Diet important in weight-loss maintenance

Losing weight is easy. The challenge lies in keeping the weight from coming back. Weight maintenance is difficult due to either psychological (motivation begins to decline over time) or physiological (an increase in hunger that often accompanies weight loss) reasons (1). But as virtually everyone knows, regain of lost weight is usually certain. Against this background of gloom comes new hope, according to a recent study in the New England Journal of Medicine that demonstrates the superiority of a low-glycemic, moderate-protein diet as an effective strategy for maintenance of initial weight loss (2).

The study took place in eight European countries. The first phase of the trial involved participants who were placed on a low-calorie diet consisting of 800-1,000 calories for eight weeks through which they lost on average 22 pounds of body weight (and who knows how much muscle mass). After the weight-loss phase, the individuals were randomly assigned to one of five different diets and instructed to maintain their weight loss, although further weight reduction was allowed as well. Of the five groups, the one assigned to the low-protein and high glycemic-index diet regained their lost weight. This is the typical type of dietary advice that is usually recommended to everyone.

On the other hand, the higher-protein, low glycemic-index group lost an additional 5 percent of their body weight. In addition, they were less likely to drop out and had a higher rate of weight-loss maintenance. The other diets were between these extremes.

The authors’ conclusion was that the use of a higher-protein and lower glycemic-index diet was the most beneficial dietary strategy for both weight-loss maintenance and adherence. Furthermore, this type of diet may serve as an effective strategy for those whose barrier to weight-loss maintenance in the past has been physiological rather than psychological (2).

Maybe they just should have recommended the subjects read “The Zone,” which made the same dietary recommendations 15 years ago (3).

1. Ludwig DS and Ebbeling CB. “Weight-loss maintenance–mind over matter?” N Engl J Med. 363: 2159-2161 (2010)
2. Larsen TM, Dalskov SM, van Baak M, Jebb SA, Papadaki A, Pfeiffer AF, Martinez JA, Handjieva-Darlenska T, Kunešová M, Pihlsgård M, Stender S, Holst C, Saris WH, and Astrup A. “Diet, Obesity, and Genes (Diogenes) Project. Diets with high or low protein content and glycemic index for weight-loss maintenance.” N Engl J Med 363: 2102-2113 (2010)
3. Sears B. “The Zone.” Regan Books. New York, NY (1995)

Nothing contained in this blog is intended to be instructional for medial diagnosis or treatment. If you have a medical concern or issue, please consult your personal physician immediately.

Aspirin…not just for heart disease

As I pointed in my first book, “The Zone,” more than 15 years ago, aspirin remains a wonder drug because of its ability to reduce inflammation (1). The medical community now uses aspirin for the prevention of strokes and heart attacks, but a recent study may extend its anti-inflammatory benefits to cancer survivors.

A study pre-published online from The Lancet examined various clinical trials comparing the long-term mortality of those individuals who used aspirin or didn’t (2). This meta-analysis study indicated that relatively low-dose aspirin (about 75 mg or a baby aspirin a day) reduced cancer deaths in various long-term cancer survivors by about 20 percent. So should all of us be taking a baby aspirin daily? Possibly, but aspirin does have side effects, especially in terms of bleeding.

But one thing you can do with total safety is to boost your intake of fruits and vegetables. It turns out that fruits and vegetables contain salicylates, the group of compounds that represents the major active ingredient in aspirin. In addition, fruits and vegetables also contain other anti-inflammatory polyphenols (the chemicals that give plants their color). Since plants don’t have access to the local pharmacy to protect themselves from microbial invasion, they have to synthesize their own “drugs”. By consuming fruits and vegetables, we are constantly visiting our “food” pharmacy. Their defense mechanisms now become our nutritional allies in silencing inflammatory gene expression that is turned on when certain food components (such as omega-6 and saturated fats) fool the most primitive part of the immune system (the innate immune system) to think it is under microbial attack.

Most of the inflammation that drives cardiovascular disease and cancer starts with this type of cellular inflammation induced by our diet (3). It’s taken new breakthroughs in molecular biology to finally understand that what’s good for the plant is also going to be great for us if we want to live a longer and better life.

1. Sears B. “The Zone.” Regan Books. New York, NY (1995)
2. Rothwell PM, Fowkes FG, Belch JF, Ogawa H, Warlow CP, and Meade TW. “Effects of daily aspirin on long-term risk of death due to cancer: analysis of individual patient data from randomized trials.” Lancet, Early Online Publication, 7 December (2010)
3. Sears B. “The Anti-Inflammation Zone.” Regan Books. New York, NY (2005)

Nothing contained in this blog is intended to be instructional for medial diagnosis or treatment. If you have a medical concern or issue, please consult your personal physician immediately.

Does eating fat make you fat?

The 1990s brought with it an era of people fearing fat. After all, “if no fat touches my lips, then no fat reaches my hips”. Harvard took charge of this debate and declared war against fat, especially saturated fat. Manufacturers created everything from fat-free yogurt to cookies. Overall, fat intake did decrease nationwide during this time, but the waist lines of the U.S. population continued to expand. Despite recent reports about the Mediterranean diet and the benefits of monounsaturated fats, the low-fat craze still has many hardwired to think that eating higher-fat foods will make them fat. Although calorically speaking, fat is more energy dense than carbohydrates and protein, a recent study may help to ease people’s preconceived notions on the role of fat and weight gain.

There have been inconsistent findings in the literature on whether the type of fat consumed influences weight change. Even studies in which poly and monounsaturated fats have been substituted for saturated fat to lower cardiovascular disease were equally wishy-washy (1). In fact, a recent study published in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition questions whether dietary fat played a role in future weight gain (2). Of the more than 89,000 men and women studied, overall fat consumption ranged from 31.5 percent to 36.5 percent. No matter the total fat intake or the type of fat consumed, there was no effect on weight gain over the long term in either men or women. Maybe fat doesn’t make you fat.

This only proves you can always tell a Harvard man, you just can’t tell him very much.

1) Siri-Tarino PW, Sun Q, Hu FB, Krauss RM. Saturated fat, carbohydrate, and cardiovascular disease. Am J Clin Nutr. 2010 Jan 20.

2) Forouhi NG, Sharp SJ, Du H, van der A DL, Halkjaer J, Schulze MB, Tjønneland A, Overvad K, Jakobsen MU, Boeing H, Buijsse B, Palli D, Masala G, Feskens EJ, Sørensen TI, Wareham NJ. Dietary fat intake and subsequent weight change in adults: results from the European Prospective Investigation into Cancer and Nutrition cohorts. Am J Clin Nutr. 2009 Dec;90(6):1632-41.

Nothing contained in this blog is intended to be instructional for medial diagnosis or treatment. If you have a medical concern or issue, please consult your personal physician immediately.