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Change in Body Mass Index and the link to Diabetes
The link between higher Body Mass Index and diseases such as high blood pressure, diabetes and heart disease is well established. Researchers are now also looking at how age might factor into the equation. As part of a large study in Europe known as the EPIC - Potsdam study, researchers have looked at how change in BMI might affect the risk of having Type 2 Diabetes later in life (AJCN 2006;(2)84:427-433).

Reducing Weight Gain for Frequent Restaurant Eaters
In the busy world we live in, it can be tough to avoid eating out because it's just so darn convenient. Unfortunately, restaurant portion sizes can be two, three or even four times standard portion sizes (or more), and you know what that means: eating too many calories, which in turn leads to weight gain. 

Change Matters
I've been writing for years now about the significant impact making changes in what you eat can have on your health. There's a lot of research that I've reviewed to support this but much of this have been isolated studies on such things as whether legumes are good for you or the benefits of olive oil. That's not to say that there hasn't been research on what we call "lifestyle intervention" but this past week a group reported on a study of 800 participants and how profound an effect making changes in your life can be.


 

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Eat More of These Foods and Gain Less Weight



Many of my patients seem to think that gaining weight as they get older is inevitable. While it's true that many people do gain weight as they get older, recent research suggests that this weight gain has more to do with diet and lifestyle (surprise!) than simply old age.

Researchers from Harvard University in Boston, funded by the National Institutes of Health, made use of data gathered during three large-scale, long-term studies of health professionals (doctors and nurses) in the United States (N Engl J Med 2011; 364(25):2392-2404). These studies included a combined total of over 120,000 adult men and women under 65 years of age who were not obese and were free of chronic diseases at the start of the studies. Height and weight were measured and a detailed diet and lifestyle questionnaire was administered at the start of each study, and every two years thereafter the questionnaire, including a question about current weight, was mailed to the participants for follow-up. The included portions of the three studies lasted 20, 12 and 20 years, respectively.

The researchers wanted to find out what, if any, changes in diet were related to changes in weight. They specifically looked at changes in fruits, nuts, vegetables, whole grains and refined grains, potatoes (including boiled, mashed, potato chips and french fries), dairy products (low fat vs. whole fat), sugar-sweetened beverages as well as diet beverages, sweets and desserts, processed and unprocessed red meats, fried foods in general and trans-fats. Changes in exercise, smoking status, and amount of sleep were also of interest.

The participants' changes in weight, both as an absolute amount and as a percentage increase over the previous four year period, were evaluated for each four-year period in the study and associated with the increase or decrease in intake of the specified foods.

For all participants, the average amount of weight gain for each four-year period was 3.35 pounds, or about 2.4% of body weight. Not too surprisingly, those who gained the most weight tended to be those who had increased their intake of potato chips, french fries, sugar-sweetened beverages, processed meats and red meats (among others).

On the other hand, those who gained the least weight were those who had increased their intake of vegetables, fruits, nuts, whole grains and, surprisingly, yogurt.

Further, those who increased their amount of exercise also gained less weight. The researchers point out that there was no association between how much exercise people got as an absolute measure (say, 30 minutes versus 60 minutes), but rather that it was how much their amount of exercise increased that made the difference. That is, those who added more exercise to their regular life, regardless of where they started, gained the least amount of weight.

What this means for you

More evidence that small changes in your regular diet and exercise regimen can mean big long-term changes in your life. Note that the items that helped prevent weight gain are components of the Mediterranean Diet that you should be eating more of anyway: fruits, vegetables, nuts, whole grains and processed dairy.

First posted: July 6, 2011