Questions on the delusion of losing weight
The weight loss industry is mostly a scam. Dietary supplements supposed to help you lose weight, either by “burning your fat” or by reducing the appetite, are usually expensive and totally ineffective. Fad diets (Atkins, Montignac, Dukan, Paleo, ketogenic; or even la dieta Lemme) are likely to be bogus, yet somehow there seems to be an endless stockpile of fans, and a never ending production of books claiming to make you lose weight. Still, the various variants of intermittent fasting seem to make some sense, and even the fully-fledged fasting, without any religious motivation, appeared to be persuasive in a 2011 ARTE documentary that can still be found on Arte.tv (Le jeûne, une nouvelle thérapie ?; Fasten und Heilen) and, most likely illegally, on YouTube (The Science of Fasting). But how do I do that, knowing that when I’m really hungry, I can experience such low values of blood sugar that I can feel dizzy?
The trigger video
In this world of countless books and countless videos on dieting, this one intrigued me the other day:
I don’t care about this guy (“Joseph Everett, better known online as What I’ve Learned, is an American YouTuber currently residing in Tokyo, Japan, who talks about topics like philosophy, economics and science.”), but he really tried fasting himself, documenting, measuring various values, citing many studies, etc., and the video is pretty short at about 15 minutes, making it worth watching.
Now that you have watched the video above, I’d like to express some of my bewilderment in the form of some questions.
- It’s fantastic that in 2-3 days the hunger disappears altogether, but how do I reach that point without passing out? I have a low tolerance to hunger, and I have a consistent experience with forms of sugar crash similar in symptoms to those specific to postprandial hypoglycemia, only it’s the other way around: I drink my coffee black, without sugar or sweeteners, and I suppose it increases my metabolism; with a frugal breakfast, there aren’t enough fast sugars, and at some point towards the noon I experience dizziness if I’m not eating something (my theory is that green tea, black tea, coffee, guarana, Diet Coke, Coke Zero, Diet Pepsi, Pepsi Max, and everything that accelerates the metabolism without providing any extra energy is prone to generate e sugar crash within a couple of hours). I can hardly imagine myself starving for 48 hours in a row without dropping dead.
- This guy also tried taking some liquid Ketone Ester (this 150 ml bottle that costs 150 euros); why isn’t he recommending this path instead of fasting? After all, ketones are supposed to help you experience less hunger, which is what helps you eat less, something that’s pivotal to losing weight! OK, that product is insanely expensive, but there are other similar products that seem to work, as seen e.g. in this video.
Further notes on this video:
- Electrolytes. This guy is not thorough, because he just wants to sell his LMNT shit, and in the video he only mentions water and salt. Actually no, you’d need sodium, potassium and magnesium, just like the advertised LMNT. The heart needs potassium!
- Minerals, vitamins, trace elements. Also, even when fasting with the purpose of losing weight by burning fat, the body still has its daily requirements of minerals, vitamins, and whatnot. I believe it to be harmful to let your body be depleted of calcium, iron, some trace minerals and some vitamins (I don’t know which are truly essential), and also essential amino acids, i.e. those that cannot be synthesized by the body (arginine, cysteine, glycine, glutamine, proline, and tyrosine). The lack of tyrosine is likely to give you exhaustion, and you’ll definitely lack it if the food intake is zero for several days in a row! Generally, a deficiency in essential amino acids would alter the levels of several hormones, possibly disrupting the sleep and the mood, affecting the immune system, and more.
Corollary question: how could one properly design a fasting diet that wouldn’t harm one’s health? Fasting means “zero calories”; but everything else that’s necessary should be provided for.
Fasting is only an extreme form of intermittent fasting diets, which are supposed to limit the calorie intake and to give the body a timeframe in which the lack of food would “educate” it to burn the existing fat. Generally, I’d break intermittent fasting in two categories:
- time-restricted feeding, in which the subject is supposed to eat e.g. only during 8 hours and “fast” 16 hours;
- fasting 1-2 days a week or even every other day (alternate-day fasting), which involves “true” fasting.
The most popular schemes are within the time-restricted feeding category, with 8h-eating:16h-fasting being the most popular, as illustrated in these screens taken from a fasting app:
Now, my question: in which way is it easier to fast daily, say 16 hours each and every day, than to fast 3 days every now and then? If what they say is true and within 2 days of fasting you don’t feel the hunger anymore, think about the fact that with time-restricted feeding, you’d have to fight with the feeling of hunger every single day! You just managed to overcome your hunger (and to educate yourself not to wake up in the middle of the night to go to the fridge!), when… ta-daaa, you can now eat again, after which you’ll feel hungry one more time! (Rinse, repeat.)
It seems to me that intermittent fasting through restricting eating to a narrow window during a day, every day, is the solution to lose some weight, but I just can’t manage to do it!
Snake oil all over the place
As I said in the lede, most dietary supplements are bogus, especially those related to losing weight. Apparently, ketone supplements, or at least the cheaper ones, are also mostly fake.
I’d start with stating that the many variants of the ketogenic diet don’t convince me. Strange enough, this diet seems to have appeared as a last-resort “treatment” for… drug-resistant epilepsy! (The anti-seizure effects of some ketone bodies are known since the 1930s.) The effect of the ketogenic diets on a number of neurological disorders, including epilepsy, Alzheimer’s disease, Parkinson’s disease, sleep disorders, brain cancer, autism, amyotrophic lateral sclerosis is based on mechanisms that are not fully determined, which makes me overall skeptical. Still, any ketogenic diet and any ketone supplement is basically supposed to enhance the ketogenesis in your body. Are they doing just that?
For ketogenic diets: unless I can measure the ketones in my body, I remain skeptical.
- 👉 The supplements containing medium-chain triglycerides (MCTs) seem to be relatively ketogenic, but it’s difficult to evaluate the effectiveness of any given product. MCTs are potentially risky, as they might induce a metabolic acidosis; still, it’s considered to be safe, except for people with osteoporosis or those with a medium-chain acyl-CoA dehydrogenase (MCAD) deficiency. However, MCTs that contain Caprylic Acid interact with antihypertensive drugs, with anti-inflammatory drugs, and with the blood thinner warfarin—in all cases by increasing their effects.
- Brand example #1: Ketosource® Pure MCT Oil (€18 for a 500 ml bottle, or €7 for 100 ml) contains “a mix of ketone-boosting MCTs with 60% C8 MCT (Caprylic Acid) and 40% C10 MCT (Capric Acid)”; serving size from 5 ml to 20 ml one to three times a day (that’s highly confusing as a dosage IMO).
- Brand example #2: NOW® Caprylic Acid 600 (100 Softgels) contains “Caprylic Acid [from 1 g of MCT Oil (Medium-Chain Triglycerides)] 600 mg,” with “MCT Oil from coconut/palm kernel oil.” Serving size 1 softgel (but how many servings a day?).
- 👉 The supplements containing raspberry ketone might be snake oil, because there is no reliable evidence whatsoever that they are ketogenic, i.e. that they increase the ketones level in the human body! Probably safe, but side effects such as increasing the blood pressure and the heart rate cannot be excluded.
- It’s difficult to find branded raspberry ketone supplements, but relatively known names include in Europe: WeightWorld (UK), Adamando Perez (by Vitabay). Their prices are rather acceptable, but they tend to use deceptive advertising techniques. They generally claim to use a “10:1 raspberry extract,” without any information as to how is this “concentrate” made. How do you make something 10 times more powerful? 10 times compared to what? To dried raspberries? Adamando Perez is even more laughable, as in their 333 mg capsules they include “2500 mg raspberry ketone (from 10:1 raspberry ketone extract, 98%, 250 mg), and 62.5 mg black pepper (from 25:1 black pepper extract, 2.5 mg, 95% piperine)”; that means the capsule actually contains 250 mg raspberry extract and 2.5 mg black pepper extract (how does one make the pepper 25 times more concentrate?!), whereas being marketed as containing 2500 mg raspberry ketone! To be avoided.
- 👉 The supplements containing the ketone ester aka BD-AcAc2 (R,S-1,3-butanediol diacetoacetate) tend to be extremely expensive, as it’s the case with the aforementioned product from Prototype Nutrition (€150 for 150 ml). The effectiveness of the ketone ester seems to have been proven in mice, I have yet to form an informed opinion on such supplements; maybe someone has taken them and can offer an advice?
Closing lines—but no conclusion
All in all, I’m not sure what I could do to lose something like 15 kg. Everything seems either a scam, or unfeasible.
I remember how, back in 2019, I learned about the Lemme diet by watching the Italian TV channel Mediaset Canale 5. Technically, the Lemme diet is not a diet per se, but rather a culinary journey, as you’re supposed to make what you’re going to eat, and it’s not always that simple if you’re not near the Mediterranean Sea. Even so, it basically ignores the concept of calories, making you feel you can eat almost everything you want… except for bread, salt, sugar, carrots, tomatoes, fruits, vinegar, wine, milk; frying is allowed, and so are lemon, basil, garlic, sage, rosemary, chili, parsley, and onion. (I do have Alberico Lemme’s book La dieta Lemme, but I’ve not read it yet, waiting for my Italian to improve.) Some quick insights in English: Who is Dr. Lemme; Lemme diet does good or bad? (apparently an automated translation of Dieta Lemme fa bene o fa male?); Lemme diet, what it is and how it works: an example of its menu; and an opinion on Quora.
Even if I had a cook (a chef, rather), I still doubt the Lemme diet would make me lose weight, with its traditional setup of three main courses over the day: breakfast before 9:30 AM, lunch between noon and 2 PM, dinner between 7 PM and 9 PM. Too unbelievable.
So what am I going to do? Get even fatter, like most Americans?