The Glycemic Index was described by Dr. Atkins as “A Beautiful Tool“. It is used by diabetics to help manage blood sugar levels and is also a key reason why the paleo, stone-age and primal diet systems all aid weight loss – they are all really just low glycemic index diets. Following a low glycemic index diet has been shown to help reduce weight and improve health. While it may sound complicated, there really is nothing difficult about a low glycemic index diet.
In a nutshell, the glycemic index measures the speed at which digested food raises blood sugar levels. Pure sugar is digested the quickest and raises blood sugar levels very quickly. This scores 100 on the scale. All other foods raise blood sugar levels slower, and are calibrated against sugar. White bread is not far behind sugar, raw lettuce scores 10. Foods are rated as low, medium and high GI. And high GI foods raise glucose quickly and tend to increase weight gain. We have written a handy guide for those who wish to follow the low GI way of eating: MotleyHealth Low GI Diet Plan.
Next we cover some of the research behind the low GI system. More studies are coming out each year that show how useful this way of eating is to maintain good health, prevent diabetes and other metabolic disorders, manage weight and stay healthy. What is best is that it really is simple to follow the diet, nothing is required that you cannot buy in your local grocers or supermarket.
Diogenes Study shows that Low GI Diets Improve Health
Some new research has shown that eating a low GI diet is good for health, even if there is no weight loss. We are a great believer in the low GI approach to diet as a way to help manage weight, but it goes deeper than that.
The research was carried out by a team of scientists from all over Europe as a part of a Diogenes Study which is examining the relationship of diet, obesity and genetics.
The study examined the effects of five different diets on 932 overweight adults over a 26 week period following weight loss while on a low-calorie diet. The diets examined were a high protein diet, a low protein diet, a high glycemic index diet, a low glycemic index diet and a control (balanced) diet.
The main conclusion of the study was that low GI carbohydrates and also a low-protein intake may reduce inflammation and associated comorbidities in overweight/obese adults. So less protein and healthier carbohydrates (steamed vegetables, fruits, generally non-processed carbs) seems to improve health.
During the low-calorie phase of the study (before the comparison of the protein / GI diets) subjects lost on average 11.23 kg, which is about 25 pounds. Once again, this is proof that a well-managed, low-calorie diet will always lead to weight loss in overweight people.
During the weight maintenance diets those consuming a low-protein diet and a high GI diet gained weight during the 26 weeks after weight loss.
The low GI diet was the only diet to show further improvements in C-reactive protein (CRP) levels, which is an indicator of inflammation and associated with high blood pressure.
The low-calorie diet at the start of the study also reported an improvement in health in all individuals, with reductions in blood lipids, triglycerides and cholesterol levels.
Overall it seems that consuming a low GI diet even after losing weight and getting fit is a good way to reduce blood pressure and inflammation that is often associated with diabetes, heart disease, cancer and arthritis.
White Bread And White Rice Make You Fat – University of Copenhagen Study
In Novemer 2010, the University of Copenhagen published the results of the “world’s largest diet study“. The good news is that many of the findings agree with what we have been saying for years.
Main findings of the Copenhagen Life Sciences Diet Study:
- Refined starch calories cause weight gain
- White bread and white rice are the worse
- A diet high in protein with lean meat and low-fat dairy and pulses is best
- Fresh fruit, fresh vegetables are still important
This diet study followed the eating habits of 938 adults and 827 children in Europe. The study revealed that the most important factor in managing weight is teaching people how to eat a healthy diet that is suitable to their needs. More often than not, people fail to follow a healthy diet.
Traditional recommendations tend to confuse people, resulting in over consumption of “empty carbohydrates”, which are energy dense and nutrient poor foods, such as bread, rice and pasta.
5 Weight Loss Diets Compared
Part of the study examined different weight loss diets to determine their effectiveness and long term benefits. The results of this part of the study are proof that calorie restricted diets work. First all 938 adults were set a calorie restrictive diet to lose weight. This was then followed by 5 different diets over a 6 month period to determine which diet works best at maintaining a healthy weight.
800 Calorie a Day Diet
All 938 overweight adults agreed to follow a strict 800 kcal/day diet (1 kcal = 1 calorie) for 8 weeks. On average each person lost 11kg (24 pounds) in those 8 weeks, or an average of 3 pounds per week. This is in line with our recommendations for cutting daily calories by 500 calories to lose 1 pound a week, or 1000 calories to lose 2 pounds per week.
The average sedentary man requires around 2350 calories per day, so 800 calories a day represents 1550 calorie reduction, or 3 pounds a week weight loss. See the daily calorie table for more on energy requirements.
The main point of this diet is that it proves once and for all that a calorie restrictive diet works every time. 938 adults lost weight, without exception. People who fail to lose weight while “on a diet” are cheating on their diets – they eat so many snacks that they increase their daily calories to the point that weight loss in no longer possible.
High Protein and Low GI Diet is Best
Of the various different diets that were studied, a diet that was high in protein and low GI was the only one that ensured that all dieters maintained their weight loss over a 6 month period.
People that were placed on a low protein / high GI generally gained weight, averaging around 3 pounds in total. This is the type of diet that is often recommended, i.e. a “low fat diet” that does not provide any guidance on consumption of bread or other energy dense foods.
Protein is vital for healthy growth and muscle development. It also helps you to feel full. When the body starts to digest proteins it releases a hormone that sends a signal to the brain to make you feel full.
Low GI foods take longer to digest and release less sugar into the blood, which means that less energy is stored as fat. Low GI also keeps blood sugar levels stable which reduces hunger pangs.
Raw and Cold Food
Another interesting finding was that raw foods and cold foods helped people the manage weight best. This is because the act of cooking foods makes it easier for the body to digest food, and allows the body to digest more. Digestion requires a lot of energy, but cooking aids the digestive system by breaking down the molecules before ingestion.
The best foods for this are really low GI salads with plenty of fresh fruits and vegetables. Vegetables that are high GI, such as carrots, are also best eaten raw. Cooking carrots raises the GI level considerably, as does cooking pasta. Al dente pasta (slightly cooked, so still hard) has lower GI than cooked pasta. Potatoes are also best lightly cooked and eaten cold instead of hot. A table of GI foods can be found in our eBook.
Children Lost Weight Without “Dieting”
Children in the study did not follow the initial 800 calorie a day diet, however many were overweight. They just followed the same diet as their parents. Of the children that were also on the high protein / low GI diet, many lost weight without any other intervention, and without counting calories.
Before the diet 45% of the children were overweight, after the 6 months that figure dropped to 30% – this was without any calorie counting or additional exercise. These results were so groundbreaking that they were published in the American medical journal Pediatrics.
This research does not really change anything for us, as we have been recommending a low GI diet with lean protein sources for several years. Bruce Lee’s diet followed these rules, and in more recent years the rise of the “caveman diets” have also highlighted how natural foods help people to lose weight.
Charles Darwin’s Low GI Diet to ease IBS
In 2008 some newly discovered letters from Charles Darwin to his doctor revealed that he was well aware of the benefits of a carbohydrate controlled diet that is rich in protein to help digestive problems, long before Dr. Arkins made such a diet popular. Not only did Charles Darwin follow an high protein / low GI style diet, he could also have given some diet tips to Beyonce. In one letter Darwin sent to Dr. Henry Jones in 1866, he says:
“A little game or fowl twice a day and eggs, omelet or macaroni or cheese at other meals, and these I think suit me best” – Charles Darwin, 1866.
Charles Darwin suffered stomach complaints throughout his life, and like people today, had to resort to a method of trail and error to determine what he could, and could not, stomach. Like many people that suffer from IBS (irritable bowel syndrome), high-GI foods and refined carbs, where often a problem.
Darwin lived from 1809 to 1882, and during this time also increased his coffee intake to two cups a day. He would add ten drops of muriatic (hydrochloric) acid with cayenne pepper and ginger to help his upset stomach but flatulence remained a problem. This potion is similar to the Beyonce’s maple syrup with cayenne and lemon juice that helped her to lose weight before filming Dreamgirls.
Dr Jones also advised Darwin to ride ‘rough pony‘ so he could be “shaken once daily to make the chemistry go on better”. The naturalist wrote that this made him feel ‘much more vigorous and active’. One simple cure for consipation is to go for a long run or jog. Simply getting the body moving is sometimes enough to help things along.
Dr. Alison Pearn, of the Darwin Correspondence Project, points out that ‘He was prey to passing fads and preoccupied by health. His wife kept records of his weight and diet and he’d try anything he thought would help. On the advice of another doctor, he lay down with ice packs on his spine.’
The project, based at Cambridge University, was set up in 1974 and aims to find all the letters written by
and to Darwin. It can be found at www.darwinproject.ac.uk.
Greek Ionian Diet – A Mediterranean Low GI Diet
The Greek Ionian diet is another weight loss diet that claims to allow you to eat as much as you like. In a way it is a lot like Atkins or the Caveman diet. The name is derived from the Ionian Islands which are a small group of islands that run along the coast of Greece in the Mediterranean Sea. It is partly for this reason that we consider the Ionian Diet to be a modified version of the better known Mediterranean Diet.
The Low GI Connection
The Ionian weight loss diet is designed to control blood sugar levels which helps to control your appetite and works for the same reason that of a low GI diet. The Ionian diet also promotes regular eating, with small meals every few hours, much like how professional athletes and bodybuilders eat.
This weight loss diet actually emphasises that low GI foods should be eaten. Low GI means it has a low glycemic index which is related to the amount of sugar present in the food. White bread is very high GI, whereas green salads are low GI. Lets be clear – this is not a low carbohydrate diet or a high protein diet. Carbohydrates are encouraged, but only if they have low sugar levels.
The other advantage of low GI foods is that they are usually more complex foods on the cellular level, which means that they are harder to digest. Any food that is hard to digest serves two purposes:
- It takes longer to digest the food, so you feel full for longer
- It requires more energy to digest, meaning you increase your energy deficit.
The Greek Doctor Diet
The Ionian diet was thought up by Dr. Fedon Lindbergm who now lives in Norway but was born in Greece. It is for this reason that the diet is also called the Greek Doctor Diet. He is a specialist in obesity and hormonal disorders, so he is in a good position to educate us on the role of diet and insulin (a hormone) and our appetites and metabolism.
Natural Fats Are Encouraged on the Ionian Diet
Many foods contain healthy fats that are essential to a healthy body function. Many fats are required by the immune system and some improve muscular performance. You are encouraged to consume the following to increase healthy fat intake:
- Natural seeds and nuts
- Olive oil
- Oily fish, such as salmon, sardines and mackerel
Limit Cheese, Butter, Alcohol and Coffee
This is the hardest part for some people, so cut out cheese, butter, coffee and booze. The reasoning for this is that cheese and butter are high in calories, so even a little may delay the weight loss effect of the diet. Alcohol and coffee apparently increase the desire for sweet, sugary foods.
Live Longer and Lose Fat on the Ionian Diet
Dr. Lindburg believes that following the Ionian diet will not only trim your waist, and lose weight quickly and naturally while following this diet, but it also will help you to increase your life expectancy. This does make sense, as research has shown that sugar raises heart disease risk and we know that too much saturated fat and processed food also increase cardiovascular disease, stroke and cancer. So by following this diet you will really be living a healthier as well as lighter life.
Olive Oil Diet – High Fat, Low GI Diet Plan
So, what is the Olive Oil Diet? Is it really any different from the Mediterranean Diet, Greek Ionian Diet, Caveman Diet or Low GI Diet?
The Olive Diet is a bit different from the other diets, in fact there is one huge difference – bread is allowed. The Olive Diet allows you to eat bananas too. White bread is very high GI and bananas have a high sugar content too. They are both great energy sources and for this are not generally recommended to people looking to lose weight. More energy leads to more body fat.
Why An Olive Oil Diet?
Research from the The Miriam Hospital in Providence, RI, which was published in 2010, found that a diet high in olive oil helps people to lose weight faster that a low fat diet. The research focused on women with breast cancer, as if a woman puts weight on during breast cancer treatment there tends to be a higher risk of the cancer returning again later after treatment.
In their study they found that 8 out of 10 women who consumed a plant based olive oil diet lost more than 5% of their baseline weight. Of those on the low fat diet, only 31% managed to meet this weight loss target.
Olive Oil Diet is Better and Cheaper
The women in the study were later allowed to swap the olive oil diet for the low fat diet and almost all said that they preferred the high fat olive oil diet as it allowed them to eat better tasting food and the food was cheaper to buy.
The most important piece of research came from the follow up study. Six months after the initial controlled diet the women who were on the olive oil diet managed to carry on with their diet plan and were either the same weight or had lost more weight. Most women on the low fat diet had put weight back on. It seems that the olive oil diet could be a good way to help manage and lose weight for many people, especially those that tried and failed to lose weight with low fat diets.
Dr. Mary Flynn’s Statement About the Olive Diet
“the women who enjoyed the olive oil diet said not only were they losing weight but they weren’t as hungry. That’s because they were advised to include fat in the form of olive oil or nuts at each meal, so they weren’t as likely to snack between meals, which can cause weight gain”.
Dr. Mary Flynn is the research dietician at The Miriam Hospital and the lead author of this study.
As well as the weight loss benefits the olive oil diet plan also resulted in lower triglycerides (a type of fat found in the blood) and higher high-density lipoprotein cholesterol (HDL, or “good” cholesterol). High triglycerides and low levels of HDL have both been linked with increased cancer risk.
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References and web resources
“Effects of Weight Loss and Long-Term Weight Maintenance With Diets Varying in Protein and Glycemic Index on Cardiovascular Risk Factors” by Özlem Gögebakan et al. Published by the American Heart Association in Circulation, November 2011.
A review of the research can be found on GI News.
“Dietary recommendations no cure for obesity” – http://news.ku.dk/all_news/2010/2010.11/diogens/
“The Effect of Protein and Glycemic Index on Children’s Body Composition: The DiOGenes Randomized Study” PEDIATRICS (doi:10.1542/peds.2009-3633)
Thomas Meinert Larsen, PhD, Stine-Mathilde Dalskov, MSc, Marleen van Baak, PhD, Susan Ann Jebb, PhD, Angeliki Papadaki, PhD, Andreas F.H. Pfeiffer, MD, J. Alfredo Martinez, PhD, Teodora Handjieva-Darlenska, MD, PhD, Marie Kunešová, MD, PhD, Mats Pihlsgård, PhD, Steen Stender, MD, PhD, Claus Holst, PhD, Wim H.M. Saris, MD, PhD, and Arne Astrup, MD, DrMedSc, for the Diet, Obesity, and Genes (Diogenes) Project; New England Journal of Medicine, published online 25 Nov. 2010.
The Effect of Protein and Glycemic Index on Children’s Body Composition: The DiOGenes Randomized Study; Angeliki Papadaki Manolis Linardakis, Thomas M. Larsen, Marleen A. van Baak, Anna Karin Lindroos, Andreas F. H. Pfeiffer, J. Alfredo Martinez, Teodora, Handjieva-Darlenska, Marie Kunesová, Claus Holst, Arne Astrup, Wim H. M. S
“Comparing an Olive Oil-Enriched Diet to a Standard Lower-Fat Diet for Weight Loss in Breast Cancer Survivors: A Pilot Study” by Mary M. Flynn and Steven E. Reinert. Journal of Women’s Health, Volume: 19 Issue 6: June 14, 2010. June 2010.