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How Western and Eastern Diets Affect Fat Levels and Insulin Resistance

In recent years, there have been many debates on which diet is the best to follow. Many studies have shown that Eastern diets are better than Western diets; but to understand why an Eastern diet is so popular compared to a Western diet, you need to look at what each diet consists of, what the foods you consume do to the body, and the benefits they have.

The Eastern diet originated from Asian and Eastern cultures but it is also followed in Japan and Korea with their own particular food traditions. Food plays a vital role in ancient Chinese medicinal practice and that is why the ingredients and the effect the foods may have on the body, is so important. A few difference between Western and Eastern diets are that Western diets contain a lot of sugar, processed foods, as well as additives and preservatives, which may lead to conditions like allergies, weight gain and type 2 diabetes.

Around 16 million people in the US alone suffer from diabetes and more than 2,000 new cases are reported daily. In the UK, the number of adults diagnosed with diabetes is expected to rise to more than 4.5 million by 2030, if current lifestyle trends continue. In athletes, a condition like type 2 diabetes must be prevented and properly managed. This type of disease increases insulin resistance and lowers the athlete’s ability to utilise energy at a required optimum level. When this happens, the performance of the athlete is compromised.

Studying the Effects of Both Diets

PLOS ONE recently did a study where fifty people consumed a traditional Asian diet over eight weeks. After completing the first eight weeks, the candidates were given either the same diet or a traditional Western diet for another eight weeks. No candidate prepared his or her own food. The food that they consumed was prepared for them, keeping in mind that they were given three meals a day plus a snack. Whether a participant was on an Asian diet or a Western diet, the number of calories the food contained was the same and the calorie count was just enough to maintain their body weight.

The following was measured before, during and after the study: blood lipids, inflammation markers, bodyweight measurements and insulin resistance. This was done to indicate the differences between both diets.

The Participants

The fifty participants consisted of 28 East Asian Americans and 22 Caucasian Americans. It is a fact that Asians do have a higher rate of type 2 diabetes compared to other races, but in this study, all participants did have the risk of developing type 2 diabetes.

The diets consisted of macronutrients from carbohydrates, protein and fat. The Asian diet’s ratio to the diet consistency was 70:15:15 with high fibre and vegetable-based protein, while the Western diet ratio was 50:16:34 with low to moderate fibre and animal-based protein.

The Results

The Asian Diet provided the following results:
  • Insulin sensitivity
  • Reduction in body fat
  • Improved lipid profiles for Asians and Caucasians
  • Reduction in inflammation in Asians
These were the results from the Western Diet:
  • Increased body fat and insulin resistance worsened for the Asians
  • Body weight remained the same for the Asians
  • Caucasians showed an increase in body fat and body weight
  • No increase in insulin resistance for the Caucasians as long as a normal BMI levels were maintained
In Conclusion

There are different responses to diets. However, the results will depend on how long the population has been consuming a similar diet. No matter what diet you follow – this study showed that fibre is essential to any diet and so are essential fats. This shows us that there is no particular diet that is ideal for everyone but with the basics in place, you should explore and find a diet that works for you as an individual.

To develop your knowledge about nutrition, visit HFE, a leading provider of personal trainer courses in Manchester, London, Cardiff, Doncaster, York and Dudley, and other popular fitness qualifications including yoga, Pilates and exercise to music.


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