Monday, November 29, 2010

Processed Foods Slow Weight Loss and Promote Disease

(Article first published as Processed Food Diet Shown to Hinder Weight Loss and Promote Chronic Disease on Technorati.)
When was the last time you really took a close look at the nutrition label on many of the processed food items you regularly eat? If your diet consists mostly of products that come in a can, jar, foil-wrap or cardboard container, they have likely been ultra-processed by one of the food manufacturing giants.

Processed foods make up the majority of calories eaten by Americans every day, and are largely void of the essential nutrients our body uses to properly metabolize calories and regulate fat storage. Research demonstrates the importance of controlling our diet to ensure proper nutrition and avoid dangerous chemical additives that slow weight loss and promote chronic disease.

Ultra-Processed Foods are Developed in a Food Laboratory
Food manufacturers know that their food must appeal to your evolved sense of taste for sweet, salt and fat. We crave these tastes so we will want to eat natural foods that are packed with vitamins, minerals and essential nutrients that help prevent disease. Instead, laboratory foods are infused with sugar and hydrogenated fats that tease our taste buds and provide us with little more than empty calories that boost blood sugar, cause weight gain and initiate chronic illnesses including cancer, heart disease and diabetes.

Increase in Processed Food Consumption Directly Related to Weight Gain and Chronic Illness
The results of a study published in the Journal of the World Public Health Nutrition Association found that Americans spend 90% of their food budget on processed foods. A direct correlation was made between the calories eaten in the form of processed foods, weight gain and disease. The lead author of this study concluded, "the rapid rise in consumption of ultra-processed food and drink products, especially since the 1980's, is the main dietary cause of the concurrent rapid rise in obesity and related diseases throughout the world."

Processed Foods are Calorie Dense and Nutrient Poor
The main problem with ultra-processed foods is they deprive your body of the essential nutrients required to maintain optimal health and alter metabolism toward overweight and obesity. A steady diet of laboratory manufactured foods typically consists of twice the daily calories required to maintain an ideal weight and less than one-quarter of the critical nutrients we need to preserve health and avoid illness. While processed foods satisfy our taste for a variety of different flavors, over the course of decades they lead to a nutrient deficient state that is a medium for disease development and weight gain.

Controlling Processed Food Consumption
Processed foods have become so much a part of our daily diet that it would be impossible for most people to eliminate this source of calories from their diet. The key is to include more raw foods in their natural form into your diet and minimize consumption of processed items. Include at least one serving of vegetables, leafy greens or fruit with each meal, and cut the amount of processed foods you eat. Slowly introduce additional sources of raw foods as you work toward making processed foods nothing more than an occasional treat.

Processed foods have been manipulated and heated to destroy or neutralize any healthy nutrients that may have originally been present in the raw product. A diet void of these nutrients leads to metabolic dysfunction, chronic illness and weight gain. Make a conscious effort to cut processed food consumption to live a longer, disease-free life.

Sunday, November 28, 2010

Vitamin D Slashes Cancer and Heart Disease Risk in Half

Health conscious individuals have been closely following Vitamin D research for the past decade as volumes of scientific evidence prove this prohormone has been selected through our evolution to provide critical protection against many inflammatory and immune mediated diseases.

New information now reveals a clear picture of how this amazing nutrient works at the cellular level while prompting the expression of more than 3000 individual genes to protect us against many lethal forms of cancer and heart disease as well. You can dramatically reduce your risk of illness and extend your healthy lifespan by making sure your blood is saturated at an optimal level with Vitamin D.

Vitamin D Influences our Genes, Cuts Cancer Risk in Half
Research has determined that virtually every cell in the human body has evolved with a Vitamin D receptor (VDR) which needs to be filled with circulating Vitamin D from our blood. Insufficient levels of the nutrient means that cellular receptors will be left open to be hijacked by a rogue virus. This can pave the way for infection by the influenza virus or eventually lead to a greatly increased risk of cancer.

According to a study published in Genome Research, Vitamin D regulates genes which provide protection against many forms of cancer and autoimmune diseases. Vitamin D specifically binds with these genes to provide a protective shield which dramatically reduces our risk of disease. Vitamin D also acts as a master blueprint for cellular replication, guiding the DNA strands with instructions to accurately divide during mitosis and provides critical guidance to prevent cellular proliferation, a hallmark of cancer metastasis.

Vitamin D Lowers Heart Disease Risk by 47%
The results of a study presented to the American College of Cardiology show that correcting deficient Vitamin D blood levels can reduce the risks associated with coronary artery disease. Study participants were given Vitamin D supplements to raise their blood level well beyond the current minimum reference point and were followed for a period of a year to assess their risk for cardiovascular disease. While this study didn`t provide an explanation for the 47% risk reduction, other research has shown that Vitamin D can lower systemic inflammation throughout the body which promotes healthy arteries and lowers blood pressure.

Ensure You Aren`t Vitamin D Deficient
As much as 85% of the adult population is Vitamin D deficient, needlessly placing themselves at considerable risk for a variety of diseases ranging from flu and the common cold to heart disease and cancer. Sun exposure and multi vitamins are inconsistent sources of Vitamin D as we lose the ability to convert the nutrient to its active form on our skin as we age.

The only way to accurately determine if you need to supplement is by having your blood tested. Be sure to request a 25(OH)D blood test which yields the most accurate results. Optimal levels are between 50 and 70 ng/mL. If you test below this level you`ll need to supplement with an oil-based gelcap form of Vitamin D. Most people find that 1000 IU is needed to raise the blood level by 10 ng/mL.

Deficient levels of Vitamin D are responsible for millions of needless deaths and much suffering each year. Extensive research has shown exactly how this mega nutrient works on the cellular level to provide lowered risk from many lethal conditions including cancer and heart disease. Those interested in lowering disease risk will want to have a simple blood test and supplement accordingly to reap a multitude of health benefits.

Friday, November 26, 2010

Protein Diet Essential to Successful Weight Loss

(Article first published as Protein Balance Found to be Key to Successful Weight Loss Diet on Technorati.)
So, when is a calorie not really a calorie? This is a question that has been asked by weight loss enthusiasts for the past century. As you may have guessed, many people have not yet found the answer as evidenced by the continuing overweight and obesity challenges that plaque millions of Americans.

Medical researchers have been busy working to determine if successful weight loss is merely a matter of caloric balance or if calories from different food sources have a different effect on how our body stores fat. New information now provides evidence that some calories are more demonic than others and can impact your path to permanent weight loss.

Caloric Balance is Essential to Weight Loss Efforts
The results of a Danish study published in the prestigious New England Journal of Medicine compared five different protein and carbohydrate balanced diets on their ability to initiate and maintain weight loss. Study participants initially lost an average of 24 pounds and then were placed on one of five specially prepared diets which varied from low carb/high protein to high carb/low protein.

The results showed that those on the low glycemic, high protein diet were 45% more efficient in maintaining their lost weight. Dr. Thomas Larsen, the co-author of the study theorized that the higher protein content provided a stronger satiety effect while improving blood sugar control. He concluded, "There has been considerable controversy over the role of glycemic index in general, and obesity treatment in particular. This study provides very strong, supportive evidence for the importance of this low-glycemic concept."

Protein Boosts Metabolism, Assists Weight Loss
The Danish study is the latest body of research to demonstrate that a higher protein diet when combined with a dramatically lower consumption of processed and refined carbohydrates is needed to boost metabolic rate and stimulate weight loss. Information published in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition provides evidence that health adults should eat three-quarters of their body weight in grams of protein each day.

Critical metabolic changes begin to take place when you increase protein consumption to 30% of calories and decrease or eliminate sugar and refined carbs that drive blood sugar levels out of control. Since protein is much more difficult to break down, your body exerts more energy to metabolize a calorie of protein than the same simple carb calorie. And protein provides essential branched chain amino acids that your body requires as basic cellular building blocks. The answer is clear. All calories are not created equal.

One of the best ways to shift your body into fat burning mode is to begin each day with a good source of protein. This fuels your metabolic engine and limits blood glucose surges that can last all day. Ideal sources of protein include red meat (free range beef, minimally cooked) and cottage cheese, as well as milk, eggs, fish, chicken, legumes, peanuts, cheese, nuts, and seeds. Try increasing the amount of healthy protein in your diet and watch your weight loss goal become reality.

Wednesday, November 24, 2010

Many Overweight Women View Extra Weight as Normal

(Article first published as 25% of Overweight Women See No Need for Weight Loss Diet on Technorati.)
As the number of overweight and obese people continues to rise, our perception of ‘normal’ body weight is altered. Suddenly those individuals with no excess body fat are viewed as malnourished while our mind becomes accustomed to a new overweight appearance. Even our self-perception of misplaced body fat is changing as we look in the mirror and tend to accept the extra pounds in stride.

Regardless of how our mind may be tricked, extra weight is still a significant risk factor for a host of diseases including cardiovascular, diabetes and cancer. It’s important to be able to look beyond the image you see in the mirror and determine if you need to lose weight to ensure optimal health.

1 in 4 Women Misperceive Their Own Body Weight
We have become desensitized to people that carry too much weight, and begin to believe that excess pounds are normal and healthy. The results of a study conducted at The University of Texas Medical Branch shows that nearly 25% of women misperceive their own body weight and are unlikely to take the necessary actions such as reducing calories to lose weight. This places these women at considerable risk for adverse health consequences.

Study Finding Reflects ‘Fattening of America’
The study, published in the journal Obstetrics and Gynecology is the first large scale research to explain the dynamics behind a cultural phenomenon that has been manifesting for several decades. The study authors found that overweight and obese Hispanic and African American women were more likely than white women to categorize themselves as normal, and they were much less likely to report weight loss related behaviors such as dieting as a result.

The study concluded that the findings were a part of the cultural ‘fattening of America’ brought about by decades of a processed food diet and a shift away from foods in their natural form. According to corresponding author Dr. Mahbubur Rahman, "As obesity numbers climb, many women identify overweight as normal, not based on the scale but on how they view themselves." Currently 82% of African American women and 75% of Mexican-American women meet the criteria for being overweight or obese.

Weight Misperception Affects Health
One of the most significant findings of this study is that those women who perceived themselves as either normal weight or overweight were more than twice as likely to be health conscious. This means they were more inclined to follow a reduced calorie diet, avoid unhealthy processed foods, avoid smoking and exercise regularly. Women who did not properly perceive their excess weight practiced unhealthy weight loss behaviors that can lead to harmful medical and psychological consequences.

We tend to adapt to our surroundings over time and as more individuals tip the scales toward overweight and obese, our perception of normal body weight becomes commonly accepted. We are clearly becoming a fatter America and our health is suffering as a consequence. The time has come to take responsibility for our body weight and make the required changes to diet and physical activity that will lead to a longer and healthier life.

Monday, November 22, 2010

Excess Childhood Weight Doubles Adult Obesity Rate

We’ve always been told that overweight adolescents are just carrying a little ‘baby fat’ and they’ll drop the chubby appearance as they grow older and taller. While this may be true for a small number of children, the vast majorities are being placed at considerable risk for the development of serious illness in middle life and reduced life expectancy.

Children and teens naturally need additional calories and nutrition to fuel their fast paced metabolism and accelerated growth. Researchers are beginning to understand that many diseases including heart disease and cancer begin to develop decades before clinical symptoms are detected. Excess body weight in youth provides the fuel for disease progression in later life. Small changes in diet at an early age can have a significant impact on overall health and longevity.

Study Confirms Childhood Overweight Results in Adult Obesity
The results of a study published in The Journal of the American Medical Association shows that nearly 40% of obese adolescents can be expected to become severely obese by the age of 30. This is compared to only 2.5% of healthy weight and slightly overweight teenagers. The study found that gender did play a role in progression to adult obesity, as 37% of males and 51% of females in the study became severely obese in adulthood.

Understanding the Cause of Childhood Obesity
Childhood obesity rates have doubled over the past 20 years as nearly 16% of adolescents fall into the classification. Chronic childhood health problems have also doubled to 27% in the same period. Many theories abound to explain the problem, but it’s clear that the effects of diet and the environment impact the survival genes that have evolved to keep children alive through their reproductive years. Most children eat nearly twice as many calories as they require and get considerably less exercise than earlier generations.

The Effects of Super Sizing and Fructose
Many things have changed over the past 20 years that contribute to the obesity epidemic we are faced with in our children today. None is more significant than the portion size of meals, the proliferation of processed junk foods and the mass infusion of fructose as a sweetener into many foods and drinks. All of these factors result in altered metabolism and obesity in our youth. To make matters worse, levels of physical activity have declined as kids spend less time burning calories at play.

Ending the Obesity Cycle
The latest research shows that the obesity trend will continue through 2050, peaking at 42% of all men, women and children. While these numbers are devastating, they can be reversed with a plan to prevent overweight and obesity in adolescents. Studies show that eliminating the dietary and environmental factors that lead to excess weight can prevent the onset of health conditions that will plaque children into adult life.

A study published in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition shows that a plant-based diet seems to be a sensible approach for the prevention of obesity in children. While a strict vegetarian diet may not be the answer for all children, lowering caloric intake from fast food restaurants and limiting fructose from sweetened beverages and processed foods will provide immediate results. Children can make dietary and lifestyle changes easier than adults, and just need a little parental encouragement to alter the obesity cycle, lower disease risk in later life and improve longevity.

Sunday, November 21, 2010

Limiting Fructose is Key to Weight Loss, Cancer Prevention

The link between fructose consumption and many forms of cancer are quite evident, as this form of sugar derived from fruit provides fuel to cancer cells, causing them to divide and proliferate. Fructose is an inexpensive sweetener used in many processed foods and drinks, and is most frequently found in its super-charged form, high fructose corn syrup. You can dramatically lower your risk for developing many of the most deadly types of cancer as you naturally lose weight by diligently reading nutrition labels to eliminate fructose from your diet.

Fructose Promotes Cancer Proliferation
For some time, medical researchers have known that sugar in the form of glucose is the main energy source which cancer cells use to initiate. Information published in the journal Cancer Research shows that cancer cells use glucose and fructose in different ways to fuel growth, and fructose specifically provides the mechanism which leads to cellular accelerated proliferation and metastasis. They conclude that restricting both glucose and especially fructose are essential to cancer prevention and controlling existing disease.

Metabolic Syndrome and Excess Weight Blamed on High Fructose Diet
It's no secret that waistlines have been expanding at disproportionate rates over the past half century, and volumes of scientific evidence now point to the primary suspect in this epidemic, fructose. Our body metabolizes fructose differently than glucose, and doesn't trigger the same insulin response compared with sugar or simple carbohydrates.

Our appetite hormones, leptin and ghrelin are thrown off balance and don't register fructose calories as energy consumed, meaning we're much more inclined to keep eating. As this process continues over the course of many years, it leads to insulin resistance, metabolic disorder and contributes to the rising rates of obesity experienced by many unsuspecting people.

Fructose Consumption Increased Five-Fold over the Past 100 Years
A century ago, the average daily consumption of fructose was around 15 grams, a far cry from the typical 73 gram dose we receive today. More importantly, the small amount eaten by our ancestors was largely from fruit, where the fructose is bound to fiber and isn’t released to the bloodstream as quickly. By contrast, today we consume mostly high fructose corn syrup which has been artificially produced in a laboratory, and exerts a much higher degree of metabolic dysfunction in this ultra concentrated form.

Reduce Fructose to Avoid Cancer, Assist Weight Loss
Food manufacturers have been using high fructose corn syrup in ever increasing quantities as an inexpensive sweetener for the past 40 years, with obesity levels and fructose sensitive cancers increasing in linear proportion. The only way to purge this unnatural poison from your food supply is to carefully read every nutrition label for the presence of corn syrup, high fructose corn syrup and the newly coined marketing term, corn sugar. Avoid any sweetened soft drinks and especially fruit juices, as well as all processed or prepared foods. You’ll find fructose in one of its many forms in virtually every type of food which has been manufactured for mass consumption.

Excess dietary fructose has been shown to contribute to metabolic dysfunction, increased abdominal fat storage and the proliferation of many forms of deadly cancers. Individuals who know they are insulin resistant, pre-diabetic or have been diagnosed with cancer should drastically limit fruit intake and eliminate high fructose corn syrup entirely. Health conscious individuals will want to carefully monitor the amount of fructose they eat to avoid the significant health concerns attributable to this simple fruit sugar.

Friday, November 19, 2010

Misleading Nutrition Labels Lead to Weight Loss Failure

(Article first published as Are Nutrition Labels the Real Reason You Can’t Lose Weight? on Technorati.)
We all pick up food items in the grocery store and quickly glance at the nutrition label to see how many calories are in our favorite meal. Some make it down to the fine print to check out the carbs, sugar, fats and sodium. The problem is most people don’t make the connection between the misleading serving sizes listed.

Manufacturers know that their customers examine the required labels before they make a purchase, and do a good job to make you think you can eat more and consume fewer calories. Even the portion size on the nutrition label can influence whether you view the product as fattening. And we all know this has a direct impact on how much you eat and your ability to lose weight.

Label Size Influences Caloric Perception
It appears that people are easily misled when it comes to interpreting food labels, and will eat more of an item if they believe it is a small portion. Information from a new study published in the Journal of Consumer Research showed that the way a manufacturer listed the portion size on the label influenced how much a consumer would be likely to eat.

Researchers provided consumers with different food items and determined how much people would eat based on the food label. Large portions were intentionally labeled as small, and participants ate more and felt less guilt in their choices. The study authors called this ‘guiltless gluttony’. Similarly, when the large serving was labeled correctly, people ate less and experienced a higher level of guilt if they overate.

Manufacturers Use Food Labeling as a Marketing Gimmick
Food manufacturers have been slowly altering the portion sizes on many food products to intentionally fool the consumer. The result is the expanding American waistline and the problem we know as the obesity epidemic. People want to make the right food choices by selecting lower calorie fare with less sodium and no hydrogenated fats. Food selection becomes much more difficult when manufacturers use their marketing tricks so we purchase products that are unhealthy and laden with excess calories.

Be Vigilant When Grocery Shopping
The key to winning the food labeling battle is to become an empowered consumer. Examine every label and scrutinize the serving size and calorie content. Do the math to determine the total calories in the serving that you will actually eat, not in the small serving size listed on the label. Most people will eat at least twice as much as listed for one serving, and feel the calories they consumed is the amount listed on the label for one serving. This type of miscalculation rapidly leads to weight gain and obesity.

Food manufacturers utilize focus groups to find ways to compel you to buy their products and eat more than you intend. Deceiving food label practices are just another way being used to drive sales and encourage over consumption. Read nutrition labels carefully, determine the actual calories in a real serving and use that information to your health and weight advantage.

Thursday, November 18, 2010

Exercise Lowers Risk of Disease, Halts Aging

(Article first published as Exercise Shown to Lower Disease Risk, Slow Body Aging on Technorati.)
Did you ever think that exercise wasn’t good for your body and health? Most people feel rejuvenated after a good workout and it just makes sense that you’re lowering your risk of illness. While too much exercise (think marathon runners) has detrimental side effects, moderate doses of aerobic and resistance training is shown to lower the risk of developing more than two dozen diseases and can actually slow down the aging process.

Exercise Helps Your Body Fight Disease
Researchers reviewed more than 40 studies over the past four years and found that regular physical activity was repeatedly associated with lowered risk of cancer, heart disease, dementia, stroke, diabetes, depression, obesity and high blood pressure. The review published in the  International Journal of Clinical Practice demonstrated that next to not smoking, exercise is the most important lifestyle choice you can make to improve overall health. The report highlighted obesity, diet, smoking and physical activity as the most important factors that we can control to achieve optimal health.

Aim For 150 Minutes of Exercise Each Week
Most studies reviewed settled on 150 minutes of moderate exercise each week. The most cited example is taking a brisk walk for 30 minutes, 5 days a week. Also, mixing aerobic and resistance exercise on alternating days is suggested to work different body zones and receive the benefit of both exercise regimens. It’s important to continue exercise as you age as some research shows that the detrimental effects of aging can be slowed or even reversed with good physical fitness discipline.

Lowering Your Disease Risk Factors
The health benefits associated with exercise can be seen to affect many different conditions. It’s clear that we have evolved to be physically active as exercise impacts a wide range of diseases. Researchers have shown how regular exercise can lower disease risk and slow the aging process for specific conditions.

Coronary Heart Disease: Moderate exercise is associated with lowered risk of heart disease, heart attack and stroke. The Women’s Health Study demonstrated that exercise can reduce the risk of heart disease in women by 27 to 41% by improving cholesterol ratios and strengthening the heart muscle.

Overweight and Obesity: There is a natural correlation between physical activity and weight reduction. Aside from the additional calories burned through exercise, blood sugar and insulin resistance are also improved. This action lowers dangerous triglycerides and helps prevent metabolic syndrome that leads to diabetes and increased risk of heart attack.

Cancer: Walking or cycling for an hour each day has been shown to lower the risk of cancer by 16%. Some studies have shown a sharp reduction risk of colon cancer in both men and women, while men who avoid sitting at a desk all day are at much lower risk of developing prostate cancer.

Lack of physical activity causes a number of biochemical changes within our body that signal the onset of disease. Not only does regular exercise improve muscle tone, but it alters our metabolism toward health. Find a way to include 30 minutes of exercise at least five days a week to dramatically lower your risk of disease and slow the damaging effects of aging on your body.

Tuesday, November 16, 2010

Heart Disease Controlled Through Lifestyle, Not Genes

(Article first published as Study Shows Heart Disease Risk a Matter of Lifestyle, Not Genes on Technorati.)
Nearly one million Americans succumb to a form of heart disease every year, and millions more experience reduced quality of life and live in constant fear of a fatal cardiac event. Heart disease is the leading cause of death in the US, as standard medical practice continues to prescribe ineffective pharmaceuticals and a low fat diet.

Unfortunately for the scores of people who follow this advice, the end result is always the same – slow progression of the disease and ultimately an early death. Researchers have now published the five most significant risk factors that will allow you to take control of this devastating disease, regardless of genetic predisposition.

Heart Disease Develops From Poor Lifestyle Choices
The results of two large studies conducted at Northwestern University both point to preventable lifestyle choices that promote heart disease, regardless of your genes. Alternative health experts have long known that factors including diet, weight and physical activity significantly impact the development of disease. Researchers have now demonstrated that strict adherence to five factors from an early age can lower or eliminate the risk of heart disease.

Five Lifestyle Factors You Can Control
The study results were presented to the American Heart Association Scientific Sessions 2010 meeting in Chicago. Researchers found that young adults who maintain a healthy lifestyle through mid-life did not exhibit the common high risk profile including high blood pressure, poor lipid profile and excess body weight. The risk factors indentified include “not smoking, low or no alcohol intake, weight control, physical activity and a healthy diet.”
 
Start Healthy Habits Early in Life
The study focused on individuals that were in compliance with the five risk factors from an early stage in their life. These individuals were found to reach middle age with a much better heart disease risk profile, regardless of family history and predisposition toward heart disease. Participants were followed for a period of 20 years, and those who were in compliance with all five risk factor were 60% less likely to develop heart disease, 37% for four factors and 30% for three.

Heart Disease is Not Inherited
The results of a second Northwestern University study demonstrates that our lifestyle actions are behind the initiation and proliferation of heart disease, and genetics play a very minor role in the process. Researchers tracked more than 16,000 individuals across 3 generations of families and concluded, "What you do and how you live is going to have a larger impact on whether you are in ideal cardiovascular health than your genes or how you were raised." The poor habits that cause heart disease may be learned as they are passed from generation to generation, but they don’t pass to us through our genes.

Controlling the five lifestyle factors identified in this research should be a mission for every man, woman and child from an early age. Extensive information confirms that heart disease is not only preventable, but can also be reversed when all known risk factors are addressed.

Monday, November 15, 2010

Is the Twinkie Diet Really your Best Weight Loss Solution?

(Article firs published as Is the Twinkie Diet Really your Best Weight Loss Solution? on Technorati.)
Much has been reported lately about the Kansas State University nutrition professor that lost 27 pounds in two months on his self-proclaimed Twinkie Diet. Reports in the media extol the virtues of his weight loss success as monumental and possibly even health promoting. Nothing could be further from the truth.

On the most basic level, weight loss occurs on a physical dimension where calories consumed are lower than our energy requirements. This experiment provides a simple example of how weight loss can occur when 800 calories are removed from your diet each day, regardless of what you eat. Permanent weight loss and good health require a much longer commitment and a well balanced diet.

It’s Just a Matter of Calories
Reducing 800 calories a day will force the body to metabolize stored fat for energy, even if those calories are in the form of one of the most horrific food sources imaginable. Our body is very sensitive to calories consumed and will feverishly release fat to meet the needs of our metabolic furnace. Eventually, though starvation mode will kick in and our body’s engine will begin to conserve every small amount of energy to prepare us for tough times.

Nutrition Professor Makes a Point
Dr. Mark Haub is an Assistant Professor of Nutrition at Kansas State University who decided to prove a point about weight loss. Tradition dictates a reduced calorie, well balanced diet to drop the pounds, and yet the professor dropped 27 pounds in 60 days by cutting his daily calories from 2600 to 1800 and eating mostly junk food and Twinkies. He did take vitamin supplements just to be certain he was receiving the most basic nutrients.

Is a Diet of Twinkies Really Healthy?
Common logic would say that eating nothing but 1800 calories composed of junk food would not be good for your health, but Dr. Haub found that his LDL cholesterol and triglycerides went down and his protective HDL cholesterol increased.

On the surface this all seems to be good, but the problem is that these apparent health benefits are likely just the result of lost weight over the short 60 day period and would become negatively impacted over a longer period of time. Extensive research has shown the damaging effects of a processed food diet on all markers of health.

What’s the Right Approach to Weight Loss?
While Dr. Haub has provided the world with an interesting one-mouse experiment, nobody (not even the good Doctor) is promoting the Twinkie Diet as a good way to lose weight or improve disease risk factors. Eating 1800 calories a day for a man is the right approach to stimulate weight loss. Filling those calories with a Mediterranean style menu makes much better sense over the long run as it has been shown to deliver healthy weight loss results and dramatically lower your risk of heart disease, diabetes and cancer.

Sunday, November 14, 2010

Will Taxation Fix the Obesity Problem?

As the obesity epidemic continues to spread throughout the western civilization, the health of many millions are placed in severe jeopardy. With rates projected to hit a saturation level of 43% in the US by 2050, incidence of heart disease, diabetes, cancer and dementia will escalate and threaten to collapse our already failing health care system.

The current trend will only be broken by making some drastic changes to the driving forces behind overweight and obesity. One possible solution that has been proposed is to tax the type of foods most commonly linked to overeating and poor health. Is this enough to influence the eating habits of those most susceptible to obesity?

Understanding the Real Cause of Obesity
Part of the problem with obesity is that it is the result of many compounding factors. In addition to consuming excess calories and insufficient physical activity, stress is known to be an important contributor to body fat placed round the abdomen and declining health. Working in harmony with your appetite hormones, leptin and ghrelin can have a significant impact on how fat is metabolized in our body.

Meal timing, meal size and macronutrient ratios determine our metabolic rate and the quality and amount of sleep have also been shown to impact how we burn fat. There are many physical and psychological elements that must be mastered to achieve successful and permanent weight loss.

Study Examines the Role of Taxation on Obesity
Information compiled by the Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development and published in The Lancet Series on Chronic Diseases and Development examined the potential impact of placing a tax on unhealthy foods, restricting food advertising and improving food labeling. Researchers determined that these three measures would add nearly 7 million good health life years over the next 20 years if implemented in western cultures around the world. The annual cost would be less than $1 per person each year. Are these measures really necessary?

Natural Steps to Weight Loss and Controlling Obesity
The importance of losing weight and preventing obesity on our health cannot be underscored. Individuals who are more than 30 pounds over their ideal weight place an immense burden on their vascular system that leads to increased blood pressure, dysfunction of the delicate inner lining of the arteries and blood sugar surges resulting in metabolic syndrome. 

Placing a tax on fast foods, processed foods and sweetened beverages would likely be effective, as these types of measures have worked in the past to curb cigarette smoking and alcohol consumption. A better idea may be to rely on self control. Once you have determined that weight loss is the correct goal for you, avoiding processed food will become second nature.

Purge Unhealthy Foods for Two Weeks
You must be strong for a period of two weeks as you flush the unhealthy sugar, hydrogenated fats and refined carbs from your diet. Slowly increase natural food sources including fresh vegetables, nuts, seeds, fish, chicken, and olive oil. After this period you won’t miss the foods that encourage excess fat storage and natural weight loss will be the result.

Every man, woman and child should adopt a goal of healthy eating. Whether the scale indicates you need to lose weight or not, excess unhealthy calories will cause fat to be stored in critical organs such as the liver, pancreas and heart. Over the course of years this fat accumulation will trigger disease. While taxation may be a short term fix to large problem, the only way to achieve permanent weight loss is to take control of your dietary destiny.

Friday, November 12, 2010

Keep Track of Food to Double Weight Loss Efforts

(Article first published as Food Diary Shown to Double Successful Weight Loss Efforts on Technorati.)
If you were to ask anyone who is trying to lose weight how many calories they eat each day or how long they spend exercising, chances are overwhelming that the answer would be grossly underestimated. People are very poor judges of calorie count or portion size when working toward a weight loss goal.

Most will indicate they eat very little when in reality they are taking in 20 to 40% more calories than anticipated, more than enough to sabotage their efforts. Another common mistake is the belief that since they are exercising regularly, they can consume more to compensate. The only way you can accurately gauge caloric intake and energy expenditure is to keep a daily log or journal to prevent excess calories and ensure successful weight loss.

Keeping a Food Journal Can Double Weight Loss
The results of a study published in the American Journal of Preventive Medicine demonstrates that despite our best intentions, most people grossly underestimate portion sizes and calories eaten when they don’t measure their food. The researchers found that the more detailed food records that were kept by study participants, the more weight they lost. Those with the most meticulous recordkeeping lost twice as much as those who kept no track at all. And they were able to keep the weight off as long as they continued to record in their journal.

Keeping an Accurate Food Log: Be Honest With Yourself
It isn’t that people are trying to be dishonest with food tracking, as they are only hurting themselves. The problem is we like to snack between meals or grab a few jelly beans, a small piece of chocolate or a sugary power drink with the thought it won’t make a difference. Those calories add up and at the end of the day you could be adding several hundred calories to you total. Keeping a handy journal where you record every bite of food before it goes in your mouth can help you stay on track. Here’s why:

Provides a True Understanding of Portions and Calories: When you’re forced to account for every calorie you eat, you quickly gain an understanding of portion sizes and the type of foods that pack on the calories (processed snacks, baked treats and fried foods), compared to fresh vegetables that you can eat in almost unlimited quantities.

Record Your Food Before You Eat: The most important part of the program is to always record the food or drink and portion size before you consume it. This will give your mind the time to understand the caloric impact of your food choice and possibly you’ll decide that you don’t need to eat now and can wait until your next meal.

Remove the Emotional Element of Eating: We all eat for different reasons. Some people are emotional eaters, while others use food as a social event to entertain or maintain a family unit. These occasions are a guarantee that you’ll overeat if you don’t record your food ahead of time. Plan your meal before the event or meal begins and stick to your plan.

Failure to properly plan and record your menu can derail your best weight loss intentions. We frequently underestimate portion size and the total calorie count of a given food item or meal. Measuring or weighing all foods is critical to achieving your weight loss target. You can double the results of your efforts and keep the weight off permanently by keeping a daily food journal.

Thursday, November 11, 2010

Vitamin D Essential to Weight Loss Efforts

(Article first published as Vitamin D Shown to Slash Belly Fat, Assist Natural Weight Loss on Technorati.)
Excess body weight and abdominal obesity represent an astounding threat to the health of millions of men, women and children worldwide. Over the past century obesity has been relatively rare, affecting less than 1% of the population at the turn of the 20th century. Today the number of obese individuals is 34% and continues to grow steadily.

We have become grossly deficient in vitamin D as we shun sun exposure and rely on inept supplemental recommendations. Researchers have discovered that this super nutrient is required to metabolize stored fat and that more than 60% of people tested are severely deficient. You can help your body burn abdominal fat and lose weight naturally by regulating your vitamin D intake.

Study Shows Vitamin D Becomes Locked in Fat Cells
The results of a study published in the Journal of Clinical Endocrinology and Metabolism reveals that 59% of young women tested had too little circulating vitamin D and nearly one-quarter were grossly deficient in the active form of the vitamin. Vitamin D insufficiency has been shown to be a factor in the accumulation of excess body fat as the fat-soluble vitamin becomes locked away in adipocytes (fat cells). In the absence of sufficient vitamin D the body increases the number and size of newly formed fat cells that promote and accelerate abdominal obesity.

Low Vitamin D Linked to Fat Accumulation and Cancer
Vitamin D is actually a prohormone that becomes activated in the kidneys to become a potent hormone that controls of the growth of cells. In the absence of sufficient circulating levels of the active form, both adipocytes and cancer cells are allowed to multiply relatively unchecked. Sufficient levels of vitamin D signal fat cells to shrink. This makes weight loss much easier when calories are restricted and also keeps cancer cell growth in check.

Checking Vitamin D Levels to Assist Weight Loss
The only way to know if you are vitamin D deficient is with a simple blood test. Be sure to have the prohormone blood level checked with a 25-hydroxyvitamin D (25(OH)D) test. Most experts agree that the proper level to ensure complete cell saturation is between 50 and 70 ng/ml.

The referenced study found that every 1 ng/ml increase in blood level translated to an additional half-pound of lost body weight. This same level has also been shown to lower the risk from many cancer lines up to 78%. Most people will need to supplement with 2,000 to 10,000 IU daily to reach the proper saturation point. People with dark skin, higher body weight and advancing age will require higher doses of vitamin D.

Research has shown that vitamin D ranks among the most essential nutrients to promote human health. Our ancestors evolved in a sun drenched environment with nearly full body exposure for most of the day. We made large amounts of the vitamin in our skin and reaped amazing health benefits. Today we use sun screen and avoid the sun. The small amounts of vitamin D we may have become locked away in fat cells and perpetuate obesity. Ensure you have enough of this critical nutrient circulating in your blood to promote vibrant health and natural weight loss.

Wednesday, November 10, 2010

Obesity Shown to Be Contagious

(Article first published as Shunning Obese Friends Could Help Weight Loss Efforts on Technorati.)
Can you catch a bad case of obesity the same way you can a cold or the flu? Naturally obesity isn’t an airborne disease, but there certainly seems to be a strong link between packing on excess pounds and hanging around with friends or family members that overeat and maintain a lifestyle that promotes overweight and obesity.

Obesity is largely a preventable lifestyle condition that threatens the health of millions of men, women and children and is projected to include nearly half of the US population over the next 40 years. The only way to lower your chance of becoming obese is to control the environment around you, and this may include your friend and family relationships.

Study Shows That Obesity Loves Company
The results of a study published in the journal PLoS Computational Biology indicate that having 4 obese friends was enough to double your chances of becoming obese. The more obese friends and acquaintances you have, the higher your odds of becoming obese yourself. The study authors concluded that “people have gotten better at gaining weight in recent years, but not at losing it”.

From the study, it’s clear that the factors that lead to obesity are learned and are also dependent in large part on peer pressure. Short of limiting contact with your overweight friends, there are important ways you can modify your behavior and have a positive influence on those around you.

Behavioral Patterns Lead to Obesity
Researchers from this study didn’t fully explain the reasons behind their findings, but surmised that if you have a lot of friends with unhealthy eating habits, you are likely to follow along. Clearly, the path to obesity is paved with a high calorie diet, excess stress and insufficient physical activity. Behavioral patterns also play a pivotal role, as one member of a group is unable to develop a healthy dietary pattern that will promote weight loss.

Working to Improve Diet and Lifestyle to Lose Weight
You need to take the leadership role for the group and slowly begin to introduce a new pattern that will lead to a reduced calorie, active lifestyle. The first step is to find new places to eat if you eat out frequently. Make sure there are reduced calorie options that are available and be the one to suggest that the group may want to try some healthier fare. 

When entertaining at home, replace the chips and dip with fresh vegetables. By making small changes you can initiate a weight loss strategy which will lead to lower weight and improved health for all of your friends.

People like to function in groups, and frequently there is a leader who emerges to control the behavior of all members. When that person is obese, there is a strong likelihood that you will adopt similar habits which may not be beneficial to your weight and health. Break the trend by introducing a healthy attitude and everybody will benefit from successful weight loss.

Tuesday, November 9, 2010

Are Restaurant Meals Behind the Obesity Epidemic?

(Article first published as Restaurants Could Hold the Key to Weight Loss Success, or Failure? on Technorati.)
Everybody likes to eat out. The typical American family eats between 4 and 7 meals away from home each week and many experts agree that this is one of the reasons for the obesity epidemic. Meals prepared by a chef or even a fast food restaurant are notoriously high in calories, fat, sugar and salt.

If the meal wasn’t to your liking, you wouldn’t patronize the restaurant in the future, so it’s in their best interest to serve the largest portions that appeal to your innate taste for food bursting with flavor. Meals eaten away from home pack on twice the calories as food you prepare in your own kitchen. When surveyed, chefs agree they could trim the calories and still prepare great tasting food.

Chefs Could Trim 10 to 25% From a Typical Meal
The results of a survey conducted by Penn State researchers demonstrate that there is room to cut calories without sacrificing taste and customer loyalty. 72% of the chefs surveyed indicated that they could trim 10% of the calories without any difference in meal appeal while 21% said they could cut a quarter of the calories with no difference in taste. Considering the number of meals eaten at restaurants each week by the typical patron, this could result in hundreds or thousands of fewer calories and significant weight loss.

Chefs Largely Unaware of Calorie Content
The pressing question is why chefs wouldn’t make changes to reduce the calorie burden of their meals. That question was posed as part of the survey and the researchers found that 7% had no idea of the number of calories in their recipes and another 49% were only somewhat familiar.

The survey authors concluded "If a large number of chefs don't know the calorie content of their food, they will be limited in their ability to modify what they serve to guests". Chefs indicated they were more than willing to create new recipes with lower calorie counts, but were hesitant to modify their existing signature food items as they feared they may downgrade their reputation.

People Don’t Want Low Calorie Options When Dining Out
A reduced calorie or low carb menu has been tried before and most restaurants have found that these items are the “kiss of death”. When rating the obstacles to increasing the selections of healthy foods on their menu, 32% of chefs indicated that low consumer demand was the key reason. Another reason was the higher cost of the ingredients.

The Customer is King
The bottom line is you are in control of the foods you eat and how much excess fat you carry. If a low calorie option is not on a menu, you have to ask for it. Most restaurants will make the necessary changes to accommodate your needs. Choose a large salad as your entre and add grilled shrimp or chicken for protein. Dress with olive oil and vinegar and a little lemon for a fresh burst of flavor. It’s best to avoid bread, fried offerings and dessert.

Restaurant dining can be added near the top of the list of contributing factors to our obesity epidemic. These meals contain twice the calorie content as a home prepared meal and 3 to 4 times the number of calories that should be consumed at one meal. When making the choice to dine out, be mindful of healthy options and ask to have a meal prepared with your needs in mind. While most chefs don’t have your health interests in mind, you can take charge and use dining away from home to your weight loss advantage.

Monday, November 8, 2010

Mediterranean Diet May Hold the Key to Obesity and Natural Weight Loss

(Article first published as Obesity Rate Skyrockets, Mediterranean Diet Helps Weight Loss Efforts on Technorati.)
Overweight and obesity are known to dramatically increase the risk of developing heart disease, diabetes, cancer and dementia. Excess body fat fuels the fire of systemic inflammation and the release of dangerous chemical messengers or cytokines that damage the delicate inner lining of our arteries and set the stage for vascular dysfunction.

As we pass age 35, there is a natural tendency to gain weight due to slowing metabolism, unchanged calorie intake and less physical activity. These problems are compounded by a diet high in processed carbohydrates and hydrogenated fats that stimulate fat storage and metabolic disarray. Following a Mediterranean style diet can help to curb weight gain, improve health and boost your weight loss efforts.

Alarming Study Projects 42% Obesity Rate by 2050
Researchers have been encouraged that the obesity rate has stabilized at 34% over the past 5 years. The number of overweight and obese individuals has also remained steady at just under 70% for the same period. New research released in the journal PLoS Computational Biology uses statistical projections from the Framingham Heart Study to suggest that the upward trend will continue over the next 40 years to peak at 42% of men, women and children registering as clinically obese.

Obesity Explodes Over the Past Century 
In the early 1900’s 1 in 150 people were obese. By 1971 the obesity rate climbed to 14%. 40 years later that number has jumped to 34%. Something has changed during this time period to create such an explosion in body fat accumulation. We are still the same genetically diverse people we were 100 years ago, yet our metabolism has been dramatically altered toward fat storage. While physical activity may play a small role in the increase, there is one much more compelling reason we’re exposed to many times each day.

Understanding the Real Cause of Obesity
Our diet has been altered considerably over the past 100 years. Natural foods eaten raw or minimally processed have given way to fast convenience items that have been scientifically altered in a lab to appeal to our innate taste for sugar, fat and salt. Fast releasing carbs cause our blood sugar to remain high most of the day. Eventually insulin becomes resistant to excess glucose and is no longer able to effectively usher sugar from the blood and into the cells. Our grandparents didn’t have this problem, and while they did put on small amounts of weight as they aged it didn’t lead to early onset obesity commonly seen today.

Mediterranean Diet Could Hold the Key to Controlling Weight
The results of new research published in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition show that a Mediterranean style diet can help to keep unnatural weight gain in check. Study participants that adhered closest to a diet consisting largely of vegetables, fruits, fish, nuts, seeds and monounsaturated fats such as olive oil were 10% less likely to become overweight or obese and had 26% lower odds of packing on more than 11 pounds over the course of 4 years. This is because the Mediterranean diet is much higher in fiber and provides a feeling of satiety while eliminating sugary junk foods that raise blood sugar and cause dangerous belly fat.

Overweight and obesity is one of the leading preventable causes of chronic disease and death. The past century has seen the problem grow to the point where it threatens nearly half of the adult population. The solution is a low sugar and carbohydrate diet based on the Mediterranean way of eating, monitoring calories and ensuring adequate physical activity. Small changes to diet and lifestyle today will result in many healthy years later in life.