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Losing Weight The Dr Oz Way
LAST YEAR ON The Dr Oz Show, American TV host Mehmet Oz conducted a one-year review of 10 of the most popular diets to see which one worked best. He got 40 volunteers to eat vegan, paleo, low-carb/high-protein, Mediterranean and more for a full year, and to report on their results after that.
What was the verdict? "They can all work if you can do them, but doing them is hard," says the charismatic cardiothoracic surgeon and Columbia University professor-turned-health evangelist. Dr Oz, 58, was in Singapore recently to speak at a health conference and also to visit Six Senses Duxton where he is one of the high-profile consultants devising wellness programmes for the group's international properties.
If you do want to follow one of them, Dr Oz says that a hybrid of the vegan and paleo diet - which he nicknames the 'pegan' diet - seems to work the best in terms of being able to stay on it long term. "You take a vegan diet, which is the best diet, and you add a set of three meals a week where you have some kind of protein from meat, poultry or seafood. You're still primarily vegan but you can still have a little bit of meat, which was one of the biggest complaints about the vegan diet. It frees you up to eat more vegetables and fruits, and people have very good long-term weight loss this way."
Dr Oz himself believes that timing of food is getting more important and advocates intermittent fasting as the best way to keep weight in check. "I do it myself. I eat for 12 hours a day, and no food for the remaining 12 hours. The average person eats 17 hours a day and sleeps for seven. Our body is not designed to digest food for 17-18 hours a day.
"In animal studies, if you eat the same number of calories over 12 hours instead of 18 hours you are able to have less weight gain. It's harder to prove in human models but it's been effective for me. It just means you either skip breakfast or dinner, or you squeeze them up a little bit."
Besides, the importance of breakfast is questionable with "a lot of data from cereal manufacturers". In fact, "There's no real reason for you to have breakfast when you get up in the morning. If people feel a pang in their stomachs it's more withdrawal than hunger. For example, if you had a very late meal the night before, you'll feel hungry the next morning. That's because your hormones shot up to deal with your digestion and then they came down. If you eat lightly in the evening you're less likely to feel hungry in the morning because your hormones have been stable all night and you don't feel the feedback that gives you hunger."
The trick to keeping weight down is to "not eat healthy food, but food that you love that happens to be healthy. It's different and food that tastes good generally satiates you more."
For example, when you grab a doughnut or something sweet, "you don't feel good when you eat it - you feel relief," he explains. "With true hunger, you feel good when you're satisfied."
Rather than count calories, Dr Oz tells people to count nutrients. "If you eat food that has nutrients in it you won't feel hungry because your brain is made of nutrients. A piece of white bread has no nutrients in it. Your brain says: 'I don't care about the calories from the doughnut or soda pop you had, I only care about nutrients.'"
That's why, nuts, although high in fat, do not make you fat. "In every study they've done, people who eats nuts lose weight because they're getting nutrients", therefore those on raw diets who seem to eat nothing but nuts don't gain weight. But if you eat nuts in a high-glucose meal with saturated fats, then it's a big problem.
"You raise hormones and insulin that rapidly deposit fat. So if you eat a fattier meal, you can't have carbs. Or eat foods that have nutrients with carbs in them, but avoid saturated fats."
Another important issue for Dr Oz is food safety, and sourcing, and ensuring that the food you eat has been responsibly sourced. "Food fraud is the No 1 illegal business because it's so widespread from honey to fish," citing instances where sweeteners are added to honey - a relatively expensive product - "and nobody can tell the difference so they get away with it".
But he feels that consumers can dictate change. "If you eat at places that pay attention to food quality, and buy foods from people who are careful about their sourcing, you support the good guys and penalise the bad guys. We have to implore the population to invest those few extra pennies that's often the difference to get a better product and protect the planet that protects us."
Ultimately, Dr Oz says: "food is the biggest healing tool we have", and combined with the right information, we can make much better decisions about taking care of our overall health, and not just our weight.