Whether you’re trying to lose weight or becoming more mindful about fueling your body, it’s important to understand Sirtfoods. Sirtfoods are a group of foods rich in nutrients that help regulate your metabolism, burn fat, and increase muscle. Aidan Goggins and Glen Matten, authors of THE SIRTFOOD DIET, share what you need to know about Sirtfoods.
When we cut back on calories, it creates a shortage of energy that activates what is known as the “skinny gene.” This triggers a raft of positive changes. It puts the body into a kind of survival mode where it stops storing fat and normal growth processes are put on hold. Instead, the body turns its attention to burning up its stores of fat and switching on powerful housekeeping genes that repair and rejuvenate our cells, effectively giving them a spring cleaning. The upshot is weight loss and improved resistance to disease.
But, as many dieters know, cutting calories comes at a cost. In the short term, the reduction in energy intake provokes hunger, irritability, fatigue, and muscle loss. Longer-term calorie restriction causes our metabolism to stagnate. This is the downfall of all calorie-restrictive diets and paves the way for the weight to come piling back on. It is for these reasons that 99 percent of dieters are doomed to fail in the long run.
All of this led us to ask a big question: is it somehow possible to activate our skinny gene with all the great benefits that brings without needing to stick to intense calorie restriction with all those drawbacks?
Enter Sirtfoods, a newly discovered group of wonder foods. Sirtfoods are particularly rich in special nutrients that, when we consume them, are able to activate the same skinny genes in our bodies that calorie restriction does. These genes are known as sirtuins. They first came to light in a landmark study in 2003 when researchers discovered that resveratrol, a compound found in red grape skin and red wine, dramatically increased the life span of yeast.2 Incredibly, resveratrol had the same effect on longevity as calorie restriction, but this was achieved without reducing energy intake. Since then studies have shown that resveratrol can extend
life in worms, flies, fish, and even honeybees.3 And from mice to humans, early-stage studies show resveratrol protects against the adverse effects of high-calorie, high-fat, and high-sugar diets; promotes healthy aging by delaying age-related diseases; and increases fitness.4 In essence it has been shown to mimic the effects of calorie restriction and exercise.
With its rich resveratrol content, red wine was hailed as the original Sirtfood, explaining the health benefits linked to its consumption, and even why people who drink red wine gain less weight.5 However, this is only the beginning of the Sirtfood story.
With the discovery of resveratrol, the world of health research was on the cusp of something big, and the pharmaceutical industry wasted no time jumping on board. Researchers began screening thousands of different chemicals for their ability to activate our sirtuin genes. This revealed a number of natural plant compounds, not just resveratrol, with significant sirtuin-activating properties. It was also discovered that a given food could contain a whole spectrum of these plant compounds, which could work in concert to both aid absorption and maximize that food’s sirtuin-activating effect. This had been one of the big puzzles around resveratrol. The scientists experimenting with resveratrol often needed to use far higher doses than we know provide a benefit when consumed as part of red wine. However, as well as resveratrol, red wine contains an array of other natural plant compounds, including high amounts of piceatannol as well as quercetin, myricetin, and epicatechin, each of which was shown to independently activate our sirtuin genes and, more important, to work in coordination.
The problem for the pharmaceutical industry is that they can’t market a group of nutrients or foods as the next big blockbuster drug. So instead they invested hundreds of millions of dollars to develop and conduct trials of synthetic compounds in the hopes of uncovering a Shangri-la pill. Right now multiple studies of sirtuin-activating drugs are under way for a multitude of chronic diseases, as well as the first-ever FDA-approved trial to investigate whether a medicine can slow aging.
As tantalizing as that may seem, if history has taught us anything, it’s that we should not hold out much hope for this pharmaceutical ambrosia. Time and time again the pharmaceutical and health industries have tried to emulate the benefits of foods and diets through isolated drugs and nutrients. And time and time again it’s come up short. Why wait ten-plus years for the licensing of these so-called wonder drugs, and the inevitable side effects they bring, when right now we have all the incredible benefits available at our fingertips through the food we eat?
So while the pharmaceutical industry relentlessly pursues a druglike magic bullet, we have to retrain our focus on diet.
2. Howitz, K. T., et al. “Small molecule activators of sirtuins extend Saccharomyces cerevisiae lifespan.” Nature 425, 191–96 (2003).
3. Bonkowski, M. S., and Sinclair, D. A. “Slowing ageing by design: the rise of NAD+ and sirtuin-activating compounds.” Nat Rev Mol Cell Bio, advance online publication (2016).
5. Wang, L., Lee, I. M., Manson, J. E., Buring, J. E., and Sesso, H. D. “Alcohol consumption, weight gain, and risk of becoming overweight in middle-aged and older women.” Arch Intern Med 170, 453–61 (2010).