Search for “hormone diet” and there are more than 30 recent diet books on the topic. The authors allege that the reason people over 35 struggle to lose weight doesn’t have to do with eating too much or not exercising enough. They say it’s your hormones working against you.
According to these books, you can “trick your metabolism” and “feed your thyroid”. They claim that all you need to do is eat the right foods and take the right supplements, and you’ll unlock the secret to lasting weight loss.
But is there any evidence these diets work?
The 20/30 Fast Track Hormone Weight Loss Plan isn’t a book; it’s a pricey program. It’s sold at weight-loss centers across the United States and Canada and is led by “wellness experts” who take the company’s private training but have no other credentials.
This program claims to promote rapid weight loss – 20 pounds (9kg) in 30 days – by affecting seven different hormones that make it “impossible for you to lose weight”, such as insulin, which moves sugar from your blood into your cells; cortisol, the “stress hormone”; sex hormones such as testosterone and estrogen; and thyroid hormones.
The diet bans the usual suspects: sugar and sweetened foods and beverages, along with all grains, potatoes, and sweet potatoes, beans and lentils, milk, and most fruit. This program also requires the purchase of “homeopathic drops” that come with no evidence supporting their efficacy or safety.
Why is the hormone story such a complicated one? Hormones are chemical messengers that coordinate or control processes throughout your body. There are at least 60 different hormones in humans, and we’re only beginning to understand how what we eat affects them.
Suneil Koliwad is an associate professor of endocrinology in the University of California at San Francisco Diabetes Center. “It’s premature at this point to think anyone knows exactly what components of the diet are needed to manipulate a variety of hormones across the board in specific ways,” he says. “Those studies haven’t been done yet.”
So diets that claim to help you “hack your hormones” for weight loss don’t have the evidence to back it up.
Plus, a healthy rate of weight loss, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, is one to two pounds per week, which would be four to eight pounds per month. Diets that promise faster weight loss aren’t promoting healthy, sustainable changes and often lead to weight regain. Also, yo-yo dieting is hard on your heart – and self-esteem.
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