Michel Mon­tignac

Pi­o­neer of glycemic in­dex diet meth­ods whose books sold in their thou­sands

The Scotsman - - Obituaries -

Michel Mon­tignac, diet pro­moter. Born: 1944, in an­goulême, France. died: 22 au­gust, in an­nemasse, France, aged 66.

Michel Mon­tignac was the self-trained French diet pro­moter who wrote best-sell­ing books and built a busi­ness based on the idea that los­ing weight de­pends on what you eat, not how much.

Mon­tignac, who was over­weight as young man, and came from a fam­ily with a his­tory of obe­sity, was an ex­ec­u­tive for a phar­ma­ceu­ti­cal com­pany in the 1970s when he be­gan look­ing for ways to lose pounds.

Al­though he had no med­i­cal train­ing, he used sci­en­tific pa­pers to cre­ate a diet that di­vided car­bo­hy­drates into good or bad, depend­ing on their glycemic in­dex – the amount of glu­cose, a sugar, they re­lease into the blood.

Thirty years later, the author of The South Beach Diet, Dr Arthur Agat­ston, adopted a sim­i­lar ap­proach.

Test­ing the idea on him­self, Mon­tignac lost more than 30 pounds in three months, ac­cord­ing to his web­site, www.mon­tignac.com.

Mon­tignac con­tended that count­ing calo­ries to lose weight is a “sci­en­tific swin­dle”.

he ar­gued that a “sur­vival in­stinct” leads the body, af­ter an ini­tial weight loss, to store fat.

in­stead, he pro­posed that di­eters cut back sharply on foods known to raise blood sugar, and he de­vel­oped rules de­tail­ing which foods may be eaten with oth­ers to aid di­ges­tion.

On that ba­sis, pota­toes, white bread, white rice, corn, re­fined flour, corn­flakes and car­rots are bad. They should be elim­i­nated, Mon­tignac said, be­cause they con­tain starch that is con­verted into glu­cose.

Glu­cose prompts the pan­creas to pump out large amounts of in­sulin, which drives blood sugar into the body’s cells. When glu­cose is ex­ces­sive, the body lays down fat.

in the good cat­e­gory are whole­wheat bread, beans, lentils, whole­wheat pasta, green veg­eta­bles, wild rice and dark choco­late with a ca­cao con­tent of more than 65 per cent.

Mon­tignac’s the­ory was that al­though these foods also con­tain starch, their high fi­bre con­tent slows its con­ver­sion into glu­cose so that less is in­fused into the cells at one time.

in 1986, Mon­tignac pub­lished, at his own ex­pense, Dine Out and Lose Weight, aimed par­tic­u­larly at busi­ness ex­ec­u­tives who eat out fre­quently.

it sold 550,000 copies in France. A year later, he pub­lished Eat Your­self Slim ... and Stay Slim! a layman’s ver­sion that by 2005 had sold more than 16 mil­lion copies in 40 coun­tries.

Over the years he wrote around 20 books on di­et­ing and health, one of the bet­ter known re­cent pub­li­ca­tions be­ing The French Diet, in which he ex­plained why peo­ple from his home coun­try were less likely to get fat than most other peo­ple.

Mon­tignac also opened diet stores, spas and restau­rants through­out France.

“All tra­di­tional meth­ods of di­et­ing have amounted to a myth as big as com­mu­nism, and like com­mu­nism, they are des­tined to col­lapse,” Mon­tignac said in a 1993 in­ter­view.

De­spite Mon­tignac’s suc­cess, his method has had many crit­ics.

“The diet is ba­si­cally a de­light­ful, joy­ous swin­dle,” Dr Mar­ian Af­pfel- baum, a nutrition pro­fes­sor at the Bichat med­i­cal school in Paris, said in 1993.

Dr Jules hirsch, di­rec­tor of the lab­o­ra­tory of hu­man Be­hav­iour and Metabolism at Rock­e­feller Uni­ver­sity in Man­hat­tan, said that “al­most ev­ery di­etary pos­si­bil­ity has been tried, with al­ter­ations in the amount of fat ver­sus the amount of car­bo­hy­drates.”

he added: “in­ter­est­ing as these pos­si­bil­i­ties have been, the ver­dict over the decades seems to be that re­gard­less of the com­po­nents in the diet, the to­tal caloric in­take is the more im­por­tant fac­tor in pre­ven­tion or treat­ment of obe­sity.”

Michel Mon­tignac, who lived in Ju­vi­gny, haute-Savoie in France, is sur­vived by his daugh­ter, Sy­bille, who is a di­eti­cian.

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