The "science diet"

By Razib Khan | January 18, 2011 12:58 am

Cell has an interesting piece, profiling four diets, Cell Culture: New Year’s Diets. I know many of the readers of this weblog take an interest in this area. In particular, many subscribe to the Paleo diet or are avid fans of Gary Taubes’ Good Calories, Bad Calories, as well as Art Devany’s ideas. Personally I think one issue which we need to acknowledge more are individual differences. The returns on the margin for a given diet may differ from person to person. The morbidity cost to someone with a family history of type 2 diabetes who has a weakness for dessert is likely much higher than someone without such a family history.

The Cell article gives a scientific overview of the diets in question, and then has pointers to the scientific literature.

– Atkins diet

Inagaki, T., et al. (2007). Cell Metab. 5, 415–425.

Badman, M.K., et al. (2007). Cell Metab. 5, 426–437.

Ma, W., et al. (2007). J. Neurosci. 27, 3618–3625.

– Flat Belly Diet

The Lipid Messenger OEA Links Dietary Fat Intake to Satiety

– Sensa Diet

Small, D.M., et al. (2005). Neuron 47, 593–605.

Ruijschop, R.M., et al. (2009). J. Agric. Food Chem. 57, 9888–9894.

– South Beach Diet

Johnson, P.M., and Kenny, P.J. (2010). Nat. Neurosci. 13, 635–641.

Relation Between Obesity and Blunted Striatal Response to Food Is Moderated by TaqIA A1 Allele.

What is your diet? And what papers do you like?

  • Gil

    Do you know much about how much natural variability in individuals contributes to differential calorie absorption? Whenever I read about diets I think that beyond ensuring you get enough nutrients, maintaining weight is going to be comparatively simple thermodynamics: calories in < calories out and you'll lose weight, and vice versa; thats just the cartoon version since I'm going to get more from a twinky than someone with chronic intestinal inflammation, but I'm not sure how much of a difference that really makes.

  • AG

    Atkins diet for me. My meat craving is strong. People with close relation to Mongolian or other siberian natives should choose low-carb diet since their ancestors are more likely were pure carnivores. Optimal diet for these people is meat of wild animals.

  • lotuspixie

    Good old weight watchers point counting worked for me. I’m a vegetarian, and used to be vegan, so Atkins was never an option. I like weight watchers points because nothing in forbidden–it’s all about portion sizes and adding more fiber (ie, veggies) to your diet. This past year I lost forty pounds counting points, in combination with a three-day-a-week Ashtanga yoga practice and two-to-three-day-a-week running regimen. I’ve managed to keep ALL the weight off for the last six months without any bounce back, even though I’ve completely quit the diet and scaled back on the exercise.

    In the end, I think weight watchers worked because it helped me “remind” my body and mind what being full and hungry feel like, and what my actual appetite is.

  • omar

    The topic is interesting, but this article serves mostly as a way of letting people know that we are now beginning to probe the differences between these diets at a molecular biology level (the level “Cell” is devoted to). Its a start, but these are still early days and the overview makes somewhat speculative links between particular m0lecular pathways and popular diets. This is not a thorough review of the subject, its a way to show that molecular biology has something to say about this subject.
    I hope that we will eventually work out all the molecular pathways that regulate appetite, digestion, absorption, distribution, metabolism and disposal of nutrients, but we are not there yet. The return is higher in clinical studies at this time, and they tend to show that early weight loss is greater with low-carb diets (but longer term results are not necessarily superior); that “mediterranean diets” are probably intrinsically better for your cardiovascular and metabolic health irrespective of weight loss, and that most “paleo” diets have not been extensively evaluated, but if I remember correctly, limited studies do show that they lower inflammation and are probably better for you in the long run even if you dont lose weight (whether benefits exceed those of Mediterranean diets is not clear).
    Keep in mind that some guru got invited to lunch by a disciple. The guru proceeded to order steak. The disciple kept his mouth shut for a while, but finally couldnt help it and asked: isnt meat bad for you? The guru replied “its probably bad for me, but the way you were staring at my plate and squirming is probably worse for your health”. Being unhappy and stressed may count for more than we think.
    And if you really want to improve your chances of living longer, look for longer lived parents.

  • toto

    Personally I use the GNXP diet.

    It mostly involves being born with “skinny” genes. :)

  • dave chamberlin

    I’m built like a Samoan. I am very big boned. If I weight lift a little bit (two or three hours a week), I get all muscled up and frankly look silly, like those puffed up NFL players. If I don’t excersize, and by that I mean forty minutes of aerobic excersize three times a week, I get fat. For me dieting is torture that fails so I drag my ass to those workout centers and watch bad television while I huff and puff away on one of those boring machines. It beats being fat and having a shortened life. My two grown sons are the same way.

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  • eko

    Been on a Taubesian Atkins-paleo-like path for a few years now, with good results. Not surprising, as I have a tendency of letting my sweet tooth spiral out of control. I can engage in reasonable amounts of cheating without major negative consequences.

    I do believe that the most important thing is not really following any set “diet”, but rather avoiding potentially damaging modern misconceptions, the biggest one probably being an unwarranted fear of saturated fat.


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About Razib Khan

I have degrees in biology and biochemistry, a passion for genetics, history, and philosophy, and shrimp is my favorite food. In relation to nationality I'm a American Northwesterner, in politics I'm a reactionary, and as for religion I have none (I'm an atheist). If you want to know more, see the links at


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