You might say Dr. Michael Aziz believes in the middle way. In his new book, "The Perfect 10 Diet," Aziz proposes a weight-loss plan that combines elements of both low- and high-carb diets -- and rejects aspects of each of them as well.
It's all about finding balance, the board-certified internist writes. Specifically, Aziz -- founder and director of New York's Midtown Integrative Medicine -- believes we need to be eating the right foods to balance 10 key hormones that contribute to our weight and health.
These hormones are insulin, glucagon, leptin, thyroid hormone, human growth hormone, cortisol and DHEA, as well as estrogen, progesterone and testosterone. The latter sex hormones may not be crucial to survival, he writes, but they can affect how you age, look and feel.
Aziz is not shy about proclaiming what his program will do for you. His diet isn't just for losing weight, he writes; it will benefit anyone who wishes to reduce the risk of many cancers, boost memory, lower anxiety, improve his or her sex life and have a glowing complexion -- to name just a few promised results.
What does Aziz propose? First of all -- and he will find little argument among many nutritionists here -- he says to cut out sugar, products containing high-fructose corn syrup and anything made with white flour. Low-fat and fat-free baked products are to be avoided as well. Steer clear of soy protein isolates, processed meats with nitrates and anything with monosodium glutamate, he says.
And while you're cleaning out your cupboards, get rid of the refined polyunsaturated vegetable oils, as well as the margarine and anything containing trans fats. These are "killer" fats, in his view.
That doesn't mean all fats are bad. In fact, he believes the popularity of low-fat diets is one reason for the obesity epidemic. He says to choose full-fat organic milk, butter, eggs, cheese and yogurt products in moderation rather than the low-fat versions because saturated fats and cholesterol-rich foods are needed to satisfy appetite, maintain sex hormone levels and assist in proper cell functioning. Also on his "good" fat list are avocados and nuts and olive, palm and coconut oils.
His Perfect 10 food pyramid has at its base fiber-rich vegetables, fruits and fats from natural sources. Above that on the pyramid is protein from poultry, fish and other seafood. Whole grains, nuts, legumes and calcium supplements or dairy are included in smaller amounts. Refined carbs and red meat should be eaten only occasionally.
His ideal is a diet that gets 40% of its calories from carbohydrates, 40% from fat and 20% from protein. This proportion, and the foods he recommends, will support the hormones needed for health, vitality and weight loss, he says.
To get started losing weight, he offers a three-stage plan. The first stage is a variation on the so-called Paleolithic diet and focuses on vegetables, fruits, poultry, seafood, beans, nuts and seeds. He says most people lose 10 to 14 pounds in this three-week phase. Subsequent stages -- the last being a maintenance phase -- add more foods in moderation.
There's much that makes sense in Aziz's program -- once you get past the sweeping claims ("The Perfect 10 Diet is the only diet in the world that will help you balance these ten important hormones"), unsupported statements ("Centenarians ... all have one thing in common -- low insulin levels") and occasional leaps of logic.
Though his book may not win awards for its prose, it's clear the doctor has much passion for his subject. His diet apparently has a following, and his message is one that some may want to hear.
-- Anne Colby
Photo: "The Perfect 10 Diet," Michael Aziz, Cumberland House, $24.99