If you’re reading this, odds are you’ve heard about the “sirtfood diet” in the news, likely because some celebrity has sworn by its supposedly miraculous properties. Most recently as of this writing, British singer Adele has touted the diet after showing off a slim look at the 2016 Billboard Music Awards.
But what is the so-called sirtfood diet, and could it actually be the real deal or just another fad diet du jour?
The sirtfood diet, as one might suppose, is a weight loss plan based around consumption of a group of foods said to activate specific proteins in the body called sirtuins (i.e. “sirtfoods”).
Sirtuins were only discovered fairly recently by scientists, but preliminary evidence shows that they could affect metabolism, circadian rhythms, inflammation, and even aging at a genetic level. (However it’s important to note that studies have been far from extensive and no human-based trials have yet occurred.)
Proponents of the sirtfood diet claim that these foods “switch on” the body’s sirtuins, ramping up metabolism, preventing adipogenesis (the duplication of fat cells), and all manner of other healthy effects. Coffee, very dark chocolate (at least 85% cocoa), and red wine are all said to be in this class of sirtfoods, as are numerous other plant foods such as the following:
The book that started the buzz, The SIRT Food Diet: A Revolution in Health and Weight Loss by Aidan Goggins and Glen Matten, lays out a diet plan based on these foods that’s based around a diet heavy in these sirtfoods, broken down into three phases (the first of which is said to result in 7 pounds of weight loss in 7 days):
Goggins and Matten offer proof that their diet works in the form of a study they undertook in London. 40 voluntary subjects agreed to undergo the first two phases of the sirtfood diet in along with regular sessions with a personal trainer. At the end of the study, participants were said to have lost the aforementioned 7 pounds in 7 days, in addition to feeling high energy levels.
Plenty of people have tackled this issue already, from nutritionist Laura Thomas in The Huffington Post UK to food blogger The Angry Chef, but we’ll reiterate. Any success dieters see with the sirtfood diet will be a matter of correlation, not causation.
Goggins and Matten’s study, first of all, include no control subjects, and is not peer-reviewed. It should also go without saying that restricting calories to 1,000 or even 1,500 calories for any extended period of time will result in some weight loss, no matter what form they come in.
A diet consisting only of a single order of chicken nuggets per day would likely result in some weight loss long-term, but it would be unhealthy, unsustainable, and a poor reason to claim that there’s a link between chicken nuggets and weight loss much less write a book devoted to the subject.
That said, the supposedly miraculous sirtfoods included in the book are mostly healthful fruits and vegetables that absolutely have a place in a wholesome, well-rounded diet, intended for weight loss or just general health. But the wholesomeness of these foods isn’t due to their activation of sirtuins or “skinny-genes,” but the fact that they’re low in calories and rich in fiber, vitamins, minerals, and other healthy nutrients. There’s no way to isolate the positive effects of sirtuin-activation with all the other good stuff going on at the same time.
All of this being considered, we’d say that aspects of the sirtfood diet could indeed be effective for weight loss, eating plenty of fruits and vegetables for instance. But on the whole, this is just another instance of common wisdom being repackaged in fresh buzzwords. A fad, in short.
You’ve heard it before, and you’re about to hear it again: There are no magic bullets or “one weird tricks” when it comes to real, effective, long-term weight loss. It’s about a lifelong commitment to healthy eating and exercise.
If you’re looking for help in losing weight, professional assistance from a nutrition specialist or other medical professional can be a big help. If you’re in Connecticut, Medical Weight Loss Solutions offers weight loss programs, personal training, body composition analyses, and more for healthy, sustained weight loss. Get in touch to learn more.