Sirting out the issue

Updated: May 27, 2020, 11:10 IST | Shunashir Sen | Mumbai

Singer Adele recently shared a photo where she revealed a huge 20 kg-loss, thanks to the sirtfood diet. Experts decode the pros and cons of adopting extreme nutrition plans

Adele before her weight loss. Pic/Getty Images. (Right) Adele on her birthday. Pic/Instagram
Adele before her weight loss. Pic/Getty Images. (Right) Adele on her birthday. Pic/Instagram

Superstar, and reclusive, British singer Adele made quite a dramatic statement earlier this month, with a photo she posted on Instagram on the occasion of her 32nd birthday. In the caption, she thanked the frontline workers in the UK who are risking their lives during the pandemic to keep citizens safe. But more than that, it was her dramatic loss of weight that grabbed attention, putting the spotlight on the sirtfood diet, which reportedly helped her shed over 20 kg. Adele hasn't gone on record to ascertain that it was indeed this relatively new diet that led to her slim look. But that hasn't stopped it from gaining wide traction in the popular consciousness, with people looking to take a leaf out of the celebrity's book.

The important question is, is it safe? There isn't a lot of credible research around the subject yet, says Dr Siddhant Bhargava, nutritionist and founder of health food platform Food Darzee. "You'll find very little scientific material on it online, and even whatever is available is not from reliable sources," he tells us. But what we do know for sure so far is that two British dietary experts, Aidan Goggins and Glen Matten, first propounded this regimen in a book of recipes they published in 2016, called The Sirtfood Diet. The name comes from sirtuins, a protein subset that aids metabolism. And the focus is on increasing the intake of foods that contain this component.

Citrus fruits like oranges and pomelos are part of the sirtfood diet
Citrus fruits like oranges and pomelos are part of the sirtfood diet

Ushakiran Sisodia, head of the department of diet and nutrition at Nanavati Hospital, tells us, "The plan works over a period of time where you are given three green juices and one meal in the first week. Then, in the second week, you get two green juices and two meals. And in the third, you get one juice and three meals. So, the idea is to gradually reduce the intake of juices and increase the number of meals."

These meals consist entirely of food items that are rich in sirtuins. Almost all of these are plant-based, and include strawberries, walnuts, kale and celery. Sisodia says, "The idea is to detoxify your body before returning to normal meals." But the problem is that this process of detoxification doesn't involve a balanced diet. It is deficient in carbohydrates for instance, the expert adds.

Dr Siddhant Bhargava
Dr Siddhant Bhargava

But is it a diet?
Bhargava, too, is circumspect. In fact, he goes as far as to say that the sirtfood diet doesn't even qualify as a diet. "It's like simply eating a portion-controlled meal on top of which you have added anti-oxidants. The major flaw is that it talks about arbitrary numbers like losing 1,000 calories in a certain period of time, while ignoring the fact that a person who is 5 feet 3 inches, for example, will react differently to the plan than someone who is much taller, who might feel more lethargic while on it," the doctor says, adding, "A well-executed diet has to work on the fundamentals of measurement. It has to take in all parameters including height, weight, exercising history and experience with previous diets. Any plan that gives you arbitrary guidelines is a bad idea."

Why try it?
Instead, the best approach is to first identify the purpose of why you want to lose weight in the first place. "I get patients who are pilots, and need to maintain a certain BMI for their profession. Others are looking to lose weight before they get married, so they will need a different plan based on factors like their lifestyle and their vitals, which will be examined via blood reports. So, a person first needs to identify the reason before deciding on a diet that is suitable for them," Sisodia says, advising against practising restrictive food routines during the lockdown since psychology plays an important role, and what people need right now are mood enhancers like colourful foods and varied menus.

Ushakiran Sisodia
Ushakiran Sisodia

Adopting this trend without any proper guidance is thus inadvisable, and Bhargava tells us that so far, he has received queries on it only from two people in Mumbai, who sent him questions about the sirtfood diet last year but eventually didn't follow up on it. "They are people who you might call socialites from wealthy backgrounds, who move from one diet to another," he says, while Sisodia affirms that the plan might be more relevant to celebrity clients who can benefit
from the detoxification process to get glowing skin, for example.

Meanwhile, the lay person should keep realistic demands when deciding on any diet. Don't expect a flat mid-riff in the blink of an eye. Also, keep in mind that a successful diet requires exercise as well. "These are things we already know, but it's important to reiterate them," Bhargava says. At the same time, remember that following celebrity trends blindly carries its own hazards. Let's assume that Adele did indeed lose weight thanks to the sirtfood diet. But do we know the whole process that went into it, and the guidance she received? We don't. So, seek the help of an expert before starting not just this one, but other diets as well to know what is best for you. It's different strokes for different folks, in other words.

Keep in mind

. Guidance is essential because an expert takes accountability of guiding a person on a diet, Bhargava tells us.

. Establishing a trust factor with the nutritionist is important.

. No diet is successful without a certain amount of working out involved. It can lead to more harm than good otherwise.

. Do not attempt the sirtfood diet if you have comorbidities like hypertension or diabetes, since that might increase your heart rate or cause hypoglycemia, Sisodia says.

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