Trying to Cut Down on Doctor’s Visits?
James McIntosh, a Canadian researcher and professor in the Department of Economics at Concordia University, found that obese individuals visit the doctor more frequently than regular smokers who are at a healthy weight. He believes that obesity is a more serious health problem than smoking, because we already know how bad smoking is for our health.
According to his research, if obesity were not a factor, doctor visits would decrease by 10 percent. McIntosh believes that one solution could be economic incentives. “Just as smokers have higher life insurance premiums, people who are obese could also be made to pay more for health insurance. The complication is that obesity tends to be more prevalent among people with low income, making this solution difficult to implement.”
Menopause Symptoms Can be Reduced Using a Low-Fat Diet
The Women's Health Initiative study of 17,473 women that was published in the current issue of Menopause found that those with menopausal symptoms who were not on hormone replacement therapy and who lost either 10 or more pounds or 10 or more percent of their baseline body weight by following a diet that was low in fat and high in whole grains, fruit and vegetables were more likely to reduce or eliminate hot flashes and night sweats after one year, compared with those in a control group who maintained their weight.
The researcher believes that greater body fat provides insulation that hinders heat loss and that the hot flashes and night sweats associated with menopause are a way for the body to dissipate that heat. Therefore, weight loss, especially loss of fat mass but not lean body mass, might help alleviate those symptoms.
When You Eat Does Matter — So Eat While You’re Active
The best time to consume those high-calorie foods is during periods of activity, not when you’re lounging around watching TV, according to researchers at the Academic Medical Center of the University of Amsterdam in the Netherlands. The researchers “gave rats either rodent chow or chow plus either saturated fat or a sugar solution. One group was allowed to consume the diets freely whereas the other groups were only allowed to eat either the fat or sugar during their inactive period. They found that rats consuming all of their sugar solution in the inactive period gained more weight than rats consuming all their sugar solution during the free period, even though their total caloric intake was the same. They also gained more weight than rats consuming the saturated fat solely during the inactive period. The greater body weight gain in rats consuming sugar in the inactive period was associated with less heat production.”
Too Much Fat in Your Diet = Worse Sleep
Researchers from the University of Minnesota and Veterans Affairs Medical Center, Minneapolis, found that prolonged exposure to a high-fat diet reduces the quality of sleep. The researchers measured “24-hour sleep and wake states after rats consumed a high-fat diet for eight weeks. Compared to rats that consumed a standard laboratory chow, the rats on the high-fat diet slept more, but sleep was fragmented. The increased sleep time of the rats on the high-fat diet occurred mainly during the normally active phase of the day, resembling excessive daytime sleepiness observed in obese humans.” The researchers believe that the disruptive sleep cycle results from a decrease in sensitivity to a brain chemical called orexin, which is important for stabilizing sleep and wake states.
Cut Your Food Up Into Small Portions and Lose Weight
Researchers at the Department of Psychology at Arizona State University found that when you cut up food into smaller pieces versus a single-piece portion of the same amount of food you decrease your intake. The idea is that people use numbers as a cue to judge quantities of food, with larger numbers usually associated with larger quantities. “Therefore, a food portion cut into multiple, bite-sized pieces may perceptually look [like] more and therefore elicit greater satiation than the same portion presented as a single, large piece.” In this study, the researchers gave 301 college students a pre-measured approximately 3-ounce bagel uncut or cut into quarters. Several minutes after the bagel was eaten, the entire group was told they could have more if they wanted. Those who received the single, uncut bagel ate more calories than those who received the multiple-piece bagel. “This shows that food cut into multiple pieces may be more satiating than a single, uncut portion of food.”
Don’t Skip Meals and Lose Weight
Women who reported skipping meals lost almost 8 fewer pounds than women who did not. "The mechanism is not completely clear, but we think that skipping meals or fasting might cause you to respond more favorably to high-calorie foods and therefore take in more calories overall," said Anne T. McTiernan, director of the Fred Hutchinson Center’s Prevention Center in Seattle and lead author of the study. "We also think skipping meals might cluster together with other behaviors. For instance, the lack of time and effort spent on planning and preparing meals may lead a person to skip meals and/or eat out more."
Just Seeing Fattening Foods May Trigger Hunger
Seeing high-calorie foods even in a photo can stimulate the brain's appetite and create an increased desire for food, according to Kathleen Page, M.D., assistant professor at the University of Southern California, Los Angeles. In this study, researchers showed participants photos of high-calorie foods, such as ice cream and cupcakes, as well as low-calorie foods, such as fruits and vegetables, as well as non-food items. “After each block of similar images, participants rated, on a scale of 1 to 10, their hunger and their desire for either sweet or savory foods. Halfway through the scans, participants drank 50 grams of glucose — the amount of sugar in a can of soda—on one occasion and an equivalent amount of fructose on another occasion.”
The researchers then used functional magnetic resonance imaging, or fMRI, to see which brain regions where activated in response to viewing the images and how sugar consumption influenced brain activation of hunger and appetite.
The results showed that simply viewing high-calorie food images (as compared to low-calorie foods and non-foods) activated brain regions that control appetite and increased ratings of hunger and desire for sweet and savory foods. Desire for sweet foods was higher after consuming either of the sugar drinks. “Compared with glucose ingestion, fructose tended to produce greater activation of brain regions involved in reward and motivation for food. These findings," Page said, "suggest that added sweeteners could be one of the main contributors to the obesity epidemic."
CHARLES PLATKIN, Ph.D., M.P.H., is a nutrition and public health advocate and founder of DietDetective.com. Copyright 2012 by Charles Stuart Platkin. All rights reserved. Sign up for the free Diet Detective newsletter at DietDetective.com.