The 80/10/10 Diet – Another Dangerous Fad?

Are we being ‘duped’ yet again in the hype behind the 80/10/10 diet? It’s not new, it has been around for many years with various titles such as ‘The Raw Food Diet’.

The apparent pioneer of this diet, Doctor Doug Graham, appears to believe he is the only living person who has successfully been in good health for the last 30 years.

Has he spoken to the universe? How can such a claim be made?

Is it really a life-changing diet, when we are all told that a balanced diet is the best for our seasoned bodies – let’s have a look at what this diet is, claims to be, and its benefits and drawbacks.

Summary: The 80/10/10 Diet is a low-fat, raw vegan (LFRV) diet made up of primarily raw fruits and tender, leafy greens. The 80/10/10 stands fror 80% carbs, 10% fats and 10% protein. It is promoted as the our natural diet and thus the most healtful & a long-term solution to ​diseas​e.

​What constitutes the 80/10/10 Diet?

This is a plant-based diet that is low in fat and often referred to as LFRV (low fat raw vegan).

It is hard to believe that a diet such as this can be healthy and sustainable – the title of it is enough to deter even hardened dieters or health conscious individuals looking for the key to eternal life.

The principles behind this ‘way of life’ and the percentage breakdown are:

  • 80% of calories should be gleaned from carbohydrates
  • 10% maximum from protein
  • 10% from fats

According to the creator, this is a long term diet that reaps the benefits of a long and healthy life, no obesity and a scarcity of life-threatening diseases.

Considering nobody has followed this diet for a lifetime, can we be sure that this is the key to optimum health?
Not sure on that one.

The only examples we can find are those of tribes living in the Amazon or Papua New Guinea up to the age of 100 and beyond, but that is a small percentage, but even they will eat insects and meat cooked over the fire when they can manage to hunt, in spite of their diets being largely plant based.

So, is this diet mumbo-jumbo, and will we see Doctor Doug living for another 50 years without the aid of cryogenics?

What happened to the 5-a-day principle, as opposed to chowing down on raw fruits and leafy greens almost 24/7, even though they can be delicious? The boredom factor is surely another mountain to climb to maintain sustainability.

The other slightly negative factor is the amount of food you have to consume, which for most people would be excessive.

The most prominent benefit is that this would greatly increase the amount of fruit and vegetables consumed by the average American family – which is generally seriously lacking in healthy content.

Why eat raw - or is cooking better?

The principle behind the 80/10/10 diet is that we are naturally frugivores and that our digestive system is physiologically designed to consume raw fruits and ​tender leafy greens.  It also states that we may tolerate cooked foods but they are not optimal for us.

​There are pros and cons in eating raw, not least of which is our physiological make-up.

The principle behind consuming raw food is based on fruit and vegetables maintaining their nutritional benefits that are killed off during the cooking process.

There is actually a level of fiction in this thought process as many vegetables benefit nutritionally by cooking, rather than when eaten raw

Whilst the majority of us can tolerate raw food, it is not always palatable to everyone.

Cooking is more or less crucial to our diets. It aids in digestion, as raw food consumption will use up more energy as we have to make more effort to bite and chew food in order for it to pass through our digestive systems.

Of course, for jaw and facial health, we do need to be chewing and chomping on raw fruits and veggies but we still need our calories.

Certain foods such as carrots, zucchini, and broccoli when boiled or steamed preserve their antioxidant content – a must for battling diseases in the modern world.

Raw food may well not be the best for many of us – our jaws and teeth are not those of our animal carnivore friends or our paleolithic ancestors.

According to raw food advocates, the cooking process is purportedly dangerous as it can produce toxic emissions (a sweeping statement, not all cooked food is potentially dangerous) that are the root of certain life-threatening illnesses, such as cancer, skeletal and muscular disabilities, thyroid problems and also fatigue or serious lack of energy.

Raw food however, can assist in detoxification of the body, which is not a bad thing to consider.

But where do you draw the line when such a raw food diet is completely out of balance?

If you are looking for cleansing or detoxifying after a period of ‘bodily food and drink abuse’, you can turn this around in 3 days.

In this instance, the only viable proposition is to consume smoothies, soups and salads which will provide you with the majority of nutrients you need and be a little easier on our consumption mechanisms.

There is a large amount of detailed information on the qualities and characteristics of cooked food vs. raw food available at https://www.scientificamerican.com/article/raw-veggies-are-healthier/

What you should and should not eat on a raw food diet

Based on the 80/10/10 principle of raw food eating which we have explained the ratios of, here is more to help you decide if this style of diet is right for you.

As 80% of your calories have to come from carbohydrates, you need to eat a hell of a lot of fruit and veg to get that level of intake. Is that really possible – maybe, but very difficult to sustain, and could also be extremely costly to facilitate and potentially, extremely boring!

Fruits

Almost any fruit is on the list to consume. However, you should watch the sugar intake as quite a few fruits are high in natural sugars and could play havoc with your system if eaten in large quantities2.

Bananas are high in carbohydrates, and other suitable fruits are grapes, kiwi, berries, apples, papaya, mango and all citrus fruits (however their carb level is minimal).

Bananas are often relied on by those who follow the diet because they are cheap to buy.  They also make it easier to get enough calories in.

Vegetables​

All leafy greens and cruciferous such as broccoli and cauliflower. Other vegetables and salad items such as celery, lettuce – in fact most vegetables. Varieties of squash are also acceptable but not particularly palatable raw!

You also need to have a level of ‘fatty fruits’ such as avocado and olives. More exotic vegetables such as ackee and durian fruit may be hard to come by depending where you live.

You can supplement the fat part of the diet by consuming some nuts and seeds as these are also healthy fats.

Recommendations from the good Doctor’s book state 90-97% of the calories should be from fruits (so now we are on a fruitarian diet!), 2-6% from leafy greens and other vegetables allowed, and 0-8% from nuts, seeds and other fruits.

How you work out those ratios is up to you to get the balance you want to be able to sustain this diet.

Remember to make smoothies and cold soups and juices on this diet – it may be the only way you can force this amount of fruito-vegetarian ingredients down into your digestive system!

The definite 'no's' on the 80/10/10 diet

Let’s start with the easiest thing to remember – DEFINITELY no cooked, bad-fats or high in protein foodstuffs. This eliminates all of the following:

Dairy

Anything containing milk, cheese, cream, yogurt, ice cream desserts or any variation of these products. All egg products should also be avoided – nothing scrambled, cooked or raw from any source of egg producers.

Fats (processed)

No butter, or similar spreads such as margarine or low fat spreads, ghee, vegetable or nut oils whatsoever.

No products that have been previously cooked or dried

Grains, canned goods such as lentils, beans, pulses, and dried fruit.

No meat,

however lean it is, must be totally avoided.

Fish and seafood

Same as meat, avoid at all costs.

Sauces​

No manufactured sauces such as ketchup, mayonnaise etc. and anything with added sugars and also any form of sweeteners. Avoid Chinese food and Indian food in particular as these will contain just about everything that is banned from this diet, particularly MSG (monosodium glutamate).

Drinks​

No alcohol or drinks containing sugar such as fizzy drinks, pops or sports drinks for energy. Tea, coffee and chocolate are also banned. Starbucks and similar outlets are off visitation rights!

Are there any real health claims about the 80/10/10 diet?

As usual, the internet is full of forums and comments on how people feel so marvelous after switching to being a fruitarian or a heavily fruit-based diet such as the 80/10/10.

Reports of incredible energy, weight loss etc., but where are the real medical and scientific results? The answer is there really aren't any!

The regime appears to go completely against what has become the natural balanced way to eat for a healthy lifestyle, with the ratios of nutrients consumed.

The information is purely based on what Dr. Graham states, and by the dubious claims of individuals, and not by any scientific body.

Sense should prevail here; if no University Research Departments can back it up, or there is no proof from scientific papers, then can it be believed? Or could it be downright dangerous?

Whilst the book claims that this diet can reduce blood pressure and cholesterol levels and enhance athletic performance and make you more vibrant than you have ever been, there is nothing to prove it, in spite of many well-known athletes who followed the diet saying so.

This is all very well, but even Dr.Doug states that this diet must be followed with cult-like worship and must include vigorous exercise every day – that is not a realistic pursuit for any normal individual. Failure rate must be particularly high.

Benefits of the 80/10/10 diet

The 80/10/10 lifestyle method supposedly claims that following this diet will reduce the likelihood of eating disorders, food cravings and increase energy, due to its high carb content.

It also states that raw food against cooked food will prevent hypothyroidism and promote weight loss, improve breathing, make you sleep better, give you more mental agility and clarity and an extended lifespan.

Along with clear skin, it would on the surface appear to be total nirvana.

The only benefit that is obviously correct is that eating fresh and unprocessed fruits and vegetables will promote a healthy body and life, but we have known that for years.

In general, vegan diets themselves can support many of the claims without the strict regime that has to be adhered to and the ratio of nutrient intake.

Drawbacks to the 80/10/10 diet

There are quite a few drawbacks converting to this lifestyle diet.

High Food Volumes

The first one that smacks you in the face time and time again is that of the high food volumes, and in particular, when it is recommended that you concentrate on one particular fruit at a time, i.e. ‘a mono-fruitarian diet’.

This appears to be extreme when you consider that the average female needs an intake of 1600-2000 calories per day, which would result in 5-6lbs of fruit and 3-4lbs of vegetables and a couple of spoons of nuts or seeds.

If your fruit of the day was bananas, you would be swinging through the trees by suppertime!

Equally so, the high ‘sugar’ intake of certain fruits would not suit diabetics whatsoever, even though the diet states that it can help prevent diabetes and stabilize blood sugar.

Coupled with the low fat and low protein element, it is difficult to see the benefits of this regime and no written proof of any health advantages whatsoever.

Teeth Problems​

Consuming vast amounts of fruits can also cause untold damage to your teeth. It's simple biology really; human teeth are not designed to be overloaded with sugar - can you begin to imagine the size of your dentist bills after a year or two of this eating plan when all of that fructose starts to cause cavities?

Cavities are one thing, but complete tooth loss as frequently reported on the internet by those who have followed such a religious and relentless diet pursuit will testify.

Lack of Protein

​There is currently no evidence to support a low protein diet which this diet encourages you to do by getting only 10% of your calories from it.  In fact, adding just a little more protein to meals can help fight off hunger3, reduce cravings4 and even help you keep lean muscle5 when trying ot lose weight.

Lack of adequate protein can cause untold muscular skeletal problems by diminishing muscle mass which can result in weakness and fatigue​6.

Many advocates of the diet will make a case that they get enough protein from plant based sources. However, my own experience has shown me that you definitely do not get enough protein. After 2 years of being on the diet I had a lot of muscle wastage.

​Lack of Healthy Fat

The 80/10/10 diet is very low on fat. It is even strict on eating healthy fats like avocado - it doesn't take much avocado to send you over the 10% ratio.​ Although low fat diets have been shown to be healthy; there is no evidence for the 10% cut off spouted here.

Getting adequate fat can help with hunger too.  Just that little bit more fat may be the little you need to stop yourself eating more food than you really want to.

Inadequate healthy fat intake can also cause brain deficiencies7 and weaken the heart8. So weak bones, weak heart and no brain power – what’s good about that?

Potential B12 Deficiency​

Another potential drawback that vegans often experience is deficiency in vitamin B12, which can cause problems with the nervous system, potential anemia, problems conceiving (even infertility) and skeletal issues such as osteoporosis9.

​Despite this being our "natural diet", many people who follow the diet get around this by taking a supplement of some form to compensate.  Some long-terms have ​even recommended ​supplements as a safety net.  ​

Surely if a diet is perpetuated as our natural diet because we are frugivores, then we SHOULD be able to get all the nutrients we need from it?  

One argument will have you believing it is down to soil depletion and another will be down to the damage your old diet has done to you. Which is another reason supplementation will be recommended.  

At the heart of the 80/10/10 diet though is the belief that supplementation is unnecessary because the diet provides sufficient amounts of b12 to complement the amount the body already makes.  ​

​Not Enough Iodine

Iodine could also be sadly lacking, as the diet recommends avoiding salt or even foods that are naturally salt-laden, such as seaweed. Not having enough iodine can lead to a whole host of problems including weight gain, depression, forgetfulness and dry skin to name a few.

Generally vegans tend to have ​lower blood iodine levels compared to vegetarians of up to 50%10.  Factoring in this risk as well as then restricting your diet further following Dr Graham's protocol, would suggest you are ​put yourself at a further increase risk of iodine deficiency.

Toilet Breaks In The Middle Of The Night

If you know much about this diet, then you will know that it is seen as a sign of good health if you have to get up in the night to urinate; in fact a few times is seen as even better.

In reality, this is seriously disruptive to your sleep and sleep is certainly important if you want to maintain your health and sanity. Not to mention peeing excessively could be a sign of diabetes.

You will also be peeing a lot during the day - all that water from the fruits and vegetables has to come out at some point.  

​It's Not Sustainable

​This diet simply isn't sustainable in the short term let alone the long term.  If you look at forums, it is littered with people trying to make it to the end of their first week without veering of course.  

There is a compromise though that many decide on.  Many people following the diet do so for the first 2 meals of the day (breakfast and lunch) then switch to a cooked meal for the evening, which is usually vegan and follows the high carb, low fat and protein ratios advocated.​

Psychological and Social Issues​

isolation on fruitarian diet

Finally, we should discuss the psychological impact of a diet such as this. The disciples of the 80/10/10 are almost cult-like, meaning that anybody that struggles to maintain this raw food eating plan with permanence and a (presumably gap-toothed) smile on their face is made to feel like a failure and a disappointment.

You may be surprised to learn that a preoccupation with eating only healthy food is actually categorized as an eating disorder and mental illness, named orthorexia nervosa11. How about that?

The 80/10/10 diet is so dangerous and restrictive that it has been known to cause mental illness, so there’s a double whammy – both physical and mental consequence. Is that really a price that you are willing to pay?

More negativities….

There is nothing more welcoming than a wholesome bowl of hot soup or stew, particularly during the winter months. But following the 80/10/10 diet, this is strictly taboo.

The diet creed is all about raw food and predicts all kinds of ‘nasty’ happenings if you consume hot cooked food, such as toxin overload and illnesses, particularly stomach related.

Once again, there is no scientific proof that this is the case and many foods benefit from cooking and actually enhance their nutritional benefits.

Natural spices and flavorings are also off limits, whereas certainly they improve the taste of what could be a bland and uninteresting plate.

Certain Middle Eastern and Far Eastern spices such as turmeric and cinnamon have scientifically proven benefits and have been used in medicine for thousands of years​12 – but these are off the list of approved foods.

Not using healthy flavorings in your food can result in lack of sustainability as the boredom factor will set in, further increasing the likelihood that this diet will be a 5-minute wonder.

Conclusion - Should you try it?

This diet is not for the faint-hearted, for sure. With no real proven benefits, what is the point? Even after researching this diet, there were no visible reasons that it will make you any healthier than a standard balanced diet, and quite probably turn you into a miserable individual as you sit in the corner munching your carrot, banana or whatever floats your sinking boat – meanwhile your friends tuck into a delicious, spice-laden and warming supper.

This diet seems to be based on mumbo-jumbo science with no facts and thrives on debasing cooked food under any circumstances. However, we are all individuals and should you wish to take this route, the choice is yours – and so are the potential unproven facts and risks involved.


REFERENCES

  1. www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S1878450X15000207
  2. http://ajcn.nutrition.org/content/86/4/895.full
  3. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/16002798
  4. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/20847729
  5. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/19927027/
  6. http://ajcn.nutrition.org/content/87/5/1567S.full
  7. www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC2805706
  8. www.umm.edu/health/medical/altmed/supplement/omega3-fatty-acids
  9. www.health.harvard.edu/blog/vitamin-b12-deficiency-can-be-sneaky-harmful-201301105780
  10. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/10211051/
  11. www.health.harvard.edu/staying-healthy/can-everyday-spices-make-you-healthier
  12. www.orthorexia.com/what-is-orthorexia

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