The foods that boost weight loss

Have you read about the Sirtfood Diet yet?  It’s worth taking a look at.  And then there’s a press release from the University of East Anglia (UEA) which was in the papers this morning.  I’m printing it below, in full, because it just happens to completely coincide with a little one-man experiment of my own.  And what both my personal experiment, this mega study, and the Sirtfood Diet all show is worth knowing if you are remotely serious about losing weight.

I’ve been reading about Sirtfoods a lot recently, especially the work done by Aidan Goggins and Glen Matten (see the book).  They found that certain plants seem to help us lose weight.  They call them Sirtfoods because they are high in a particular set of nutrients that stimulate our body’s sirtuin.  (Sirtuin: genes that help us regulate energy and fight disease and aging).

This can all get very complicated very quickly, and you’d need a degree in molecular biology to even understand the half of it but what it boils down to is that the stuff plants use to help them defend against disease and attack seems to also work remarkably well for us too.  Just by eating enough of it. 

If you want a few big words, try ‘polyphenols’ for starters.  These are the natural chemical compounds, made by plants, that do all the good stuff – antioxidant, anti-inflammatory, pro cardio-vascular, anti-bacterial, anti-carcinogenic, metabolic regulating, and more.  Flavonoids are the biggest group of polyphenols, and they are the subject of the UEA report, but there are many more. 

The molecular biologists have known about this for some time now, and you’ll have probably heard headlines telling you that drinking red wine is good for you.  That’s all part of the same effect.  It’s the skins of the grapes that are particularly high in flavonoids, and the process of making red wine means that there’s a long time for the flavonoids to enter the wine.  (The skins aren’t used for long enough when making white wine or grape juice I’m afraid, so you’ll just have to drink the burgundy.  He, he, what a shame).

So far, only a fraction of this whole area has been clinically studied in humans and so what we see in the Sirtfood Diet study and in the UEA results (below) are more just powerful indicators rather than incontrovertible, comprehensive facts.  But on this beautiful mid-winter morning, the release of this report has coincided with the first results of my own brief Sirtfood experiment and the results are astounding.

So on a sample of one, this is no more scientific than a lucky dip, but with what I’ve just read from the UEA I thought it’s something you should know.

Any one who follows the Diet Groove will know that I believe in whole heartedly making it as easy as possible to stick to a diet and that I use simple behaviour grooves to help make that happen.  One of the most important grooves is the power of taking dramatic action for short periods of time and for that I’ve found that the best results come from fasting (no surprise there) and a focus on protein. Combining the two then makes it easy to fast as you never need to feel hungry.

Everything I recommend has been borne out of my experience.

So as a bit of a one man experiment, when I heard the promises being made about Sirt Food I thought I’d give that a go too.

The impact has been off the scale.  I’ve lost 10 pounds in three days.    That sounds a bit crazy but the scales don’t lie.  Sure, a deal of that will be water weight, and just the impact of less food in my system, but it’s got to be a good sign.  I’ll carry on with the use of Sirtfoods and let you know how it goes but with this news hitting the headlines today I thought you might find this useful now too. 

So, to get to the point, here’s what I did. 

To set the scene I got to Monday morning of the back of a very indulgent past few days.  I believe in Reloading, not least for my own sanity, but it had been a bit of a big one.  For a start I hit the wine back on the Wednesday of the week before.  So much for not drinking during the week.  So that meant beer, wine, gin and coffee for five days.  My youngest daughter had a birthday party with friends and so my elder daughter made her the biggest chocolate fudge cake I’ve ever seen, and that provided a constant source of grazing all weekend.  I had a curry on Friday night, a burger for Saturday lunch, pizza for supper, a fry-up on Sunday and the most fabulous Roast Beef for Sunday lunch obviously with roasties andYorkshires, but also lots of wine, cheese and chocolates too.  So by Monday morning I was way off course.  13st 11.  Ahem.  I’ll say it quickly as it negated all the good work I’d put in over January so far.  This morning I weighed 13st 1.

For three days I simply combined my own protein fast approach with some of the key Sirtfoods that Goggens and Matten and the UEA studies recommend.

Each day started with my usual yoghurt and bran and I snacked lightly on lean chicken, prawns and mackerel as needed too as I would normally do on a fast day.

To introduce the Sirtfoods I also snacked on celery and kale chips.  I drank lots of water, green tea and green matcha tea (not a pleasant drink, that one).  And had a glass or two of green Sirtfood juice.  On the Monday I kept to a Fastday and just lightly snacked on chicken in the evening with a green juice.  Finally, I added a teaspoon or two of raw cocoa nibs to pick at with my after-dinner piece of 85% Lindt chocolate.

On Tuesday and Wednesday I had one of the Sirtfood recipes in the evening:  Miso broth which I made with prawns but no buckwheat (to avoid any carbs) on Tuesday and poached salmon with a Sirtfood variation of cauliflower cous-cous plus spring greens on Wednesday.  All available in the Sirtfood Diet book.  And here I am, three days later, ten pounds lighter.

The key foods for me were:




Red Onions

Chillies – bird’s eye




Cocoa Nibs and 85% chocolate

Green tea and coffee

Plus chicken, salmon and mackerel – the protein for its own sake plus it works well with the polyphenols, ...apparently.  And a bit of Burnday veg with cauliflower, and spring greens.

Does it prove anything?  No.  Is it worth doing more of? Yes.  Should you give it a go?  Why not, what have you got to lose?  Hopefully lots of lbs, like me.  Do let me know how you get on.

 Eating blueberries

Eating blueberries

And here’s the UEA report press release:

"The study, published today in the BMJ, reveals that apples, pears, berries and peppers were found to have the greatest effect in reducing weight gain.

Researchers from the departments of nutrition at the Harvard TH Chan School of Public Health and UEA’s Norwich Medical School examined the association between the dietary intake of all flavonoids and weight change in a large study of 124,086 men and women based across the US with data collected over 24 years.

Prof Aedin Cassidy, from UEA’s Norwich Medical School, said: “Dietary flavonoids are natural compounds found in fruits and vegetables.

“This is the first large study to examine the associations between consumption of all flavonoids and weight gain in middle-aged and older adults.

“Most adults gain weight as they age and even small increases in weight can have a substantial impact on risk of high blood pressure, developing heart disease, cancer or diabetes - so strategies to help individuals maintain a healthy weight in middle age are needed.

“We found that an increased consumption of most flavonoids were associated with weight maintenance, and even a modest weight loss. The results were found to be consistent across men and women, and different ages.

“However losing even small amounts of weight, or preventing weight gain, can improve health and these modest effects were seen with a small, readily achievable increase in intake of many of these fruits.

“Just a single portion of some of these fruits per day would have an important impact on health at a population level.

“The greatest association was found for anthocyanins - which are found in blueberries, strawberries, cherries, blackberries, grapes, radishes and blackcurrant. We also found that flavonoid polymers - found in tea and apples - were particularly beneficial, along with flavonols – found in tea and onions.”

The research team tracked participants who were part of three large prospective cohort studies: the Health Professionals Follow Up Study, Nurses Health Study, and Nurses Health Study II.

Participants self-reported changes in their weight through a questionnaire every two years, between 1986 and 2011. In addition, they self-reported their diet, lifestyle habits, and any recently diagnosed diseases every four years.

The study adjusted for a range of dietary and lifestyle factors that may have influenced the results, such as smoking status and physical activity.

The results show the amount of weight loss associated with very small intakes – called ‘standard deviations’ - including 10mg of anthocyanins and 138mg of polymers.

They found that consuming just a small amount (a standard deviation) of flavonoids correlated with maintaining a healthy weight, and even losing a little - but only around 0.1KG.

However many fruits provide more than one standard deviation increase - for example a single serving per day of blueberries contains up to 121 mg of anthocyanins and tea contains a range of flavonoids (including flavonols, flavan-3-ols and their polymers).

The research team hope that choosing flavonoid-rich fruits and vegetables could help people shed up to one or two pounds.

The researchers conclude that even small changes in intake have the potential to have a significant impact on helping to maintain a healthy body weight.

Prof Aedin Cassidy said: “People tend to put on weight as they get older. But we found that people who ate a few portions of flavonoid-rich fruits and vegetables a week maintained a healthy weight, and even lost a little.

“We hope that the results will help refine previous dietary recommendations and provide guidance on which specific fruits and vegetables to choose for preventing of obesity and its potential consequences.

“Losing or preventing even small amounts of weight can reduce the risk of diabetes, cancer, hypertension and cardiovascular disease.

“In the US, for example, most people consume less than one cup (portion) of fruits, and less than two cups of vegetables daily. This is below the recommended daily intake and should be increased to two cups of fruits, and two and a half cups of vegetables – which equates to the UK’s recommended ‘five-a-day’.

“And people may be able to improve the health benefits of eating fruit and vegetables by choosing those including high levels of flavonoids, such as apples, pears, and berries.”

‘Dietary flavonoid intake and weight maintenance: three prospective cohorts of 124, 086 US men and women followed for up to 24 years’ is published in the BMJ on January 27.

Volunteers sought for new blueberry study

The research team are currently looking for local volunteers aged 50-75 for a study to see whether blueberries can improve aspects of health linked to heart disease and diabetes.  

Eligible volunteers will be overweight (with a waist size of over 40 inches for men and 35 inches for women), non-smokers, with no previous history of diabetes or cancer, and who are not taking hormone replacement therapy.

For more information on the study and eligibility, call 01603 592424 or email 

…And don’t forget to let me know how you get on adding Sirtfoods to your groove.  Meanwhile, I'll be trying the Burgundy tonight.  I hear Pinot Noir is a particularly good source of flavonoids!

Cheers, All!

Will x

Will PenroseComment