Ultrametabolism: The Simple Plan for Automatic Weight Loss
Mark Hyman, MD Simon & Schuster, 2006 Reviewed by Andrea N. Giancoli, MPH, RD Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics Spokesperson
The diet is based in the field of nutrigenomics, the relationship between nutrition and the response of genes. Feeding our genes through lifestyle choices determines whether we are fat or thin, healthy or sick, sluggish or full of energy. By eating the right foods, we send messages to our genes that result in weight loss and health. Conversely, when we eat the wrong foods, we send instructions to our genes for weight gain and disease.
The plan calls for a diet of whole unprocessed foods that are high in fiber, good fats and phytonutrients. Foods that are emphasized are whole grains, beans, vegetables, fruit, nuts and seeds, fatty fish, grass-fed beef and lean poultry. Refined carbohydrates, artificial sweeteners, high-fructose corn syrup and other added sugars should be eliminated.
Exercise is strongly emphasized as is stress reduction. Various supplements and herbs are recommended to assist with appetite control, stress reduction, decreased inflammation and oxidation, liver detoxification and thyroid stimulation.
By following the diet plan, taking the recommended supplements and exercising one will ostensibly achieve Hyman's seven keys to weight loss:
- Control your appetite
- Subdue stress
- Cool the fire of inflammation
- Prevent rust or oxidative stress
- Turn calories into energy
- Fortify your thyroid
- Love your liver
Nutritional Pros and Cons:
The book recommends all the right foods: fruits and vegetables, nuts, beans, whole grains, fatty fish, grass-fed beef, lean poultry. The diet eliminates refined grains, foods with trans fats, added sugars, high-fructose corn syrup, grain fed beef. The American Dietetic Association does not support any sort of elimination diet.
I disagree with the elimination of non-caloric artificial sweeteners as a vast body of research supports their safety in the human diet and these sweeteners can help dieters replace high-calorie foods and beverages with low-calorie substitutions.
Portion control is not emphasized or defined. He claims calories do not matter and not all calories are created equally. Quality of calories certainly differ; we refer to this as nutrient density (fewer calories for more nutrients). It is important we consume nutrient-dense foods for health, but calories do count when it comes to weight loss and weight gain. The author tries to explain the difference between empty-calorie foods and nutrient-dense foods, but the message of "calories don't count" probably will confuse readers.
There is little to no room in this diet for occasional indulgences. In reality, it's OK to occasionally enjoy a small portion of your favorite treat. If it makes us happy and we keep it under control, then no harm is done.
The author emphasizes supplements, which I find risky. Granted, there are products that can certainly "supplement" our diet, but we tend to self-diagnose ourselves and can overdo it with supplements or take something that may interfere with medications. If dieters choose to take the recommended supplements, they should inform their primary physician and to be under his or her care while doing so.
While it is a good idea to eat a diet high in unprocessed, whole foods, the Academy does not support diets instructing people to eliminate certain foods completely. So while parts of the book are sound, specifically the emphasis on healthful foods, exercise, stress reduction and inflammation reduction, other parts of the book, like the elimination of certain foods or the need for supplements, are suspect.
If this diet is a major overhaul for people, it will take a great deal of effort to adopt it and not everyone is willing to do this.
Hyman supports much of the diet with research in nutrigenomics, citing many primary research studies to back his claims. While this field is extremely promising, it is still in its infancy and there is much we do not know.