You know the one I mean? The one grabbing all the headlines this week, suggesting that all you have to do to lose weight is increase your fibre intake? It was published in the Annals of Internal Medicine and you can read the abstract here. Well I thought I'd look into it and offer you up my thoughts.
The study looked at 240 adults with metabolic syndrome, meaning they were medically obese and presenting with related conditions including: poor insulin sensitivity, high cholesterol and high blood pressure. The intent of the study was to evaluate if altering a single component of the diet, in this case, increasing dietary fibre could be as effective as a multi-faceted approach. In this case, the more complicated approach was American Heart Association's (AHA) dietary guidelines which involve calorie counting, monitoring fat intakes and so on. And the good news is, the simpler approach was effective, and according to some, almost as effective, as the multifaceted approach. But here's where the headlines go awry.
After participating in the study for one year the AHA diet group lost an average of almost 6 pounds while those increasing their fibre lost just over 5.5 pounds. WTF? After one year, this was the only measurable weight loss? I find this to be very concerning, especially considering the press this study is getting in terms of weight loss.
Now, this is not at all to blame the researchers. Their mandate was to compare the two approaches and offer insight into better patient compliance. My issue is that this small study has already been extrapolated into plugging fibre as a weight loss tool. Now, this is not to suggest that most people can't benefit from increasing their fibre intake, they can. And dietary fibre intake is important for both health and weight loss, but as seen from the results above, it is not a quick fix.
Further, without specifying the best food sources for dietary fibre, people may seek out processed whole grain products or sugar laden fibre bars and supplements (Fibre One and Meta, I'm looking at you) which may be more damaging to health and may in fact increase weight gain.
I think that this also speaks health and nutrition practitioners such as myself. If I had a client who was obese and needed to lose weight for health preservation, I would consider myself and my protocol a failure if after a full year only a 5 or 6 pound weight loss was produced. I would certainly like to see a client improve his or her health status and weight loss by much more over the course of 12 months.
And as a final point, I think if we, as practitioners are giving clients diet plans that are too complicated to follow, that do not result in compliance or net results, then shame on us. It is definitely time to improve our approach, as those who entrust us with their health care depend on it.
Please feel free to share your comments below.
You may also like: Healthy tips for getting more fiber in your diet.
Hi, I'm Shara Vickers, a Nutritional Health and Fitness Specialist located in Cape Breton, Nova Scotia. Please have a look around to find out more about my approach to health and the coaching and consulting services I offer to both local and long-distance clients.