Jul 19, 2011

nurses study

An interesting read on obesity causes in the New York Times. The piece is reporting on this report done by five nutrition experts at Harvard University. It follows 120,877 well-educated men and women who were healthy and not obese at the start of the study and were followed for 12 to 20 years. The data was captured within the Nurses' Health Study, Nurses' Health Study II and the Health Professionals Follow-up Study. In other words the study participants were nurses, doctors, etc.

The primary analysis focused on weight gain/loss over this time and the factors that influenced that gain/loss.

Interestingly participants gained 0.84 pounds per year on average. After the 20 years this amounted to almost 17 pounds of additional weight on average.

This is interesting because it shows that, on average, people over-consume about 8 calories per day. Take that piece of data in. To become overweight in 20 years requires you to mis-estimate your calorie requirements by less than two-thirds of a saltine cracker. While the conventional wisdom is that fat people are gluttons most health professionals know this weight gain is induced by very minor discrepancies in energy intake and expenditure.
“This study shows that conventional wisdom — to eat everything in moderation, eat fewer calories and avoid fatty foods — isn’t the best approach,”
So says the lead author (cardiologist and epidemiologist).

You don't say?

He then goes on to blow a hole in two of the more infuriating weight loss myths around.
“What you eat makes quite a difference. Just counting calories won’t matter much unless you look at the kinds of calories you’re eating.”
Got that? Reducing calories and increasing calorie expenditure won't help you lose weight.
“The notion that it’s O.K. to eat everything in moderation is just an excuse to eat whatever you want.”
Got that? Moderation is not a weight loss plan.

The study then shows that physical activity and diet are the two most important factors they measured for weight control. I think physical activity IS NOT important and that it is merely correlated with healthier eating habits (e.g., who eats cupcakes when they're working out every day or training for a race). In fact he goes on to say
Both physical activity and diet are important to weight control, but if you are fairly active and ignore diet, you can still gain weight,”
The study then lists the foods that contributed the most weight. What's disappointing about this is the study doesn't say how much of these foods were consumed. Also it doesn't separate out effectively the carb/protein/fat components of these foods. For example red meats and processed meats are listed as contributing weight gain but they don't say what form they are in. For example where does a hamburger fit or a turkey sandwich. Both have more carbs than protein. Most derogatory Atkins means like bacon cheeseburgers are absolutely not allowed on Atkins. What about things like bacon and salami which also can have large components of sugar in them and are eaten with with carbs. Again not clear.

On some level it doesn't matter though. Because this is a primary research report put out by Harvard based on data from 3 well known and highly regarded studies. It should get the ball rolling on making carbs the enemy.
The foods that contributed to the greatest weight gain were not surprising. French fries led the list: Increased consumption of this food alone was linked to an average weight gain of 3.4 pounds in each four-year period. Other important contributors were potato chips (1.7 pounds), sugar-sweetened drinks (1 pound), red meats and processed meats (0.95 and 0.93 pound, respectively), other forms of potatoes (0.57 pound), sweets and desserts (0.41 pound), refined grains (0.39 pound), other fried foods (0.32 pound), 100-percent fruit juice (0.31 pound) and butter (0.3 pound).
One last thing
At least six prior studies have found that rising weight increases the risk in women of heart disease, diabetes, stroke and breast cancer, and the risk in men of heart disease, diabetes and colon cancer.
I also believe this is not strictly true. I believe that metabolic syndrome is the precursor to these diseases and that most people in metabolic syndrome gain weight. But many do not because of genetics. Some doctors will opine that these are the most at risk patients because they have no tell tale signs that they are suffering from metabolic syndrome.


Anonymous said...

Here's my problem - Lunch. There's just no options if i don't want to a) bring in my lunch or b) eat the same thing every day. I do my best, but it always seems like it ends up with a sandwich some how.

C. Fuzzbang said...

Quite frankly breakfast lunch and dinner are all problems. 90% of a grocery store is off limits. 90% of all restaurants are off limits. The only thing that saves me is a decent vegetable offering nearby and a grade A butcher with decent prices. Regarding lunch you could always bring a low-carb tortilla (reasonably easy to find) and dump the sandwich contents in it and make a wrap. Me? I just skip lunch.