If you read my post on December 16th, you understand that Chris Voigt noticed remarkable weight loss and improvements in health markers as a result of 8 weeks of eating almost nothing but potatoes. This has still left many people scratching their minds, because potatoes aren’t seen as a healthy food generally.
This is partially due to the fact that potatoes are very rich in carbohydrates, which also happens to be a quickly digested type, producing a high glycemic index. It’s remarked that potatoes are low in minerals and vitamins in comparison to vegetables on a per-calorie basis, but I believe it’s a deceptive comparison because potatoes are much more calorie-dense than most vegetables.
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Potatoes compare favorably to other starchy staples such as a loaf of bread, rice, and taro. Over the course of 8 weeks, Mr. Voigt lost 21 pounds. To the most interesting question: why did he lose fat? Losing fat requires that energy leaving your body go beyond energy entering your body. But of course, that’s apparent but it generally does not get us anywhere. In the first three weeks of his diet, Mr. Voigt quotes that he was only eating 1,600 calories per day.
That’s why he lost weight! Well, yes. But let’s look into this more deeply. Mr. Voigt was not deliberately restricting his calorie intake at all, and he did not intend this as a weight-loss diet. In my interview, He was asked by me if he was hungry through the diet. I asked him how his vitality was also, and he said that it was very good repeatedly, maybe even better than usual. Those weren’t idle questions. Calorie restriction causes a predictable physiological response in humans that includes hunger and decreased energy. It is the starvation response, and it’s powerful in both lean and obese people, as anyone understands who has tried to lose extra fat by decreasing calorie intake alone.
The fact that he didn’t experience food cravings or fatigue means that his body did not think it was starving. Why would that be? I believe Mr. Voigt’s diet reduced his fat mass ‘setpoint’. Quite simply, for whatever reason, the dietary plan made his body ‘want’ to be leaner it already was. His body started releasing stored excess fat that it considered excess, and therefore he had to eat less food to complete his energy needs.
You see this same sensation very clearly in rodent, nourishing studies. Changes in diet structure/quality can cause dramatic shifts in the fat mass setpoint (5, 6). Mr. Voigt’s urge for food would eventually have to come back to normal once he had stabilized at a lesser surplus fat mass, as rodents do just. One possibility is that cutting the wheat, sugar, most vegetable oil, and other processed food out of Mr. Voigt’s diet was responsible for the weight loss.
Many people find, for example, that they lose fat through the elimination of whole wheat using their diet simply. Another possibility that I’ve been exploring recently is that changes in palatability (pleasantness of flavor) influence the fat mass setpoint. There is proof in rodents that it can, although it’s not entirely consistent. So I think that both a big change in diet structure/quality and a reduction in palatability probably added to a decrease in Mr. Voigt’s extra fat mass setpoint, which allowed him to reduce unwanted fat mass without triggering a starvation response (hunger, exhaustion).
The rest of his improvements in health markers were partly because of the weight loss, including his reduced fasting glucose, decreased triglycerides, and presumably increased insulin awareness. They may also have been partially due to too little industrial food and increased intake of certain micronutrients such as magnesium. Perhaps one of the most striking changes was in his computed LDL cholesterol (“bad” cholesterol), which reduced by 41%, placing him in a variety that’s more typical of healthy non-industrial ethnicities including hunter-gatherers.