Every time British pop star Adele has posted a photo of herself this year, the internet has melted and, once again, everyone started talking about the sirtfood diet.
Adele herself has never publicly spoken about her weight loss, but the sirtfoods plan is known to be a favorite of her former trainer Pete Geracimo and KX, the private health club in London of which she was a member.
However, the co-founder of the diet told Insider that, in their excitement, people have been focusing on the wrong thing.
Pharmacist Aiden Goggins said he’s seen so much chatter about calorie-restriction. But the point of the sirtfood diet, he says, is about understanding how these foods instruct your body to use calories.
“There’s so much focus on what foods you shouldn’t be eating, reducing calories and making people afraid to eat,” Goggins said. “But you only get the benefits of foods by eating them, so it’s always been diet of inclusion.”
The science behind the diet also focuses on how micronutrients in plants can have holistic health benefits far beyond weight, including reducing the risk of diseases and extending our lifespan.
The diet does contain an optional calorie restriction, but Goggins says that’s not the focus
The sirtfoods diet focuses on foods that activate a protein called sirtuin, including blueberries, strawberries, red wine, and dark chocolate.
It also incorporates foods that Goggins says activate sirtuin (such as onions, celery, parsley, arugula, and citrus fruits) because they are high in nutrients called polyphenols.
Evidence suggests sirtuin mediates your metabolism, mimicking fasting or exercise, and could have benefits for extending your life, although researchers are still studying how this works.
The diet also includes an optional 7-day phase, 3 days of which are limited to 1,000 calories and the remainder to 1,500 calories.
But Goggins says the calorie-restriction is hardly the driving factor that leads to results.
“It’s a bit unfair that a lot of reports put it down as a 1,000-calorie diet. We hope what the diet does is change people’s perception of foods for life,” he said. “It empowers people and they feel more in control to know what they need to be doing.”
Not all calories are equal
Goggins said the promising research behind the sirtfoods diet is important because it belies conventional nutritional wisdom that all calories are equal.
“Food isn’t just fuel,” he said. “Just looking at calories and macros is a missing a really key point of what the body does with them.”
Goggins compared whole food nutrients to ordering a set of Ikea flat pack furniture — the components are only as good as the instructions you have to assemble them. He believes in research that suggests polyphenols and sirtuins can be the “instructors” in our metabolism, making sure our body uses calories efficiently. Studies have shown that that’s true even when calorie restriction isn’t involved.
“The real message is the concept that nutrients can talk to our cells and improve how they function. We’re missing out on nature’s pharmacy if we only focus on calories and what we shouldn’t eat,” he said.
The sirtfood diet is similar to popular and highly-researched Blue Zone and Mediterranean diets
Although research about sirtuin, and the sirtfood diet, is ongoing, the foods included in the diet are also part of some of the healthiest eating styles in the world.
Plenty of research supports the healthfulness of foods like red wine, greens, and olive oil as part of the Mediterranean diet, as well as eating plans from so-called Blue Zones, where people have the longest lifespans in the world.
Goggins said that the concept of sirtfoods can help explain how and why those diets are beneficial, and how effective nutrition could be in improving our overall health, not just specific “good” or “bad” foods.
“Continual research is showing that it’s patterns of eating that are the biggest predictor of disease and how we age,” Goggins said.