Category Archives: Weight control


6417366-an-image-of-a-woman-s-waist-while-she-is-pinching-the-love-handles-on-either-side-of-her-hipBelly dancing is an aerobic workout offered in many gyms and health clubs across the nation.  In addition to being more fun than elliptical trainers, it strengthens core muscles most people don’t exercise in a regular trip to the gym.

Any kind of dancing is a good aerobic workout.  It promotes general fitness, conditions the heart and respiratory system, stimulates the immune system and increases stamina.

It also tones the nervous system, reduces stress, develops balance and coordination, increases oxygen flow throughout the body and imparts a sense of well-being and empowerment.

Just compare the expression on the face of a jogger to the expression on the faces of a couple doing the swing—dancing is fun!

SOURCE:   Dr Andrew Weil’s Tip of the Day, August 18, 2013



imagesPhoto Credit CBS News

The Center for the Science in the Public Interest (CSPI) awarded the title of Unhealthiest Meal to Long John Silver for taking a healthful fish and converting it into a fatty, salty “heart attack on a hook.”

CSPI executive director Michael F Jacobson reports that the Big Catch contains 33 grams of trans fat, which is 16.5 times the American Heart Association recommends as the daily limit fats for a 2000-calorie diet.

But wait—there’s more:  19 grams of saturated fat, 3700 milligrams of sodium and a whopping 1320 calories.

And the runners up are . . . .

2.  IHOP’s Country Fried Steak and Eggs, boasting 1700 calories, 3000 milligrams of sodium and 23 grams of saturated fat.  CSPI says it’s the nutritional equivalent of five egg McMuffins covered in 10 packets of sugar.

3.  Smoothie King’s Smoothie with 1460 calories contains more added sugar in one drink than someone on a 2000-calorie diet should consume in more than three days.

4.  Johnny Rocket’s Bacon Cheddar Double weighs in at 1770 calories, 50 grams of fat and 2,380 milligrams of sodium.  Add sweet potato fries and a Big Apple Shake and you’ll have a 3500-calorie lunch.

5.  Five Guys’ fries contain more calories than a burger:  1500 calories and over 70 grams of fat.

6.  Cheesecake Factory’s Bistro Shrimp Pasta dinner has a whopping 3120 calories with 89 grams of saturated fat—the equivalent of six Big Macs.

7.  Cheesecake Factory’s Crispy Chicken Costoletta packs 89 grams of saturated fat and 2720 milligrams of sodium into 2610 calories.  It has as many calories and twice the saturated fat of an entire KFC 12-piece Original Recipe bucket.

8.  Maggiano’s Little Italy’s Veal Porterhouse offers 2710 calories, 45 grams of saturated fat and 3700 milligrams of sodium, more than twice the amount of daily recommended intake for someone on a 2000-calorie diet.

9.  Chili’s Full Rack of Baby Back Ribs has 6490 milligrams of sodium—nearly three teaspoons of salt.  The American Heart Association recommends no more than 1500 milligrams of sodium daily.

10.  Maggiano’s Little Italy’s Chocolate Zuccotto Cake contains 1820 calories and 62 grams of saturated fat.  That’s the equivalent of an entire Entenmann’s Chocolate Fudge Cake, according to CSPI.

Source:  Discovery News, July 8, 2013


1350032941QEAEW5Hamilton, Ontario McMaster University scientists compared three groups of 30 overweight and obese, but otherwise healthy, premenopausal women.  Each group consumed either low, medium or high amounts of dairy foods coupled with higher or lower amounts of protein and carbohydrates.

Additionally, each group exercised seven days per week for four months, a regimen including daily aerobic exercise + two days of circuit resistance training/weightlifting.

At the end of four months, participants in the three groups lost identical amounts of total weight.


The higher-protein, high-dairy group experienced greater whole-body fat and abdominal fat losses, greater lean mass gains, and greater increases in strength.

The lower-protein, low-dairy group lost about a pound and half of muscle, whereas the higher-protein, high-dairy group actually gained a pound and half of muscle—a three-pound difference.

Andrea Josse, lead author of the study, says, “One hundred percent of the weight lost in the higher-protein group was fat.  And the participants gained muscle mass, which is a major change in body composition.”

“The preservation or even gain of muscle is very important for maintaining metabolic rate and preventing weight regain, which can be a major problem for many seeking to lose weight.”

Speaking of the twice as much belly fat the higher-protein group lost, Josse notes, “Fat in the abdomen is thought to be especially bad for cardiovascular and metabolic health, and it seems—according to what we found in this study—increasing calcium and protein in the diet may help to further promote loss of fat from the worst storage area in the body.”

My Take on the study:  I’m a bit wary of studies paid for by the industry whose product is under examination.  After all, it was the American Bottled Water Association that sponsored the study that concluded it was vital we all drink eight 8 oz glasses of water daily, a recommendation that discounted the water we get from fruits, vegetables and other beverages, coffee included.

Yes, coffee acts as a diuretic, but so does water.

Sources: Tufts University Health & Nutrition Letter, March11, 2013          Study published in Journal of Nutrition      Study financed in part by Dairy Industry


stock-photo-211936-all-you-can-eat-chinese-buffet-tableBrian Wansink is considered the master of mindful eating.  As a professor of consumer behavior at Cornell University, Wansink and his colleague Mitsuru Shimizu trained and led a team of 30 observers to study the habits of more than 300 men and women in 24 all-you-can-eat Chinese restaurant buffets and record six specific activities.

Based on the observations, the team concluded that diners with a high Body Mass Index served themselves before surveying all available foods, used large plates, sat facing the buffet and used standard utensils instead of chopsticks.

Accordingly, to enjoy the buffets and still maintain a healthy weight, follow these four tips:

1.  Survey the entire buffet before you begin to serve yourself.

2.  Put your food on small plates rather than on large.

3.  Choose a seat that faces away from the buffet area.

4.  At Asian buffets, opt for chop sticks rather than knives and forks.

The body of Wansink’s research reveals how behavior and perception influence when, where and how much we eat.

Kathy McManus, director of the Department of Nutrition at Harvard-affiliated Brigham and Women’s Hospital, and her ream of dietitians focus on four areas that shape eating behavior:

People  For some, eating with friends, eating alone or watching others eat are prompts to eat more.

Emotions  Being bored, sad, nervous, anxious or depressed can trigger eating more.  (So can feeling happy.)

Danger zones  Movie theaters, vending machine locations, a comfy chair watching TV and being in grocery stores, especially those that circulate aromas from the bakery or kitchen, are all invitations to overindulge.

Activities  Parties, celebrations, shopping in a supermarket or preparing food in your own kitchen can override will power.

Source:  Harvard Medical School Healthbeat, April 18, 2013          Study published in American Journal of Preventive Medicine, April 2013



144970287Southern fried comfort food, gateway to stroke, high blood pressure and diabetes.

Researchers are narrowing in on the reason why US residents in the southeast have a significantly higher probability of stroke than persons in the rest of the contiguous 48 states.  In fact, those states–Alabama, Arkansas, Georgia, Mississippi, North Carolina, South Carolina and Tennessee–are grimly referred to as the Stroke Belt rather than the Sun Belt.

Over a four-year-period, Suzanne Judd, PhD, of the University of Alabama-Birmingham, and her colleagues examined dietary data on 20,480 people age 45 and older in the Lower 48.  Judd presented the results of the study at a recent International Stroke Conference:

Persons who ate the most Southern-style food—averaging 6 meals per week– were 41% more likely to suffer a stroke over a 5-year period than those who ate the least—averaging 1 such meal per month.

After adjusting for factors such as smoking and physical activity, those who were in the top quartile for consuming the Southern diet had a 30% greater risk of stroke.

Researchers divided the self-reported diets of study participants into 5 eating styles:

Southern–Fried chicken and vegetables, processed or salty meats such as lunchmeat and jerky, red meat, eggs, sweet drinks such as sugared ice tea, whole milk.

Convenience—Mexican and Chinese food, pizza, pasta.

Plant-based—Fruits, vegetables, juice, cereal, whole-grain bread and fish, poultry and yogurt.

Sweets—Chocolate, desserts, sweet breakfast foods, breads plus added fats.

Alcohol—Beer wine, liquor, green leafy vegetables, salad dressings, nuts and seeds, coffee.

Only the Southern and Plant-based dietary patterns were associated with definite patterns of stroke risk; those in the Plant-based group experienced the least number of strokes.

In conclusion, Judd observed that the Southern diet combines 3 factors known to increase the risk of cardiovascular disease:

Foods high in saturated fats contribute to high cholesterol levels.

Salty foods contribute to high blood pressure.

Sugary drinks increase the risk of diabetes—just ask Paula Dean.

Sources: Tufts University Health & Nutrition Letter, May 2013   Paper read at International Stroke Conference, May 2013


11005101-girl-kicking-a-cigarette-butt-isolated-against-white-backgroundDoes the effect on health from weight gain after quitting smoking outweigh the cardiovascular benefits of quitting?  An analysis by James Meigs, Harvard Medical School and Associate Professor of Medicine at General Medicine Unit at Massachusetts General Hospital, has an answer.

Meigs and his associates analyzed data from the Framingham Offspring Study, a study that follows children of persons in the original Framingham Heart Study.

The Harvard investigation analyzed data from participants’ third to eighth visits, covering the years from the mid-1980s to the mid-2000s.  The number of persons at each exam cycle ranged from about 2400 to about 3250, for a total of 11,148 persons examined.

Researchers saw a general trend of weight-gain among all interviewees.  Smokers, never smokers and long-term quitters gained an average of 1-2 pounds, and recent quitters gained an average of 5-10 pounds—which decreased 4 years after having quit.

Regardless of the amount of weight gain, the risk of cardiovascular events in the 6 years after quitting dropped in half for participants without diabetes.*

Meigs, senior author of the study says, “Among people without diabetes, those who stopped smoking had a 50% reduction in the risk for heart attack, stroke, or cardiovascular death, and accounting for any weight increase  didn’t change that risk reduction.

“In patients with diabetes—among whom weight gain is a particular concern—we saw the same pattern of a large risk reduction regardless of weight gained.”

“We can now say without question that stopping smoking has a very positive effect on cardiovascular risk for patients with and without diabetes, even if they experience the moderate weight gain seen in this study, which matches post-cessation weight increase reported in other studies,” says Meigs.

*Participants with diabetes experienced a similar drop in the incidence of cardiovascular events but did not reach statistical significance because less than 15% of the study group had diabetes.

Sources:  University of CA, Berkeley Wellness Letter, June 2013      HARVARDgazette, May 30, 2013     Study published in Journal of the American Medical Association, March 13, 2013


1311275586nb12UxDelicious, nutritious fats

Low-fat, reduced fat or fat-free processed foods are not necessarily healthy choices, nor is choosing to follow a low-fat diet.

Relying on low-fat diets results in people eliminating good fats from their diets along with bad fats.  Moreover, those diets tend to rely on refined carbohydrates from foods like white rice, white bread, potatoes and sugary drinks.

Manufacturers replace the fat in low-fat foods with “fast carbs,” such as sugar, refined grains or starch, all of which our bodies digest quickly and result in sugar spikes, hunger, overeating and weight gain.

The cumulative effect of taking in lots of ‘fast carbs” is to raise the risk of heart disease and diabetes as much as, if not more than, taking in too much saturated fat.

So the percentage of calories derived from high-fat foods or from low-fat foods aren’t the deciding factors in preventing disease.

What is linked to disease is the type of fat you eat.

Good fats, monounsaturated and polyunsaturated fats, lower the risk of diseases.  They’re found in vegetable oils, such as olive, canola, sunflower, soy and corn, and in nuts, seeds and fish.

Bad fats, saturated and especially trans fats, increase the risk of diseases.  They’re found in red meat, butter, cheese and ice cream; trans fats are found in processed foods containing partially hydrogenated oil.

While saturated fats do increase the levels of bad fats in the form of low-density lipoproteins (LDL) in the body, trans fats deliver a double whammy:  They increase the LDL levels in the body and lower the good fats, the high-density lipoprotein (HDL) levels in the body.

For health’s sake, instead of consuming low-fat foods, consider these healthy actions instead:  ditch the trans fats; use liquid plant oils for cooking and baking; substitute an oil/butter (free of partially hydrogenated oils) mix for butter; eat at least one good source of Omega 3s daily and cut back on red meat, cheese, milk and ice cream.

Source:  Harvard School of Public Health (HSPH), The Nutrition Source Update, April 30, 2013