Archive for the 'Weight Control' Category

Mediterranean Diet Linked with Lower Rate of Depression

Salmon and vegetables are key foods in the Mediterranean dietThe Mediterranean diet, with its emphasis on consumption of olive oil, legumes, fish, vegetables, fruits and whole grains may help protect against major depression, according to Spanish researchers from the University of Las Palmas de Gran Canaria. 

In this 2009 study, participants were scored on their dietary practices and categorized according to their adherence to the Mediterranean Diet.  Those in the highest category of adherence to the Diet were found to be the least likely to develop depression, whereas those in the lowest category were the most likely.

The Mediterranean diet is based on a high ratio of monounsaturated to saturated fatty acids, a high intake of legumes, cereal, fruits and nuts, vegetables, and fish, moderate intake of alcohol and dairy products, and low intake of meat.

A growing body of literature is reporting the benefits of the Mediterranean Diet with respect to Cardiovascular Disease, Cancer, Cognitive Decline, Parkinson’s Disease, Erectile Dysfunction, and Type 2 Diabetes.

More Information: Depression

Source: “Mediterranean Diet May Protect Against Depression”, MedPage Today, October 5, 2009
Source: ”Mediterranean Diet Protects Against Stomach Cancer”, Reuters, January 15, 2010

Does A Drink a Day Really Help with Weight Control?

Women drinking wineLight to moderate drinking may keep women from gaining too much weight, according to the researchers from the Brigham & Women’s Hospital in Boston.

In their recent 13-year study of normal-weight women younger than 50, those who drank light to moderate amounts of alcohol daily, gained less weight and had a lower risk of becoming overweight or obese than either teetotalers or those who drank too much.

These findings and conclusions are highly controversial for a number of reasons. Experts do agree that further research is needed to confirm these conclusions, but certainly the findings should not be used as a license to drink. 

The fact remains that alcohol is well known to increase the risk of cancers of the mouth, pharynx, larynx, esophagus, liver, and breast.  Regular consumption of even a few drinks per week is associated with an increased risk of breast cancer in women. In fact, the American Cancer Society warns that those at high risk of breast cancer may want to consider not drinking any alcohol at all.

Source reference:
Wang L, et al “Alcohol consumption, weight gain, and risk of becoming overweight in middle-aged and older women” Arch Intern Med 2010; 170(5): 453-61.

Source: “Cheers! A Drink a Day May Keep the Pounds Away”, MedPage Today, March 8, 2010

Source: “Common Questions about Diet and Cancer” from the American Cancer Society

A Carcinogenic Form of Chromium Found in 3 Weight-Loss Supplements

Over-the-counter pillsRecent attention has been focused on three commonly used, over-the counter supplements and weight loss pills which contain chromium.  According to test results by Consumer Labs, a private provider of independent testing of health products, a carcinogenic form of chromium, known as hexavalent chromium, was found in three of these products that are currently on the market.  (The three products in question are not listed in this article, because of copyright laws, but a list of these weight-loss supplements, along with others that did pass testing by Consumer Labs, can be obtained at Consumer Labs online). 

Hexavalent chromium, or chromium (VI) is a more toxic form of chromium than the nutrient, chromium (III). It should not be found in chromium supplements, but it has occurred as a contaminant in some cases. It is known to be a human carcinogen and can cause other harmful health effects such as kidney and liver damage. 

Source: “Carcinogen Found in Several Chromium Supplements (Including Some for Weight Loss)”, Consumer Labs, March 3, 2010

Source: FDA

It Must be Safe if it’s on the Store Shelf, Right?

Weight loss pills

More and more products with  unidentified and harmful ingredients are finding their way into the booming U.S. “Dietary Supplement” marketplace. They are freely advertised on the radio and TV, and are readily available online as well as on the shelves of local grocery stores, pharmacies, and health food stores across the U.S. 

This booming multibillion dollar market falls under the category of “Dietary Supplements” which are vitamins, minerals, herbs and other substances meant to improve your diet or overall health.  They are most often advertised as “Natural”, which can often be far from the truth.  

“Natural” is an abused word which has become an effective tool of this rapidly growing industry. In fact, many of the so-called “Natural” dietary supplements on the market may not even be what they say they are on the label.  Even if they are pure, they still may well have significant adverse effects or interact with commonly prescribed drugs.  A good example of their potential danger is that many are well known to interact with anesthesia during surgery.  

The “Dietary Supplement” market is essentially unregulated by the FDA.  Unlike prescription or over-the-counter drugs, which must be tested and reviewed before they’re sold, federal laws allow the sale of untested, unreviewed, and unregistered Dietary Supplements.  So a very dangerous product may be on the store shelves and in your body for quite a while before it’s even reviewed or investigated.

Herbal drugs, claiming to provide miraculous cures for common ailments such as obesity, depression, anxiety, sexual problems, menopausal symptoms, arthritis pain and many others boast safe and natural relief without any side effects.  This is absolute nonsense.  These supposed remedies may well have dangerous side effects that you will probably discover sooner or later. 

These products line many shelves of grocery stores and pharmacies and  only the manufacturer itself is responsible for determining that the claims on their labels are accurate and truthful. The products are not even registered with the FDA, and only if the FDA becomes aware of false or misleading claims will the agency take action. 

On the other hand, a large number of useful and therapeutic herbal products certainly are on the market, but finding them is a challenge.  Do your research before making a purchase.  Consumer Labs Online is one reputable source, and your health care provider is another good reference.  In fact, it’s important to inform your doctor about any supplements you’re taking. Too many patients make the mistake of assuming that anything purchased over-the-counter is okay, and there’s no point in mentioning it to their doctor. 

The law which eliminated the FDA review and testing of dietary supplements was the Dietary Supplements Health and Education Act (DSHEA), which was passed in 1994.  Over the years since then, serious health problems have occurred with several different dietary supplements, prompting experts to call for a change in the current law. 

Many, including the FDA, are saying this law needs to be changed, but while we’re fixing that law, others are saying that the FDA itself, needs to be reformed.  Many people who love their “Natural” products, express their distrust of prescription drugs, and point out that many serious errors have occurred with drugs that have been approved by the FDA. Many experts agree that this is an unfortunate trend, and chronic underfunding of the FDA is said to be a major cause of this problem. 

In any event, sticking only to “Natural” products is not the solution.  Try to find a health care provider you trust, and make every attempt to be educated, beware and be skeptical of claims that are too good to be true. 

Source:  “Overview of Dietary Supplements”, FDA
Source: Consumer Labs, “Chromium Supplements (including weight-loss formulas”, March 2010
Source: “What’s in Hydroxycut?”, Kristina Fiore, MedPage Today, May 08, 2009 
Source:  “Reflections on Hexavalent Chromium: Health Hazards of an Industrial Heavyweight”, Environmental Health Perspectives, National Institute of Environmental Health Sciences, National Institute of Health, September 2000
Source: “New England journal endorses institute’s proposals for FDA”, BMJ. 2006 October 14; 333(7572): 772FDA

Wolfing Down Food Can Affect the Body’s Hormones

Eating too quickly can lead to obesityEating too quickly may inhibit the release of hormones that cause you to feel full, and lead to overeating, according to researchers from Laiko General Hospital in Athens, Greece.

In their recent study, patients who ate a meal in 30 minutes had higher levels of two satiety-inducing hormones, than those who wolfed down their food in five minutes.  The two satiety-inducing hormones are called peptide YY (PYY) and glucagon-like peptide (GLP-1).  They function to make the person feel full after a meal and do this by signaling the brain to stop eating. 

Source: Journal of Clinical Endocrinology & Metabolism
Source: “‘Wolfing’ Down Food Could Pack on the Pounds”, MedPage Today, November 2009  

Genetic Flaw May Be Linked With Some Cases of Obesity

GenesBlaming people for their obesity is no longer appropriate given the number of studies that point to the genetic influence underlying many cases of obesity. The researchers say it’s likely that a “patchwork” of different genetic variations will eventually emerge to explain more cases of obesity.  These genetic flaws may result in obesity by affecting appetite, or the rate at which the body burns fat.

That being said, most of the obesity epidemic currently affecting most Western countries still is attributed to a trend towards high-calorie foods and more sedentary lifestyles.

Source: “Morbidly obese may have missing genes” BBC, Feb 4, 2010

Diet Drug Linked with MI, Stroke and Cardiac Death

A fork with a measuring tapeResearchers found an increased risk of cardiovascular events including stroke, myocardial infarction and cardiac death among people taking the prescription diet drug, sibutramine (Meridia).

Sibutramine (Meridia) is a prescription diet drug approved by the FDA in 1997 for the management of obesity in conjunction with a reduced calorie diet. It is only indicated for individuals with an initial body mass index of at least 30 kg/m2, or at least 27 kg/m2 with other risk factors such as diabetes, high cholesterol, or controlled high blood pressure.

The labeling of Meridia currently recommends avoiding the use of it in patients with a history of coronary artery disease (heart disease), congestive heart failure (CHF), arrhythmias, or stroke.

 Learn more about the benefits of exercise and How to Start an Exercise Program

Source: “Early Data Link Diet Drug to MI, Stroke, and Cardiac Death? from MedPage Today, November 2009

Over 100,000 Cancers in the U.S. Each Year are Linked to Obesity

Weighing yourself is a good way to keep an eye on any upward trendsAccording to data recently released by the American Institute for Cancer Research (AICR), more than 100,000 cancers in the US each year are linked to excess body fat. It is well known that being overweight puts people at an increased risk of some types of cancer, but this research highlights the extent of the problem.

Excess body fat appears to be linked to 49% of endometrial cancers, 35% of esophageal cancers,  28% of pancreatic cancers, 24% of kidney cancers, 21% of gallbladder cancers, 17% of breast cancers, and 9% of colorectal cancers. 

According to one of the researchers, “The evidence is clear: If people sustain a normal body weight and remain physically active throughout life, it will have a major impact on cancer incidence.”

Learn more about the benefits of exercise and How to Start an Exercise Program

Source:  American Cancer Society, November 2009

Low Fat Diet Improves Mood

Bathroom ScalesWeight loss alone has been well known to improve mood and sense of well being, but whether one particular diet is better than another has not been well established.

In a recent study, people who followed a low-fat diet had lasting improvements in hostility, confusion, depression, and overall bad mood scores during one year of dieting compared with those on a low-carb diet. 

Both groups of dieters also showed an initial improvement in working memory that didn’t disappear over time.



Read more:

Source:  Archives of Internal Medicine, Nov. 9, 2009

Nightly Snacking Worse Than Daytime Nibbling

Late night snacking piles on the weightEating at night can lead to significant weight gain according to a recent study from  Northwestern University in Evanston, Ill.  Researchers fed one group of mice a high-fat diet during the hours when they normally would be sleeping, and fed another group of mice the same diet during their waking hours.  The mice who ate during their nocturnal hours gained twice as much weight over six weeks as the other group.

Although this study was on mice, and may not be applicable to humans, previous studies have also found similar results. Simply altering the timing of eating, without necessarily cutting calories or increasing exercise, may be key to success in weight loss. 

Source: Arble D, et al., “Circadian timing of food intake contributes to weight gain” Obesity 2009; DOI: 10.1038/oby.2009.264. 

Source:  MedPage Today, September 4, 2009