Archive for the 'Weight Control' Category

Excess Weight Linked to Poor Memory in Older Women

The brainIf you want to keep your mind as healthy as possible as you age, pay attention to your waistline.  Evidence is accumulating that excess weight is linked to mental decline in older years. 

A recent study found that postmenopausal women lost one point from their scores on a standard memory test for every point increase in their body mass index, indicating that obesity is linked to a decline in  memory and brain function with aging. 

A 2008 study found similar results. People with the greatest central fat accumulation had almost a three-fold higher rate of dementia 36 years later than those with the least amount.

More Information:

Source: Neurology, March 26, 2008

SOURCE: Journal of the American Geriatrics Society, online  July 14, 2010 

Skip the Highly Processed, Refined Grains in Your Diet

Whole grain foodsWhite is bad, at least when it comes to weight control and a healthy diet.  White bread, white, flour, white rice, white sugar, and even white pasta are all highly refined, have less fiber, and are thought to contribute to obesity and Type 2 Diabetes.

The more you substitute whole grain carbohydrates for the white, highly processed foods, the easier it’ll be to control weight and avoid such diseases as Type 2 Diabetes.

A recent study from Harvard found that having more than five servings a week was associated with a 17% higher risk of Type 2 Diabetes, whereas having two servings of brown rice a week was associated with a decreased risk of developing diabetes.

In an article by MedPage Today, Carl J. Lavie, MD, who was not involved in the study, cautioned that the data is “not strong enough to suggest to patients to increase their consumption of brown rice. Rather, the data is stronger to suggest that instead of consuming high quantities of white rice, it would be preferable to replace this with either brown rice and even better to replace white rice with other whole grains that have even lower glycemic indices.”  Another obesity researcher added that “whole grains are likely more important than brown rice alone”.

More Information:

SOURCE: Sun Q, et al “White rice, brown rice, and risk of type 2 diabetes in U.S. men and women” Arch Intern Med 2010; 170(11): 961-69.

SOURCE: “Brown Rice over White to Cut Diabetes Risk”, MedPage Today, June 14, 2010

Weight-Loss Drug Linked with Rare Cases of Liver Damage

Bathroom scalesThirteen cases of severe liver damage have occurred in association with taking the widely-used weight-loss drug Orlistat, according to the the U.S. Food and Drug Administration. Orlistat is sold by prescription under the trade name Xenical and available over-the-counter as Alli.

The FDA estimates that some 40 million people worldwide are taking the drug, so the incidence of liver damage is rare.  Nonetheless those who take the drug should be advised to stop the use of Orlistat and see their doctor if they develop itching, yellow eyes or skin, dark urine, light-colored stools, right-upper quadrant abdominal pain, fever, weakness, vomiting, fatigue, or loss of appetite. Orlistat therapy should be immediately discontinued if liver injury is suspected. 

Although a rare side effect, the bottom line is that all medications that you put in your body have potential for side effects.  This includes over-the-counter medications and herbal products.  Weight-loss drugs, in particular, have a bad track record so far.  Most people remember the disasterous Fen-Phen combination drug which swept the diet market in the early 1990s.  The popularity of Fen-Phen fell as fast as it rose when fenfluramine, which was the “Fen” in Fen-Phen, was linked to the life-threatening diseases, pulmonary hypertension and serious heart valve problems.  

Since 1980, obesity rates have risen three-fold and have reached epidemic proportions globally.   In the U.S., 66 percent of adults are either overweight or obese, according to the U.S. National Center for Health Statistics.   We need to solve this growing problem, but taking a pill has not proven to work very well.  The side effects are often difficult to tolerate or even dangerous at times, and once the pill is stopped, the weight piles back on, often more quickly than it was lost.  

There’s no easy solution for weight control–like so many things on this planet that are worthwhile, you have to work at it.  Permanent lifestyle changes which include eating right and exercising regularly remain the only true cure for obesity.     

More Information:


SOURCE: “Rare Cases of Liver Damage Tied to Weight-Loss Drug”, HealthDay News, May 26, 2010

New Weight-Loss Drug Decreases Hunger

Bathroom scalesA new and potentially exciting weight-loss drug is on the horizon, but has not yet been approved by the FDA.  The compound, called Attiva, is a  superabsorbent hydrogel capsule which is made entirely from food components. 

Attiva is to be taken with water before mealtimes to induce satiety.  When the water mixes with the hydrogel, the substance expands to fill the stomach, making less room for food, causing the person to eat less. 

The material then passes to the smaller intestine, decreasing its volume and slowing the rate of sugar absorption, making for better glycemic control, according to the researchers who developed Attiva.  Finally, it degrades in the colon where it releases the absorbed liquids, and is elimated from the body in the stool.

So far, researchers have found Attiva to be safe and well-tolerated.  Gastrointestinal symptoms, particularly nausea, were the most common side effect occurring in 7.4% of patients taking the capsules.

Source:  Heshmati HM, et al “Attiva, a novel superabsorbent biodegradable hydrogel, increases the feeling of satiety in humans” AACE 2010; Abstract 605. 

Source: “AACE: New Hydrogel Diminishes Hunger”, MedPage Today, April 22, 2010 


Excess Fat Around the Abdomen May Increase the Risk of Dementia

Measure your abdominal girth on a regular basisIn addition to the heart, researchers are finding that the brain also appears to be a target organ for the harmful effects of central obesity. In a recent study of 6,600 people, those with the greatest central fat accumulation had almost a three-fold higher rate of dementia 36 years later than those with the least amount. 

This study contributed to the growing body of evidence that centralized obesity is dangerous, even for those who are not overweight.

Excess fat around the abdomen has previously been found to be an independent predictor of diabetes, insulin resistance, coronary heart disease, stroke, and mortality.

More Information:

Source: Neurology, March 26, 2008

Fat Cells Can Increase Stroke Risk

Measuring your waist line regularly is a good way to keep an eye on weight gainBeing overweight increases the risk of ischemic stroke by 22%, while being obese increases the risk 64%, according to Italian Researchers from the University of Naples Medical School. In their 2010 study of almost 2.3 million people, the researchers found that being overweight and obese independently affected stroke risk.  

One possible reason for this, one of the researchers told Reuters, is that fat cells can secrete unhealthy substances that promote inflammation and contribute to hardening of the arteries and blood clotting.

Source: “Being overweight ups stroke risk, study confirms”, Reuters Health, April 5, 2010

More Information:  Control weight gain with exercise

Exercise Can Overcome the Obesity Gene

Exercise on a treadmill is an excellent way to achieve an exercise level of moderate intensityAn hour a day of moderate to vigorous exercise can overcome the effect of a gene that predisposes people to obesity, Swedish researchers report.

More Information: What is Moderate Intensity Aerobic Exercise?

Source:  Ruiz JR, et al “Attenuation of the effect of the FTO rs9939609 polymorphism on total and central body fat by physical activity in adolescents: The HELENA Study” Arch Pediatr Adolesc Med 2010; 164(4): 328-33. 

Source: “Exercise Can Beat Obesity Gene”, MedPage Today, April 5, 2010

OTC Diet Pills Can Be Dangerous and Addictive

PillsOver-the-Counter diet pills may have undeclared pharmaceutical ingredients which can be dangerous and extremely addictive, researchers say. In fact the FDA has recently issued several warnings on diet pills with undeclared ingredients, specifically amphetamine-based ones from Brazil.

Harvard physicians report a recent case of a 29-year-old female patient who became addicted to Brazilian diet pills that contained unlabeled ingredients.  She reported taking the Brazilian diet pills for four years and had gone into debt to purchase the pills from an acquaintance, spending $160 per month.

At the time of her first visit with a physician, she had been suffering with a number of symptoms that she attributed to the pills and when she tried to quit, she would experience cravings, tremor, headache, and anxiety.

The diet pills were found to contain an amphetamine, chlordiazepoxide, and fluoxetine, which were illegal, dangerous, and not included on the label.  Apparently, all of these components could have contributed to the woman’s depression, anxiety, and hallucinations, as well as her dependence on the pills.

In an article by MedPage Today, “Diet pills with unlabeled ingredients are nothing new… In the 1960s, ‘rainbow pills’ contained amphetamines, diuretics, thyroid hormone, and cardiac glycosides. They were banned after their use was linked to sudden cardiac deaths.  In the 1980s, diet pills comprised of amphetamines, benzodiazepines, thyroid hormone, and diuretics appeared in Europe and South America. They’ve long been banned but remain widely available.”

Source: Smith BR, Cohen PA “Dependence on the Brazilian diet pill: a case report” Am J Addict 2010; DOI: 10.1111/j.1521-0391.2010.00034.x.

Source: “Adulterated Diet Pills Could Be Addictive”, MedPage Today, April 5, 2010 


Improve your Mood by Cutting Out the Fat

Fruits and vegetablesWeight loss is definitely linked to enhanced mood and a sense of well-being in overweight adults, but is their a difference between following the low-fat or the low-carb diet?

Restricting fats instead of carbohydrates was found to yield better results in terms of overall mood, Australian researchers have found.  In their study, dieters who stuck to low fat consumption had lasting reductions in hostility, confusion, depression, and overall bad mood scores during one year of dieting compared with those on a low-carb diet.

Low-carb diets are problematic in that they typically lead to more rapid weight loss, and researchers have found that rapid weight loss leads to rapid regains.  In a 2010 study from the University of Pennsylvania, participants who lost the most in the beginning were more likely to gain the weight back, and those who achieved weight loss by doing it in a slower manner, were more likely to keep it off. 

Low-carb diets are more difficult to follow long term. They require drastic changes in the way people typically enjoy their food. Cutting out fruits and vegetables, or eating a sandwhich without the bread, for instance, is hard to follow long term. Whereas in low-fat diets, all food groups are allowed with certain important changes, such as switching from whole to skim milk. or eating bread without the butter.

Source:  Brinkworth GD, et al “Long-term effects of a very low-carbohydrate diet and a low-fat diet on mood and cognitive function” Arch Intern Med 2009; 169: 1873-80.

Source: “Low Fat Intake Sweetens Dieters’ Mood”,  MedPage Today, November 9, 2009

Source: M Vetter, M.D., R.D., medical director, Center for Weight and Eating Disorders, University of Pennsylvania, Philadelphia; L Sandon, R.D., assistant professor, clinical nutrition, University of Texas Southwestern Medical Center at Dallas; Annals of Internal Medicine, March 2, 2010,

Source: “Low-Fat Diets Beat Low-Carb Regimen Long Term”, HealthDay, March 1, 2010

Women Over 50 Need to Exercise An Hour a Day to Keep the Weight Off

Daily exercise on a treadmill is an excellent way to stay fitFor normal-weight women, middle-aged and older, sixty minutes of moderate-intensity physical activity a day is needed to prevent weight gain, according to researchers from Brigham and Women’s Hospital and Harvard Medical School.

Weight tends to gradually increase with age, even among those who have maintained a normal weight in their younger years. After the age of 25 our body naturally gains 1 pound per year, if nothing else changes.

What is moderate-intensity exercise? Experts usually consider it to be strenuous enough to cause a slight but noticeable increase in breathing and heart rate. Hard enough to break a sweat, but not so hard that you can’t comfortably carry on a conversation.   In the above study, moderate-intensity exercise was considered the equivalent of one hour a day of brisk walking or 30 minutes a day of jogging or running.

Note: Check with your health care provider before beginning an exercise program. If you have chest pain, feel faint or light-headed, or become extremely out of breath while exercising, stop the activity at once and tell your doctor as soon as possible.

More Information: Exercise

Source: Lee IM, et al “Physical activity and weight gain prevention” JAMA 2010; 303(12): 1173-79.
Source: “Cardiovascular Exercise” from