Forget calorie-counting and low-fat diets; focus on eating healthful foods, say experts
We need to stop counting calories and focus instead on the nutritional value of the foods we eat if we want to protect ourselves from heart disease, according to a provocative commentary published this week in Open Heart, the official journal of the British Cardiovascular Society.
Making more healthful dietary choices would “substantially and rapidly” reduce obesity, related diseases (such as type 2 diabetes) and the risk of heart disease — for individuals as well as for entire populations, the commentary argues.
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And what is a healthful diet? A high-fat Mediterranean-style one, say the commentary’s three authors.
Those authors are Dr. Assem Malhotra, a British cardiologist who has been a prominent critic of the idea that saturated fat must be avoided to reduce the risk of heart disease, James Di Nicolantonio, a pharmacologist and cardiovascular researcher at Saint Luke’s Mid-America Heart Institute and an associate editor of Open Heart, and Dr. Simon Capewell, a professor of public health and policy at the University of Liverpool.
Not all calories are equalAs the three experts point out in their commentary, “focusing on total energy consumed [calories], as opposed to nutritional value, has been exploited by the food industry, which has added sugar to over 80% of all processed foods.”
These added-sugar calories should not be considered equal to calories from other food sources, they stress.
For example: Drinking a can of cola, which contains about 150 calories of added sugar, each day has been associated with a significant increased risk of type 2 diabetes. By comparison, the daily consumption of a handful (one ounce) of nuts, which contains about 200 calories, or four tablespoons of extra virgin olive oil, which contains about 500 calories, has been associated with a reduced risk of heart attack and stroke.
(FYI: These findings all come from observational studies, which can demonstrate only a correlation between two things, in these cases, a particular food and better — or worse — health. Observational studies can’t prove cause and effect.)
The commentary’s authors also cite a few clinical trials to back up their points, including a 2013 trial that switched some people to a Mediterranean diet rich in olive oil, nuts, beans, fish, fruits and vegetables but did not instruct them to lose weight or to increase their exercise. That study found a 30 percent reduction in heart attacks, strokes and deaths from heart disease among the people who switched their diet — regardless of any changes in their weight.
The researchers ended that study early because they believed it would be unethical to continue without offering the diet to all the participants.
The failure of fad diets
The Open Heart commentary’s authors are as harsh on the weight-loss industry as they are on the food industry for misleading the public about food, calories, weight and health.
“The weight loss industry, which emphasises calorie restriction over good nutrition, generates $58 billion in revenue annually in the USA, even though long-term follow-up studies reveal that the majority of individuals regain virtually all of the weight that was lost during treatment irrespective of whether they maintain their diet or exercise programme,” they write (with British spellings).
“Rapid weight loss and regain that can occur from fad dieting is actually detrimental to health,” they add. “Such ‘weight cycling’ contributes to hypertension, insulin resistance and [high cholesterol] resulting in increased mortality risk and worse cardiovascular outcomes.”
Needed: new policies
Medications are also not going to be a sustainable answer to the growing global burden of disease caused by poor diets, the commentary’s authors conclude.
Instead, lowering that burden is going to require “policy interventions that make healthier diet choices easier (the ‘default option’),” they write. “The most powerful and effective policies include taxation on sugary drinks, and subsidies to increase the affordability and availability of healthier foods including nuts vegetables and fruit, in addition to controls on the marketing of junk foods and clear package labeling.”
“It is time to stop counting calories, and time to instead promote good nutrition and dietary changes that can rapidly and substantially reduce cardiovascular mortality,” they conclude. “The evidence indeed supports the mantra that ‘food can be the most powerful form of medicine or the slowest form of poison.” Recommending a high fat Mediterranean-type diet and lifestyle to our patients, friends and families, might be a good place to start.”
For many years, obesity was considered a problem of willpower, but the American Medical Association now classifies it as a disease.
Obesity has spread across the United States in recent history, leaving about two-thirds of American adults overweight or obese and at risk of developing obesity related diseases like diabetes and heart disease.
By its simplest definition, obesity means we have too much body fat, but the causes and effects of the condition can be complicated.
“For each person the reason why we gain weight varies,”It’s not simply a matter of taking in too many calories or not burning enough calories—it’s much more complex than that.”
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So many different factors can contribute to the problem that it’s often difficult to lose weight and get obesity under control. How Do We Become Obese?
To understand how we gain weight, it helps to first understand how we take in and process energy. All of us use calories from food as fuel for everything we do. Whether you’re going on a leisurely bike ride, chasing after your kids or cleaning up the dishes after dinner, you need energy from food to do it.
But when we don’t use all the calories we eat, our bodies convert them into fat. For our ancestors, this provided a backup energy source when food was scarce, but we don’t have as much trouble finding things to eat these days.
“It’s very easy now. You’ve got premade meals that you pull out of a package and you throw in the microwave, or you go to a local restaurant and within 20 minutes whatever food you want is at the table,”
Convenient, unhealthy foods are all around us, and as a result, we tend to eat more calories than we need.
We’re also surrounded by cars, computers, TVs, elevators and other things that encourage us to be as inactive as possible, so we’re less likely to burn the calories we take in.
Many people gain weight because they continue to take in more energy than they use through daily activity, but obesity can have more complicated causes as well. According to The AMA people also often gain weight because of things like: A family history of obesity An environment that promotes weight gain Overeating due to stress.
How Does Obesity Affect Us? Obesity can make every physical task more difficult, but it can also take an emotional toll.
The obese are often discriminated against or looked down on, while the fear of public humiliation caused by not fitting in an airplane or movie theater seat can keep many obese people from doing things they would otherwise enjoy.
But health may be where obesity makes the clearest impact.
Excess weight affects every part of your body, and this means a higher risk for diseases like:
Body mass index (BMI) is used to estimate body fat based on height and weight. As this number gets higher, so does the mortality rate, because the lives of many obese people are cut short by obesity-related diseases.
Overcoming Obesity Even a moderate amount of weight loss can help obese people improve their lives and lower the risk of obesity-related diseases.
However, obesity is a chronic condition—though there are many ways to lose weight, weight loss diets are often short-term, and the weight comes back when the diet ends.
To keep weight off, we typically need: Long-term dietary changes Long-term lifestyle changes A healthier relationship with food More daily physical activity It can be challenging to make long-term changes like these without help and support, especially for the severely obese.
It's natural for anyone trying to lose weight to want to lose it very quickly.
But evidence shows that people who lose weight gradually and steadily (about 1 to 2 pounds per week) are more successful at keeping weight off.
Healthy weight loss isn't just about a "diet" or "program".
It's about an ongoing lifestyle that includes long-term changes in daily eating and exercise habits.
To lose weight, you must use up more calories than you take in. Since one pound equals 3,500 calories, you need to reduce your caloric intake by 500—1000 calories per day to lose about 1 to 2 pounds per week.
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Once you've achieved a healthy weight, by relying on healthful eating and physical activity most days of the week (about 60—90 minutes, moderate intensity), you are more likely to be successful at keeping the weight off over the long term.
Losing weight is not easy, and it takes commitment. But if you're ready to get started, we've got a step-by-step guide to help get you on the road to weight loss and better health.
Even Modest Weight Loss Can Mean Big Benefits The good news is that no matter what your weight loss goal is, even a modest weight loss, such as 5 to 10 percent of your total body weight, is likely to produce health benefits, such as improvements in blood pressure, blood cholesterol, and blood sugars.
For example, if you weigh 200 pounds, a 5 percent weight loss equals 10 pounds, bringing your weight down to 190 pounds. While this weight may still be in the "overweight" or "obese" range, this modest weight loss can decrease your risk factors for chronic diseases related to obesity.
So even if the overall goal seems large, see it as a journey rather than just a final destination. You'll learn new eating and physical activity habits that will help you live a healthier lifestyle. These habits may help you maintain your weight loss over time.
In addition to improving your health, maintaining a weight loss is likely to improve your life in other ways. For example, a study of participants in the National Weight Control Registry* found that those who had maintained a significant weight loss reported improvements in not only their physical health, but also their energy levels, physical mobility, general mood, and self-confidence.
Get on the road to weight loss and better health.
Improving Your Eating Habits Your eating habits may be leading to weight gain; for example, eating too fast, always clearing your plate, eating when you not hungry and skipping meals (or maybe just breakfast).
Keeping the Weight OffLosing weight is the first step. Once you've lost weight, you'll want to learn how to keep it off.
Reference for 10%: NIH, NHLBI Obesity Education Initiative. Clinical Guidelines on the Identification, Evaluation, and Treatment of Overweight and Obesity in Adults. Available online:
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Understanding Weight Loss PlateausSometimes after a period of steady weight loss, the scale stops moving. Without making any conscious changes to your diet and exercise habits, your weight loss halts. This is known as a weight loss plateau.
In nature, a plateau is a flat and expansive piece of land that contrasts with the surrounding landscape. During your weight loss program, a plateau can be a frustrating period that may test your will to continue striving toward your ultimate weight loss goal.
Why Plateaus Happen
A weight loss plateau is one of the more common obstacles encountered during any weight loss program. When you start your weight loss program, cutting even a moderate level of calories and exercising lightly may result in weight loss.
As you lose weight, your body’s needs change. To continue losing weight, you need to make adjustments to your eating and exercise habits.
Overcoming a weight loss plateau may require:
Dietary changes: This may include slight changes to your meal replacement plan, reduced calorie intake and food substitutions. Exercise changes: Increasing the amount and the intensity of your current activity level can help you burn more calories.
Medication changes: Changing the type or dosage of current weight loss medications, or introducing weight loss medications can help you push past a plateau. Behavioral changes: Addressing current habits and finding ways to make small improvements may encourage further weight loss.
Each of these factors will contribute to small improvements in weight loss efforts. When combined, they can help you manage weight loss long-term. Assessing Habits and Moving Forward
A weight loss plateau is an opportunity to re-assess your progress and determine what other changes you can make to your behavior, eating and exercise habits. In many cases, as we adjust to a healthier lifestyle, the habits we developed to encourage weight loss start to falter. A plateau is an opportunity to evaluate what changes you’ve made, and how those changes are holding up in your day to day life.
• When you encounter a plateau, consider:
• Your sleeping habits
• How much water you drink daily
• Snacking habits
• Portion sizes
• Daily activity level
• How you are managing stress
Take a weight loss plateau as a chance to re-focus your weight loss efforts by making small adjustments to behaviors like these. Your weight loss doctor can help you develop a new strategy for continuing towards your wellness goals after reaching a plateau.
Portion Control is essential durning a plateau
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Here's my answer. . .
Most people are emotional eaters, they have stress in their lives that releases cortisol, a hormone your their own body produces which can rage havoc within their bodies, not allowing a person to lose weight. . .
Medical conditions, Meds, Oh, and then there's the Food Industry, remember. . .10, 15 or 20 years ago when it was just fine to Super Size It ? People are still eating The Super Sizing Diet.
2. Big Pharma has produced lots of weight loss pills that have been taken off the market by the FDA.
Which is why many, just not myself, are trying to help individuals with natural alternatives.
3. I do not promote Rapid Weight Loss when someone says they have lots 20 LBS in less than a month. . .
It's Impossible! They would be starving their bodies of all kinds of nutrients, and keeping the YoYo effect going.
Healthy Weight loss happens according to your personal Metabolism! 6-12 weeks. . . No quick fix!
How long did it take to put that weight on?
Not long, double that time to take the weight off!
Eat sensible use Portion Control. . . Try and at least walk a few minutes every day. . .