By now you’ve probably heard about intermittent fasting diets, like the 5:2, and the beneficial effect they can have on weight, as well as increasing life span and reducing the risk of certain diseases.
This is why they work: by temporarily cutting how many kilojoules you eat – even for just a day or two a week – you put your body into a stress mode that boosts levels of sirtuins – proteins produced by a specific group of genes that protect cells. Sirtfood Diet
But fasting isn’t the only way to bump up your body’s production of sirtuins. Including particular foods in your diet will do it too. Dubbed ‘sirtfoods’, they contain potent chemical compounds that work as sirtuin activators to trigger the substance in the body. Here we look at some ways you can use sirtfoods to improve your health.
WHAT’S SO GOOD ABOUT SIRTUINS, ANYWAY?
There are seven different sirtuins, named SIRT1 through to SIRT7, and while the exact function of all seven hasn’t yet been discovered, research shows that activating them can help in the following ways.
Helps control weight
Lab-based studies have not only shown how interventions that activate sirtuins tend to result in significantly lower body weights, but that sirtuins actually protects against weight gain, even in the presence of a high-fat diet.
As well as protecting neurons against the damage caused by diseases like Alzheimer’s, sirtuins boost memory and learning skills by enhancing synaptic plasticity, or how well the brain’s neurons are able to adjust their connections in response to new information.
Protects against diabetes.
Increasing sirtuin activity has been shown to have a protective effect against insulin resistance, a key risk factor for type 2 diabetes. By the same token, diminished sirtuin activity been linked to an increased risk of diabetes.
The chemicals that work as sirtuin activators affect how sirtuin works in different cells, turning it on in normal, healthy cells, but switching it off in cancer cells, which encourages them to die.
Slows the ageing process
A number of animal-based studies have linked activating sirtuin proteins with a longer, healthier lifespan. Researchers say it’s thanks to the fact that sirtuins act as guardian enzymes that protect cells and slow down how quickly they age.
SIRTFOODS SHOPPING LIST
It’s one of the best sources of a phytochemical called piceatannol, which stimulates sirtuin expression in human cells. Eat fresh passionfruit rather than the canned variety (which is usually just the pulp), as research shows it’s the seeds that are rich in piceatannol.
It contains something called epigallocatechin-3-gallate (EGCG), a phytochemical that activates and controls the specific sirtuins that have an anti-cancer action. To get the most EGCG in every cup, drink matcha, a powdered tea that contains at least three times as much EGCG as other varieties of green tea.
They contain resveratrol. That’s the antioxidant that’s been linked to a variety of health benefits, including protection against heart disease, but it’s also been identified as a sirtuin activator. To make the most of your berries, eat them fresh and raw because exposure to heat strips blueberries of their resveratrol content.
Good news – like blueberries, chocolate also contains the sirtuin-activating antioxidant resveratrol. But not all chocolate products are created equal. Scientists suggest ditching the milk chocolate in favour of dark chocolate, but for the biggest chocolate-based hit of resveratrol, choose cocoa powder or baking chocolate, which both contain more resveratrol than any type of ready-to-eat chocolate.
Olive oil is rich in the sirtuin activator oleuropein. For the best effect, use extra-virgin olive oil (EVoo).’The health benefits start at about two tablespoons a day,” says research dietitian Mary Flynn. If that sounds like a lot of oil, don’t be concerned. “Patients who use EVoo as part of a weight-loss program lose weight better than on a low-fat diet,”she says.
It’s a source of the isofl avones that have been shown to boost sirtuins. To absorb as much of the isofl avones in a serve of tofu as possible, eat it alongside some asparagus, garlic and onions. All three vegetables contain inulin, a starchy carbohydrate that increases the body’s ability to absorb isofl avones.
Turmeric contains curcumin, another sirtuin activator that doubles as an antioxidant. To maximise absorption of curcumin, use the spice in a dish that also contains black pepper – the piperine in the pepper makes it easier for the body to absorb any curcumin that’s present in a meal.
They contain quercetin, another sirtuin-activating polyphenol. For the biggest hit of the polyphenol, pick red onions (which are particularly high in quercetin) and sauté or bake, but don’t boil them. While the first two cooking methods bump quercetin levels up by as much as 25 per cent, boiling decreases it by 18 per cent.
WHAT ARE SIRT FOODS AND WHY ARE THEY SPECIAL?
SIRT foods are super antioxidants that activate the sirtuin genes in our body, producing an increased fat-burning response. In a nutshell, eating more of these foods will boost your metabolism and help you lose weight faster.
THE SIRTUIN GENES
There are seven sirtuin genes in humans, imaginatively-named SIRT1 to SIRT7. Geneticists have done several studies on the sirtuins and have had positive results relating to increased lifespan, metabolism and anti-ageing. Scientists are only just beginning to understand the function of individual genes and there is a lot still to be done, particularly related to how the genes work together.
SIRT1, SIRT3 and SIRT4 function predominantly on the metabolism, with SIRT4 specifically related to insulin sensitivity. SIRT2, SIRT6 and SIRT7 have more anti-ageing tasks related to cell and DNA repair. The individual genes do not work in isolation, but in combination, in ways that we do not yet fully understand. What is abundantly clear is that the sirtuin family of genes are extremely valuable within the body and activating these genes makes us
healthier, promotes weight-loss and helps us age gracefully. So how do we go about making these genes work better?
It has recently been established that there are two main triggers for the sirtuin genes. One is calorie restriction and the other is SIRT activators.
Foods that contain a rich source of SIRT activators are collectively called SIRT foods.
Perhaps you’ve tried calorie restriction, fasting or the 5:2 Diet? They definitely work and can produce dramatic results but you need a lot of willpower to stick to the diets over the long term. What if there is an alternative, where you substitute special foods for fasting or calorie restriction? Not only that, but these special foods are easy to come by and are tasty, flavoursome and wholesome.
With a SIRT-rich diet, your genes benefit in a very similar way to calorie restriction … without restricting calories.
SIRTUINS AND YOUR HEALTH
When you activate the SIRT proteins in your body, they act as ‘housekeepers’ doing all the hard work that other genes don’t or can’t do. Sirtuins are a family of age-related proteins. The main role of sirtuins is to selectively regulate the activity of key genes responsible for metabolism and cell defence:
1 Increase fat metabolism, burning more calories from fat
It has been shown that SIRT activation shifts metabolism away from using glucose as an energy source, favouring fat synthesis.
2 Reduce insulin response
The hormone Insulin-like Growth Factor 1 (IGF-1) is proven to decrease as SIRT genes are activated. IGF-1 is produced in the liver and is similar to insulin. Its purpose in the body is to make cells grow and produce new cells. When levels of IGF-1 decrease, our body produces few new cells and concentrates on repairing old ones. This state of ‘-repair’ is very beneficial as it slows down the ageing process.
3 Fight inflammation
Through their powerful antioxidant effect, sirtuins reduce oxidative stress, which has positive repercussions for cardiovascular protection and heart health.
HOW DO SIRTUINS HELP YOU LOSE WEIGHT?
Triggering your SIRT genes sparks a change in your metabolism that breaks down more fat cells. The activated SIRTs increase the amount of a neurotransmitter called norepinephrine, which is used by the nervous system as a signal to fat cells, telling them to break down fat. The signal telling the fat cell to convert fat to energy is stronger, increasing fat burning.
Want to bum more fat?
Drink green tea. Green tea combines SIRT activators and a (small) dose of caffeine. The caffeine enhances the effect of the SIRTs, meaning more fat is broken down.
Natural appetite suppressant effect When the body breaks down fat. the fat is converted into energy. This energy is used immediately by the body. This has a positive effect on how you feel, giving your energy levels a boost and decreasing hunger.
Converting fat to muscle
Combining SIRTs with exercise boosts the fat-burning effect even further. If you exercise the energy released from fat cells is available for strengthenmg muscles.
In practice this means that if you follow the SIRT diet and exercise several times a week you will not only lose weight, but you will look and feel leaner as some of the weight has been converted into muscle.
For absolute peak fat-burning performance when exercising, drink two cups of green tea (for the SIRTs and the caffeine) within one hour before or after exercise.