As suggested by the subtitle, The Truth About Weight Loss, Health and Aging, this book is about adjusting your diet to curb disease, turn back the biological clock, and lose weight.
- A high-protein, high fat diet
- Prohibits refined carbohydrates and other high glycemic-index foods
- Claims to regulate hormone levels in the body
- Recommends choosing foods that you could, in theory, pick, gather, milk, or hunt or fish for
This Diet Is Best For
Who Should Not Try This Diet
Everyone should avoid this one
Endocrinologist Diana Schwarzbein offers her own version of a high-protein, low-carbohydrate diet that she says will help control insulin. High insulin levels, the result of a high-carbohydrate, low fat diet, are responsible for a wide variety of ills, accelerate the aging process, turn off your metabolism, and cause weight gain, food cravings, depression, and mood swings, according to Schwarzbein.
Instead of using a food pyramid model, she has developed a food box representing four food groups -- proteins, fats, nonstarchy vegetables, and carbohydrates -- which need to be eaten together in the proper amounts to balance the body's hormone systems.
Sugar, says Schwarzbein, is addictive. To complement her diet plan, she recommends a variety of supplements, including a multivitamin, magnesium, calcium, 5-hydroxytryptophan, and essential fatty acids.
The basic principle behind Schwarzbein's "healing" diet plan is using a diet that's high in protein and healthy fats and low in carbohydrates to control insulin and glucagon levels. Glucagon is a hormone that causes blood sugar to rise, and insulin is a hormone that brings blood sugar levels back down. She says that you can balance and control hormones in the body that affect food cravings and metabolism by eating right.
You can lower insulin levels by exercising and eating "good" oils and fats and fiber. Levels of serotonin (a chemical produced by the body that regulates nerve impulses in the brain) can be regulated by avoiding alcohol, caffeine, refined carbohydrates, chocolate, and sugar. The result, she says, is reduced cravings.
Carbohydrate calories are limited because she believes that it's impossible to overeat protein and "good" fats. Only carbohydrates cause insulin levels to rise too much, which triggers weight gain. Sugar is blamed for interfering with the body's use of nutrients and keeping insulin levels high.
Eating on the Schwarzbein Principle Diet
The diet provides four weeks' worth of sample menus for the "healing program," which Schwarzbein says reverses insulin resistance and repairs your metabolism. She also provides four weeks' worth of menus and recipes for vegetarians.
The menus are designed to keep your insulin-to-glucagon ratio and your glycemic index balanced by providing only 15 grams of carbohydrates per meal and by including foods from the four designated food groups in the proper proportions.
A typical day's menu might include scrambled eggs and sausage, oatmeal with butter and cream, and sliced tomatoes for breakfast; cobb salad with olive oil and vinegar dressing and an apple for lunch; and roast pork loin, brown rice with butter, asparagus with butter, and a mixed-greens salad with olive oil and vinegar dressing for dinner.
Two snacks are allowed, one of sunflower seeds and another of almonds and string cheese.
What the Experts Say
The Schwarzbein Principle is basically a variation on several other high-protein, low-carb diets. If weight loss results it's due to a reduced calorie intake, not a dietary manipulation of hormones. Carbohydrate intake is so restricted that it could be energy draining.
And the levels of cholesterol and saturated fat in the diet far exceed what almost all experts recommend for a heart-healthy diet. There is no proof, say experts, that following this diet will exert some sort of hormonal control over your body that will speed weight loss and ultimately slow the aging process.
Whether or not weight loss would actually result is unclear from the menu plans, since recommended serving sizes for many foods, including high-calorie foods, are not provided. Despite what Schwarzbein says about not focusing on calorie counts, if you eat too many calories, you'll gain weight.
With the menus provided and the limited information on portion sizes, it would be easy to actually gain weight on this diet. Don't expect to lose weight fast, even if you're keeping your total calorie intake in check. Because of the limitations placed on several nutrient-rich foods, the diet could easily fall short of several nutrients, including calcium, vitamin D, folic acid, and fiber.
Calorie quota: No calorie counts are provided and limited information is given about serving sizes, making it difficult to estimate what your actual calorie intake would be.
Yes: High-protein, high fat foods; limited amounts of whole grains and starchy vegetables; hormone-free, antibiotic-free, range-fed meat and poultry
No: Refined man-made carbohydrates, foods with a high glycemic index (foods that raise blood sugar levels the most), most vegetable oils, processed or high-sodium sausages, processed foods that contain hydrogenated fats
Other similar diets: Dr. Atkins' Age-Defying Diet, The Age-Free Zone
Densie Webb, Ph.D., R.D. is the author of seven books, including Foods for Better Health, The Dish on Eating Healthy and Being Fabulous!, and Super Nutrition After 50. Webb also writes about health and nutrition for numerous magazines, including Family Circle, Fitness, Parade, Men's Fitness, and Redbook. She is a regular columnist for Woman's Day and Prevention magazines, a contributing writer for The New York Times, the associate editor of Environmental Nutrition newsletter, and a writer for the American Botanical Council.
Elizabeth Ward, M.S., R.D. is a nutrition consultant and writer. She is the author or co-author of five books, including Super Nutrition After 50 and The Complete Idiot's Guide to Feeding Your Baby and Toddler. Ward is a contributing editor for Environmental Nutrition newsletter and a contributing writer for WebMD.com. She also writes for publications such as Parenting magazine and The Boston Globe.