Why you should not compare your diet with the Eskimo or Maasai diet.
The Maasai, the nomad population settled in Kenya and Tanzania, has a tradition of eating only one liter of milk a day, sheep and goat meat and cow blood.
The Eskimo, the indigenous people living near the Arctic, survive winter eating polar bears, whales and fish.
If these two populations can survive by consuming foods, that are unhealthy for Western standards, then why should we take into consideration the opinion of nutritionists about what is healthy and what is not?
But first, let´s see the two types of diets that are trendy in the Western world but also considered unhealthy by experts.
Here is the reason why they are ranked by the US News and World Report as the most unhealthy diets:
Dukan Diet :
high protein and low carb !
Why: when you stop eating carbs, the body is forced to use fat as fuel. Plus, proteins are known for reducing the sensation of hunger.
Origin: Pierre Dukan, a neurologist, decided to dedicate his career to nutrition after seeing the effects of a high-protein diet on a friend.
Origin of the name: the inventor is called Dukan. He published a book and got famous during the royal wedding when it was speculated that Kate Middleton and her sister used his diet.
How does it work:
Stage 1: the attack phase = high-protein diet for 7 days.
Stage 2: the cruise phase = now a small amount of vegetables are allowed.
Stage 3: the consolidation = fruits can be added, as well as fat cheese, and starch products only twice a week.
Stage 4: the stabilization = the proteins are reduced but still remain at a high level
Short term, studies showed a higher weight loss using this high protein diet. In the long term, three out of four studies showed no statistical difference.
Based on a survey
35% of respondents regained all the weight they had lost less than a year after starting the diet
48% regained the weight within a year
64% within two years
70% within three years
80% over a period of more than four years
- less appetite
- more fulling sensation
- fast weight-loss results
- kidney issues (like kidney stones)
- bad breath
high-fat and low-carb !
Why: when you stop eating carbs, the body is forced to use fat as fuel.
Origin: It was used first in 1920 to reduce seizures for epileptic kids. Nowadays it became popular as a weight loss diet.
Origin of the name ketogenic diet: from the production of “ketone bodies”
How does it work:
70 to 80% fat, 15% to 20% protein and 10% to 15% carbohydrates.
The human body has two ways to store energy. As fat (in fat cells) or as glycogen (in muscles and liver).
When you stop introducing carbs, the body is forced to use glycogen and fat storage and therefore you can lose fat mass.
Since our brain cells can only function thanks to glucose, the body not having access to carbs, starts producing a similar form of energy for the brain called “ketone bodies”. From here the origin of the name ketogenic diet.
- Eating fatty foods without guilt
- Short time effects
- The danger with this diet appears when the body produces dangerously high toxic levels of ketone bodies. This is called ketoacidosis.
- Liver problems
- Too difficult to follow and not many scientific studies about its long-term!
- It doesn´t provide with all the micronutrients
In the introduction, we talked about the Maasai and the Eskimo population and how their high-fat, high proteins diets, considered unhealthy for the Western standards, still help them survive.
So now the question is: who is right? A group of scientists or the tradition of two different populations?
The answer is none. The scientists don´t have all the answers, new research is made every day that brings up new questions and challenges.
The indigenous populations developed over the course of history different genetical mutations that allowed them to eat overtime a limited type of food.
In conclusion, there is no diet that can be 100% defined right or wrong. We are all going to respond differently according to our habits, environment and genes. What I can do as a nutritionist is to write down recommendations that work the best according to the present scientific studies!
Mbalilaki JA, Masesa Z, Stromme SB, et al. Daily energy expenditure and cardiovascular risk in Masai, rural and urban Bantu Tanzanians. British journal of sports medicine 2010;44:121-6.