weight loss efforts.[/box]
A cup of rolled oats contains:
Calories – 300
Fats – 5 grams
Carbohydrates – 56 grams
Fiber – 8 grams
Protein – 11 grams
Glycemic Index – 55
Oatmeal is fairly high in calories and carbs. But they do have a fairly low glycemic index of 55 so the calories are absorbed fairly slowly.
They contain the soluble fiber beta gluten, which has been shown to increase feelings of satiation, and fight insulin resistance and hypertension (31).
Studies show that compared with standard breakfast cereals of the same calorie count, oatmeal provides more protein and fiber, less sugar, and induced greater satiety (32).
In another study published in 2013, subjects who consumed oatmeal for breakfast over 12 weeks had reduced weight, BMI, and waist to hip ratio.
A 2013 issue of Plant Foods and Human Nutrition published a study that showed oat cereal consumed for 12 weeks did associate with reduced body weight, body mass index, body fat and waist-to-hip ratio (33)
** Before I went Keto and had to cut the oatmeal, one of my favorite tricks was mixing it with Cottage Cheese. Tastes yummy and gives you a nice balance of carbs and proteins.
[box] Conclusion: Studies confirm what every oatmeal eater knows – they are very filling and slowly absorbed to keep hunger at bay for many hours. While they are too high in carbs for some diets, they can aid weight loss, especially when eaten in place of commercial cereals. [/box]
We could list Chicken and Pork here as well, but are focusing on Beef to also address what we feel is some unfair criticisms Beef suffers from.
Research shows that eating red meat does not increase risks of diabetes, hypertension, or heart disease (34, 35).
Other studies show no increase in cancer risks for women from consuming red meats, and only a very minute increase in risk for men (36, 37).
Studies show there are many benefits for eating beef, as a high protein diet can increase metabolism to burn up to 100 calories more each day (38, 39).
Other research demonstrates that increasing protein to 30% of total calories can cut hunger and result in weight loss of a pound a week (40, 41).
[box] Conclusion: Sufficient protein is key to weight loss. Adding whole, unprocessed beef to you diet can result in significant weight loss [/box]
10. Coconut Oil
Coconut oil is composed almost entirely of Saturated Fats, which faulty advice has caused many people to fear unjustly.
The 9 grams of fat is mostly Omega 3 fats, which have tremendous benefits for heart health.
Chia seeds are also high in Vitamins A, B, E, and D, iron, magnesium, iodine, niacin, thiamine, and many antioxidants (68).
Studies show consumption of chia seeds suppress appetite, but so far they are inconclusive at proving weight loss (69, 70).
[box] Conclusion: Packed with vitamins, minerals, anti-oxidants, protein, Omega 3 fats, and fiber make Chia seeds one of the most nutritious foods on earth. Although short term weight loss benefits are unproven, they are filling and do suppress appetite. [/box]
14. Chili Pepper
The “hot” in chili peppers is from a substance called capsaicin,
Numerous research studies and clinical trials have shown capsaicin gives a boost to metabolism to increase fat burning, and also helps suppress appetite (71, 72, 73).
However, one study shows that the increased fat burning and hunger suppression is more effective for those who are not used to consuming capsaicin, and the effects diminish over time (74).
Soluble fibers have weight loss benefits by themselves, and are doubly effective to combine them with a weight loss specific Probiotic like Lactobacillus Gasseri.
Conclusion: Soluble Fibers such as Glucomannan serve as food sources (Prebiotics), for Probiotics such as Lactobacillus Gasseri. Depending on the individual, taking Glucomannan with Lactobacillus may increase its effectiveness.
Research on Weight Loss
A study was performed in 20 obese individuals. They were instructed to take either a glucomannan supplement or placebo (27).
The glucomannan group took 1g of glucomannan, three times per day, 1 hour before each meal.
They lost 5.5lbs (2,5kg) in a period of 8 weeks.
Another study with 200 overweight or obese individuals found that glucomannan led to weight loss of 12 pounds (4,5kg) in a period of 16 weeks (28).
I should also point out that both groups drastically reduced their LDL (“bad”) cholesterol and their triglycerides.
There have been a few other studies that show similar results, where taking Glucomannan results in significant weight loss for overweight individuals. (29, 30, 31).
Since it is a soluble fiber that absorbs water, it makes your stool “bulkier” and makes your food travel faster through the intestine (32, 33).
Conclusion: Like other soluble fibers, glucomannan absorbs water in the stomach and contributes to satiety. It may also promote reduced calorie intake and weight loss via several other mechanisms.
Other Health Benefits
A meta analysis of 14 other studies showed that Glucomannan appears to improve body weight, blood glucose levels, total cholesterol, LDL cholesterol, triglycerides (34):
Lowers blood sugar by 7.4 mg/dL
Lowers total cholesterol by 19 mg/dL
Lowers LDL cholesterol by 16 mg/dL
Lowers triglycerides by 11 mg/dL
There are also studies showing that Glucomannan can significantly help with constipation (35,36)
Bottom line: These studies indicate that glucomannan could help lower your weight, risk of type 2 diabetes and heart disease – 3 of the biggest health risks americans face today.
Dosage and Side Effects
In general, Glucomannan is considered safe with no side effects other than possible minor stomach discomfort, flatulence, or diarrhea. These are not common.
Since Glucomannan expands to 50x its volume, it is suggested to use smaller quantities than with other soluble fibers.
1 gram taken 2-3 times per day before meals is the recommended quantity (37).
One area of concern – the Canadian Health board requires companies to label Glucomannan products with a warning to take it with 8 full ounces of water to avoid the possibility of choking if it gets stuck in the throat (38).
It is important to take before meals, otherwise it is not effective (39, 40).
Glucomannan can also interfere with the effectiveness of some drugs like sulfonylurea. This is not an issue if it is taken an hour before ingesting Glucomannan.
Conclusion: Glucomannan is dietary fiber, not a drug. Possible side effects are minor stomach upset.
Unlike with Probiotics, where the “live” bacteria are actually dead, or Garcinia Cambogia, where the claimed 80% HCA is actually 5-10%, with Glucomannan, there is very little difference in the quality of products.
The different products are also all priced about the same, so its a lot simpler to purchase Glucomannan and not be worried about getting ripped off.
There are millions of bacteria that inhabit our guts. Most are beneficial, and are referred to as Probiotics.
A healthy and diverse population of these good bacteria are key to proper functioning of our digestive and immune systems, greatly impacting our physical and mental health. (1, 2, 3, 4).
We can improve the population of good bacteria in our guts thru proper nutrition, and by taking Probiotic supplements.
Research has shown this can relieve many chronic health problems. While not as strong as Garcinia Cambogia, some Probiotics may also help us lose weight and belly fat.
Probiotic Strains that may help lose weight and belly fat
Studies have found that certain strains of the Lactobacillus family can help you lose weight and belly fat.
In one study, eating yogurt with Lactobacillus fermentum or Lactobacillus amylovorus reduced body fat by 3–4% over a 6-week period (21).
Another study of 125 overweight dieters investigated the effects of Lactobacillus rhamnosus supplements on weight loss and weight maintenance (22).
During a 3-month study period, the women taking the probiotics lost 50% more weight compared to the group taking a dummy pill (placebo). They also continued to lose weight during the weight maintenance phase of the study.
Note that in these 2 studies mentioned above subjects were provided with Prebiotics along with the LG (Yoghurt and Inulin) which is thought to improve the effectiveness.
Lactobacillus gasseri is generating the most excitement and further research for its effects on weight loss.
There have been several mouse studies that showed positive results for weight control (25, 26, 27, 28).
Human studies are also promising. Most recently, a 2 week study of 30 healthy men in 2015.
Subject were given a glass of fermented milk to drink every day, with half including Lactobacillus gasseri in their drink and the other half not.
Testing of fecal samples before and after the study showed those receiving Lactobacillus gasser had a higher amount of fat in the feces after the 2 weeks, while the control group did not (29).
Effect of intake of fermented milk containing Lactobacillus gasseri on fecal fat excretion in humans.
This proved that not only does the Lactobacillus gasseri survive the digestive process, but that it had an effect on the metabolism, resulting in less fat being absorbed.
This study demonstrates the mechanism for how Lactobacillus gasseri can effect the system.
An earlier Japanese study showed Lactobacillus gasseri can effectively reduce waist size, BMI and the dangerous visceral fat that accumulates around the organs (30).
A Korean company has patented a form of LG derived from mothers milk they call Lactobacillus gasseri BNR17, and been granted a certificate of Functional Ingredient for Body Fat reduction (31)
Some strains of the Lactobacillus family have been shown to reduce weight and belly fat. Lactobacillus gasseri appears to be the most effective.
Natural Food Sources of Lactobacillus Gasseri
Lactobacillus bacteria is the most commonly used for fermentation.
Most fermented foods naturally contain Lactobacillus gasseri bacteria.
Kombucha, Kefir, yoghurt and pickled vegetables like kimchi, sauerkraut are good sources of a wide variety of Lactobacillus strains.
Some fermented meats like salami and chorizo also contain lactobacillus bacteria.
You can also ferment foods yourself at home, but be sure to do it properly. I recommend starting with these recipes for kefir, kimchi or sauerkraut.
Lactobacillus gasseri is also found naturally in breast milk, which is thought to help the development of an infant’s immune system.
Where to buy Lactobacillus Gasseri
Lactobacillus Gasseri is the most effective probiotic strain for weight loss identified so far.
There are several brands on Amazon that include some L Gasseri in combination with 10 or more other strains.
These are the only 2 we have been able to find that primarily use L Gasseri.
Swanson – A single strain – Lactobacillus Gasseri – 3 billion CFUs.
Too many of us are subjected to many of these everyday. If they’re not addressed, the population of good bacteria is decimated and you gut can become a breeding ground for bad bacteria, parasites, yeast and fungi.
Our foods, environment, stresses and medicines can all damage the biology in our guts and wreak havoc on our health.
How does Gut Bacteria affect weight
The biology of our guts is not static, and can be changed by diet and outside environmental factors(12).
Bacteroidetes and firmicutes are the 2 main families of bacteria that are important for regulating bodyweight by digesting fatty acids and dietary polysaccharides.
Imbalance of these ratios (gut dysbiosis) affect weight loss or gain.
The functions of the hundreds of different strains of bacteria are complex and not entirely understood, with some disagreement among researchers (7, 8).
Some bacteria help digest fiber into beneficial fatty acids butyrate (9).
Prevotella is a enterotype, or family of bacteria strain that help digest carbohydrates and are more prevalent in people who consume a lot of carbohydrates.
Bacteroidesare another family of bacteria that is more prevalent in people who consume significant amounts of animal protein.
Increasing the population of certain strains of bacteria is now thought to effect how our bodies process and store food, which can affect weight.
An early sign of this was a study where gut bacteria from obese mice that are transplanted into the guts of normal weight mice result in those mice soon becoming obese (13).
Minimising low-grade inflammation, one of the main drivers behind metabolic disease, is the primary suspect (14, 15, 16).
In people, studies show that those who are overweight have much different populations of bacteria than people of normal weight (17, 18).
This lead to further studies to see which strains of bacteria were different.
Those studies show normal weight people have more bacteroidetes, and fewer firmicutes than overweight people. (19, 20).
Several studies have demonstrated regular use can increase number and diversity of bacteria microbiota, and provide relief from colitis, diarrhea, and improve immune system response (32,33,34,35,36,37)
These results opened up some very exciting possibilities for weight loss to see how much we can alter our gut bacteria to help cure obesity.
There is wide variation in the population of bacteria in each persons gut. Research shows it is influenced by out diet, and these bacteria play a powerful role in controlling weight
Besides weight loss, a healthy microbiome can have improve digestive health, reduce inflammation, improve cardiovascular risk factors and even help fight depression and anxiety.
Your body burns more calories to process protein than it does to metabolize fat or carbohydrates (6).
Eating protein also prevents you from getting hungry soon after you’ve eaten.(7)
Studies show that eating protein can help reduce total calorie consumption and late-night snacking (8).
One study with had women increase their protein intake from 50-30% of their total calories for a 12 week period. This resulted in them consuming 441 few calories, and losing 11 pounds on average (9).
Consuming protein can also help you keep the weight off once you have lost it. This study found that dieters regain 50% less weight just by increasing protein up to 18% of calories (10).
Increasing your protein intake is very likely to help you lose weight and keep it off
Eat More Protein in the Morning to Eat Less in the Afternoon
Many researchers are investigating the ways in which eating protein early in the day influences calorie intake later on.
Some results indicate that eating more protein for breakfast helps people eat less up to 135 fewer calories later in the day (11)
Eating a high-protein breakfast can actually alter the motivation and reward signals in the brain, making people less likely to be driven to eat in order to feel better (12).
Consuming protein also triggers signals that control hunger, making people feel more satiated and be less inclined to snack or overeat (13).
Many studies have proven that increasing protein intake at breakfast can cause a drop in hunger hormone ghrelin and an increase in hormone peptide YY that signal fullness (14).
Studies show that a high protein breakfast can influence these hormones all through the day (15, 16).
Protein for breakfast has a great influence on the appetite hormones, and leads to less calories consumed throughout the day.
How You Can Lose Belly Fat by Increasing Your Protein at Breakfast
Eating more protein, especially at breakfast, leads to decreased hunger throughout the day, and you can lose belly fat .
Increased consumption of healthy protein is inversely related to lower belly fat percentages (17, 18).
In one study, obese teenagers lost 4% of their bodyweight over three months by eating fewer grains and more eggs during the first meal of the day compared with .2% for teens who continued to eat a carbohydrate-based breakfast (19).
Another study demonstrated that a group of participants that ate eggs for breakfast lost 61% more BMI than those eating the same number of calories, but bagels instead of eggs (20).
Consuming a high-protein breakfast can play a big role in reducing body fat, especially for obese individuals
You Can Get a Metabolism Boost From Protein
A faster metabolism helps you burn extra calories and lose weight more rapidly.
When you eat carbs or fat, your body doesn’t have to burn as many calories in order to metabolize those nutrients. You burn up to 30 percent more calories when your body is processing protein (21).
You can increase your calorie burn by up to 100 calories per day by eating more protein. You boost your metabolism by cutting out some carbs and fat and replacing those calories with protein. (22, 23).
A high protein diet can also help prevent muscle loss during calorie restriction, and partly prevent the reduction in metabolism that often comes with weight loss, often referred to as “starvation mode” (24, 25, 26).
One problem with extreme calorie restriction diet is reduction in metabolism – as you eat less, your metabolism slows and you burn fewer calories(27, 28,)
High protein intake helps prevent muscle loss and slower metabolism that results, so you can continue to burn more calories per day (29, 30, 31)
Eating more protein can preserve muscle mass and improve a sluggish metabolism when you’re eating fewer calories in an attempt to lose weight.
What Breakfast Foods are High in Protein?
In addition to being extremely nourishing, eggs contain high levels of protein.
People who replace toast, oatmeal or cereal with eggs typically consume less over the next day and lower their BMI. (32, 33, 34).
Some ideas that can get you started with a high-protein breakfast are:
• Scramble eggs in a healthy oil such as coconut or olive oil, and add a hearty helping of vegetables. Peppers, mushrooms, spinach and onions are nutritious and tasty options.
• Make an omelet, adding vegetables and cream or cottage cheese.
• Break up soft tofu and sauté it with spinach and kale. Add nutritional yeast and dairy-free cheese.
• Scoop Greek yogurt into a bowl with fresh or frozen berries, wheat germ, hemp hearts, chia seeds and almonds.
• Make a shake or smoothie with a frozen banana, strawberries or blueberries, and almond milk. Add a scoop of whey protein to make it a filling meal.
• Whip up some protein pancakes.
One of the easiest ways to incorporate more protein in your breakfast is to eat eggs. Other high-protein options can add variety.
Final Thoughts: Eat More Protein at Breakfast
Most people are better off eating breakfast rather than trying to skip it to save calories.
If you eat breakfast to start the day, make sure that it includes protein.
In the studies that demonstrate the benefits of eating protein for breakfast, participants ate at least 20 grams of protein during the meal.
Foods with a lower protein content often don’t leave you feeling as satisfied. In fact, several studies have showed that people eating meals with the same calorie content as egg meals report feeling less full than those who consumed a high-protein food, such as eggs ( 4, 5).
This reduces daily thoughts about snacking by up to 60 percent, and cuts the desire for night snacking by fifty percent (6, 7).
Eggs rank high on the Satiety Index scale and may help those who consume them feel fuller for a longer period. High-protein foods such as eggs might also banish the urge to snack less.
Speed up Your Metabolism
Because eggs contain the ideal ratios of essential amino acids, your body can efficiently use egg protein for metabolic rate and body maintenance.
In fact, due to the thermic effect of food, which is the energy your body requires to break down food, eating high-protein foods can raise metabolism to the effect of 80-100 calories a day (8, 9).
Thermic effect is higher for protein and lower for fats and carbohydrates (10, 11). Therefore, eggs can make you burn more calories than foods with a lower protein content.
A high-protein diet including eggs might raise your metabolism by up to 80–100 calories per day. This is because more calories are utilized to metabolism food protein.
Start Your Day the Right Way
Breakfasts including eggs are the best choice for those trying to lose weight, and studies of overweight women have shown that breakfasts including eggs aid weight loss more than other breakfasts, including those that contain the same amount of calories.
Women who consumed eggs instead of bagels felt fuller and ate less calories over the next day and a half.
A study including men showed similar results, reducing calorie intake for the 24 hours following an egg breakfast (12).In fact, eggs breakfasts can result in 65 percent more weight loss over a two-month period (13, 14).
Egg breakfasts also resulted in more stable blood glucose levels and the body’s insulin response. Eggs were also shown to suppress the hunger hormone known as ghrelin(15).
Yet another study, this one including 30 healthy, fit young men compared the effects of three common breakfasts types.
These three breakfasts were eggs with toast, cereal with milk and toast, and a croissant with orange juice. All breakfasts were tested during different times of the day as well.
Not surprisingly, the breakfast containing eggs led to a greater feeling of fullness, greater meal satiety, and less hunger overall.
Additionally, men who had consumed eggs for breakfast ate 270-470 calories less for lunch and dinner (16).
The reduction in calorie intake was unintentional by the men involved in the study.
Eating eggs for breakfast may subconsciously lead to healthier food choices for up to 36 hours.
Affordable and Easy
It is easy to add eggs into your daily diet.
Eggs are sold at the vast majority of grocery stores, are inexpensive, and only take minutes to prepare.
Eggs are easy to fry, bake, boil, or prepare as an omelette, and taste great any way you make them.
In fact, a two-egg breakfast omelette containing vegetables may make for one of the best ways to enjoy a breakfast conducive to weight loss.