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The Promise

It sounds like something out of a sci-fi movie or at least a far-out biology class. The idea behind Ultrametabolism: The Simple Plan for Automatic Weight Loss by Mark Hyman, MD, is that your diet can reprogram your genes.

The theory is that when you eat healthy foods, your genes ramp up your metabolism, helping you lose weight. The idea is part of a new field called nutrigenomics.

The concept is pretty basic: Eat healthy, low-fat food. Eating this way generally can help you lose weight, depending on how many calories you take in and how many you burn off.

Exactly how your food and your genes interact, and whether that affects weight loss, isn't clear yet.

What You Can Eat and What You Can't

Expect lots of fruits and vegetables, nuts, beans, whole grains, fatty fish, and lean poultry.

This diet ramps up over 8 weeks. Here's how it works:

  • Week 1: You get rid of processed food, sugar, refined carbs, alcohol, and caffeine.
  • Weeks 2 to 4: You also cut out wheat, dairy, and eggs. The diet plan claims that here you can lose 6 to 11 pounds.
  • Weeks 5 to 8: From now on, you'll follow a long-term healthy eating plan, high in healthy fats, fiber, plant proteins, and a small amount of lean meat. You can start adding back some alcohol and caffeine. How much? Less than three glasses of wine per week and no more than one cup of coffee a day. You'll also take supplements, including calcium, magnesium with vitamin D, and omega-3 fatty acids.

Level of Effort: High

This diet is very limited, especially the first 4 weeks.

Limitations: It will take some effort to avoid unprocessed foods, as well as wheat, eggs, and dairy. You also have to remember to take a lot of supplements. And you may miss coffee and wine.

Cooking and shopping: You can shop and cook like you normally would. Just skip processed and sugary foods.

Packaged foods or meals: No.

In-person meetings: No.

Exercise: You're strongly encouraged to add aerobic exercise and strength training to rev up your metabolism.

Does It Allow for Dietary Restrictions or Preferences?

Vegetarian or vegan: The diet includes options that would work for you.

Gluten-free: You'll avoid wheat during weeks 2-4 of this diet. But gluten isn't only in wheat, so you'll need to check food labels. The maintenance part of this plan is pretty flexible, so you can cut out gluten if you want to.

What Else You Should Know

The UltraMetabolism diet doesn't focus on portion sizes or calories. The plan claims to control hunger naturally; but if you're not careful, you could overeat.

Before you take all the recommended supplements, it's a good idea to check with a doctor to make sure they're safe for you.

Cost: There are no additional costs for food, but the supplements can get pricey. Hyman also recommends organic foods, which are often more expensive than conventional foods.

Support: You do this diet on your own.

What Dr. Melinda Ratini Says:

Does It Work?

By ridding your diet of processed foods and refined carbs, you'll probably lose the extra weight -- as long as you're using up more calories than you're taking in. This may be hard to figure out, though, since the plan doesn’t dwell on the math.

Science does support a key theme in the Ultrametabolism Diet, namely that an imbalance of proteins, carbs, and fats can lead to long-term illness. But there is no evidence that supports a one-size-fits-all diet plan that will lead to weight loss for all.

Is It Good for Certain Conditions?

The emphasis on complex carbs, fresh vegetables, and high-fiber foods is a time-tested recipe for heart health. Since you're preparing your own foods, you can adapt the recipes to avoid extra salt if you have high blood pressure and need to watch your sodium.

Weight loss and a healthy mix of complex carbs and lean protein are also important in the prevention and treatment of diabetes. Just let your doctor know if you have diabetes and are thinking about starting a new diet plan. You may need to change your diabetes treatment plan to avoid low blood sugar.

The Final Word

The Ultrametabolism Diet is simple to follow, at least in theory. You're likely to have a rough time at first, if you've been eating a lot of processed foods and simple carbs. Cutting out all wheat, dairy, and eggs in the second phase might be pretty hard, as well.

Hyman does a good job of outlining a healthy eating plan that helps keep the extra pounds off, favoring healthy fats, fiber, plant proteins, and lean meat. But it still may be a little restrictive for some people’s tastes.

It will be easiest to stick with this diet if you like to prepare your own foods and are comfortable around the kitchen. Because of all the restrictions, eating out may be a challenge.

WebMD Diet A-Z

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