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Do Restrictive Diets Work?

Fast weight loss, miraculous results, pounds less in a few days, or that promise of the perfect body until the summer. Restrictive diets promise miracles and appear, every day, in a new guise, not for nothing; they are considered “fashionable.” But does this kind of restriction-based feeding work? Is it possible and sustainable to use this ploy to have a lighter and healthier life?

What Are Restrictive Diets?

For the nutritionist and Master in Medicine Jefferson Comin, restrictive diets can be found in different ways, being able to restrict a particular nutrient, a group of nutrients, or an amount of energy to be consumed. For example:

  • The celiac diet restricts gluten consumption.
  • The ketogenic diet restricts carbohydrate consumption to 10% of total daily energy intake.
  • Calorie restriction limits the number of total calories to be consumed.

According to him, this type of diet seems miraculous because it promotes quick or acute results, which usually occur in a short period, usually 4 to 6 weeks. However, these gains are often inconsistent and not lasting.

The Effects Of Restrictive Diets On The Body

Food restriction causes nutrient deprivation. This causes the body to release several hormones so that energy stores are mobilized, generating faster results, which often come from dehydration and not fat loss, as in the cases of low carb and ketogenic diets. “These diets can only be applied in specific cases; for example, Low Carb can be used in patients who need to lose weight quickly, as in the case of fighters. The ketogenic diet is widely studied and recommended for people with epilepsy, being able to reduce episodes greatly. However, the deliberate adoption of each of them can lead to compromised health and quality of life.”

Restricting a particular food, nutrient, or energy can also lead to nutritional deficiencies, especially vitamins and minerals, which are unhealthy in the long run. “Micronutrients are essential for our energy metabolism. Imagine that we need to “take” the fat and turn it into energy. Who does this? Our metabolism is controlled by enzymes that often only work if there are vitamins and minerals. When you go on a restrictive diet, you can stop providing these vitamins and minerals and, in this way, compromise your energy metabolism. Soon, your results will be compromised, too!” reports the nutritionist. 

Are Restrictive Diets Sustainable In The Long Term?

There is a direct link between dietary restrictions, the accordion effect, and compulsion. This is because, many times, the adoption of this type of strategy is capable of providing results that are not lasting. That is, as the person returns to their “normal” eating habits, they end up gaining weight. Binge-eating episodes are also quite common because the rebound effect is expected when you deprive yourself of certain foods or go on a restrictive diet. A period of extreme restriction is followed by a period of high food consumption.

This binge-eating also has a psychological origin. Jefferson reiterates that the act of “eating,” in itself, is already a way for the mind to satisfy itself and that it goes far beyond nutrition, becoming a social act. In this way, following a very restrictive diet and depriving yourself of certain foods influences some behaviors and psychological characteristics or even modifies hormone levels. As time passes and the restriction continues, anxiety increases. “Another important point is that some foods, such as chocolate and cheddar cheese, manage to make the body release endorphins: hormones that generate the feeling of pleasure and well-being. Now imagine you have a long period of food restriction, added to the increase in anxiety, plus the need to release endorphins… We have all the ingredients for a binge episode.”,

In addition to all these damages, restrictions can also generate nutritional deficiencies, bringing undesirable results in the medium and long term.

Restrictive Diets And Their Biggest Myths

Restrictive diets have always emerged and always will with the fundamental premise that they are magic. “How can I not mention the various types of Intermittent Fasting? They are very famous and have gained much attention from the scientific community, the media, and various people. There are diets with shallow, frivolous foundations and without scientific proof.”,  

Each diet that comes into fashion claims a new miracle and different quick fixes for problems with its countless promises and claims. But according to Jefferson, every fancy diet carries a myth that needs to be carefully analyzed. Let’s go to the main ones:

Humans Shouldn’t Drink Milk

The premise for lactose-free diets is that we are the only mammals that continue to drink milk after adulthood. There is no scientific basis for this statement. Milk is a great food/drink, a source of calcium because, in addition to containing the micronutrient, it can be absorbed, unlike dark green vegetables (calcium is not absorbed)”, confirms the nutritionist.

Alkaline Water

The water we drink arrives in the stomach and has its pH rapidly modified; then, it is absorbed by the intestine, where the pH also changes. Our body has mechanisms that control the tissues’ pH, so our blood’s pH must be between 7.35 and 7.45. Therefore, it is useless to drink alkaline water.

Carbohydrates Make You Fat

Adipose tissue can transform carbohydrates into fat. However, it is inefficient to do this conversion but storing excess energy in fat since it is already ready to be stored. “Many people say they get fat when they eat carbs. In fact, what is happening is that the body uses these carbohydrates consumed in excess as the main energy source, and then ends up sparing the fats from the diet, which are invariably stored in adipose tissue.”, explains the nutritionist.

Healthy Habits, Lasting Results

Jefferson explains that there is no need for significant dietary changes in most cases. It is possible to have good results only with the inclusion of fruits and vegetables in the diet, restricting the consumption of carbonated drinks, sweets, and industrialized foods, increasing your intake of whole carbs, and taking care with food preparation.

Also Read: What Are The Foods That Are Good For Bones: What To Eat


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