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I am a New Zealand registered nurse and nutritionist (Grad Cert Sci: nutrition, Massey Univ). I am a Certified Zone Instructor, and have worked teaching Zone diet principles to hundreds of clients over the last 10 years. More recently after finding that eating Paleo food choices was the "icing on the cake" health wise, I have become a Paleo enthusiast and teacher. Follow me on twitter @juliannejtaylor

Would the world's heaviest man have done better on the Paleo diet?

I watched Prime TV’s Doco, part 2 last night following Manuel Uribe’s quest for weight loss using the Zone diet. After losing a massive 258 kg, his weight loss slowed to around 10 kg in the last few months he was followed.

I have been wondering – given my recent experience with a few clients, whether or not Manuel’s weight loss could be increased and inflammation further reduced if he removed grains and legumes from his diet. Presuming of course he is following a classic zone diet which includes some grains and legumes.

My recent experience of clients who have taken out non paleo foods while still following a Zone diet balance is that it can give impressive weight loss where it has been previously stalled. Stalled weight loss, then an impressive 0.5 kg per week. I have yet to analyse this completely – I have both before and after food diaries. There is much more to come on this topic, but here are a few quick observations:

When people follow the Zone diet – they use grain foods too frequently – even though Sears says to use them as condiments – most end up using them at 2 meals (breakfast oats, lunch – whole grain bread) and in snacks (tuna or cheese on crackers). Grains especially gluten (barley, wheat, rye) are gut irritants, and also increase inflammation which can slow fat loss. Grains are also carbohydrate and calorie dense, increasing the amount of calories from carbohydrates above the Zone recommended amount and above the amount that works for the individual. This in turn keeps blood sugar and insulin levels above ideal and stops fat loss. Using grains also keeps the diet too acid, as only vegetables and fruit can increase alkalinity.

This study confirms my observations with regards to people increasing their carbohydrates above what they have been taught.

In this study people followed one of 4 different diets for a year: Atkins, Zone, Learn and Ornish. They were given extensive education on the particular diet they were going to follow. What would this study show, and what were people actually eating I wondered? The study found that those who followed Atkins (the lowest carbohydrate diet) had by far the most weight loss 4.7 kg as opposed to 2.6kg or less on the others. However when we look at what people were actually eating we notice something interesting “http://jama.ama-assn.org/cgi/content-nw/full/297/9/969/JOC70018T2

Those on the Atkins diet ended up eating a protein: carbohydrate: fat ratio (percentage of calories) of 20.6: 34.5: 44.3
Those on the Zone diet 20.0: 45.4: 34.5 (similar to the other 2 diets).

This study clearly shows that people’s carbohydrate levels sneak up over time and they end up eating more than they were taught to. The group that got the best results were lowest in carbohydrate – the Atkins group, interestingly they ate the closest to the Zone recommended ratio of protein to carbohydrate, although they actually ended up going higher in carbs than the Zone ratio. So people taught to eat low carbs actually gravitate to higher carbs.
Comparison of the Atkins, Zone, Ornish, and LEARN Diets for Change in Weight and Related Risk Factors Among Overweight Premenopausal Women

Another fact of note is that none of these diets bans grains or legumes or dairy. My experience is that cutting these foods out has a significant impact on both health and fat loss.

Dr William Davis writes about “The unexpected benefits of a wheat free diet”
He writes:
“Eliminate wheat and, within three months, they lose 30 lbs, blood sugar drops to normal, blood pressure drops, triglycerides drop by several hundred milligrams, HDL goes up, small LDL plummets, c-reactive protein drops.

People also felt better, with flat tummies and more energy. But they also developed benefits I did not anticipate:

Improved rheumatoid arthritis–I have seen this time and time again. Eliminate wheat and the painful thumbs, fingers, and other joints clear up dramatically. Many former rheumatoid sufferers people tell me that one cracker or pretzel will trigger a painful throbbing reminder that lasts a couple of hours.

Improved ulcerative colitis–People incapacitated with pain, cramping, and diarrhea of ulcerative colitis (who are negative for the antibodies for celiac disease) can experience marked improvement. I’ve seen people be able to stop all their nasty colitis medications just by eliminating wheat.

Reduction or elimination of irritable bowel syndrome

Reduction or elimination of gastroesophageal reflux

Better mood–Eliminating wheat makes you happier and experience more stable moods. Just as wheat is responsible for a subset of schizophrenia and bipolar illness (this is fact), and wheat elimination generates dramatic improvement, when you or I eliminate wheat, we also experience a “smoothing” of mood swings.

Better libido–I’m not sure whether this is a consequence of losing a belly the size of a watermelon or improvement in sex hormones (esp. testosterone) or endothelial responses, but more interest in sex typically develops.

Better complexion–I’m not entirely sure why, but various rashes will often dissipate, bags under the eyes are reduced, itching in funny places stops.”

So with regards to Manuel’s diet here are a few questions I am left with:

What would have happened had Manuel followed a slightly lower carb diet that cut out grains in particular wheat?
What results would he have a achieved had he followed a Paleo diet instead of / or combined with the Zone diet?

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