Eat well, live longer

over_eating_on_couch_anim_500_wht_6531and look younger? Well according to the Times nutritionist Jane Clarke you can achieve all those things by eating better.

By which she means eating less (a low calorie i.e. no more than 1,800 a day, healthy diet is claimed to  add 7-10 years to your lifespan). If you are physically active however you will need more than that.

And eating foods high in anti-oxidants will reduce the cell damage caused by sun, smoke, pollution, burnt meat and rancid fat.

Avoid foods low in transfats, salt, and refined sugars which can increase your blood pressure, add to your weight and increase your risk of heart diseases.

So here is her recommended list of super-foods. Look them up yourself to see specific benefits.

  • Avocado
  • Blueberries
  • Carrots
  • Hemp oil
  • Live yoghurt
  • Oats
  • Onions
  • Garlic
  • Prunes
  • Sardines
  • Black tea
  • Water

There you have it. Eat, enjoy!

It might also help if you get off your backside and do some exercise!

Crash diets make you even fatter

stick_figure_overweight_scale_1600_wht_3853There is a risk that crash diets will damage a person’s capacity to burn calories.

A study of people on a reality TV show, The Biggest Loser,  which challenges obese people to lose weight, found that they are now condemned to a lifetime battle with food as their bodies strive to get back to their original weight.

And to make matters worse they are no longer able to burn calories at the rate they once did.

The show had been criticised previously for irresponsibility in promoting drastic weight loss through dieting and fitness. Almost all the original contestants from 2009 have now returned to their original weight with many now heavier than before.

The study was carried out by Dr Kevin Hall at the National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases in Maryland, USA. Analysis of their metabolic rates shows that they are physically unable to process a normal number of daily calories.

Danny Cahill was the winner in season 8 (2009) when he dropped from 30.7 stones to 13.6 stones (i.e. losing 239 lbs). He now weighs more than 21 stone despite only eating 800 calories a day – less than half a man his size should eat.

Dr Hall’s study also revealed that almost all the contestants battled with hunger pangs and cravings which had risen dramatically since they appeared on the show.

During the extreme bouts of dieting their levels of the hormone leptin, which helps to control hunger, dropped to almost nothing which would have made the contestants ravenous all the time. Once they started eating normally again the leptin levels rose but to only half the previous levels.

Rachel Batterham, from the centre for obesity research at University College London, said “tampering with the body’s predisposition to fight weight loss will result in uncontrollable weight gains in almost all cases. These changes do not reverse once the person returned to their previously higher weight – they continue

Source: The Times

Medical academics at Washington University found that even a small amount of weight loss benefitted obese people. Losing just 5% weight reduces body fat and other risk factors for heart disease.

They said “The guidelines for treating obesity recommend a 5 to 10% weight loss but losing 5% is much easier than 10%.

If you weigh 200 lbs you will be doing yourself a favour if you can lose 10 lbs and keep it off. You don’t have to lose 50 lbs to get important health benefits

Breakfast is King – not necessarily

whats_for_dinner_1600_wht_11336Many people believe that having a large breakfast prevents overeating later in the day and can help you lose weight. Even doctors have suggested that you eat about a third of your daily calorie intake at breakfast, enhancing breakfast’s reputation as the most important meal of the day. But where’s the evidence?

James Betts, a senior lecturer in nutrition at the University of Bath has dismissed the idea that “eating breakfast like a king” will kickstart the metabolism to burn more energy and prevent unhealthy food choices later on. “These are largely assumptions based on observations which have never been tested” he says.

Do healthy people eat breakfast or does eating breakfast make you healthy? He thought there would be lots of evidence but couldn’t find it. The idea seems to have started as a marketing ploy by John Harvey Kellogg at the turn of the century as he promoted his cereals.

So to test the theory he asked volunteers to either eat a 700 calorie breakfast or just drink only water until lunch. The “no breakfast group “ate more at lunch but not enough to make up the 700 calories eaten by the other group at breakfast. And it didn’t increase their hunger later in the day.

Hormone tests showed that the levels of hunger were similar in both groups until lunchtime but by mid-afternoon the people who had eaten breakfast were hungrier. By the end of the day however the breakfast eaters had usually burned off the extra calories through fidgeting or light exercise.

Other earlier research has shown that children who skip breakfast perform worse at school than children who have breakfast. But other related factors like poverty, neglect or lack of sleep may also contribute to the poorer performance.

There was also research that showed that men who skipped breakfast were more likely to have a heart attack!

Dr Peter Rogers, a psychology professor innutrition and behaviour at the University of Bristol, says that doctors who tell overweight patients not to skip breakfast should think again as it’s probably the easiest meal to miss out.

And going back to Dr Betts’ volunteers who drank only water for breakfast we now know that water also affects our calorie consumption.

The Water Diet

stick_figures_at_water_cooler_pc_1600_clr_3800Not a Gywneth Paltrow gimmick or a Posh Spice suggestion (she only eats lightly salted spinach apparently), although lauded by the likes of Jessica Alba, Gisele Bündchen and Reese Witherspoon.

However there was no scientific evidence that drinking copious amounts of water is necessarily good for us. Until now.

Researchers at Illinois University have published a paper, based on over 18,000 people, in the Journal of Human Nutrition and Dietetics which shows that drinking water does actually help you to eat less and have less sugar and cholesterol.

They found that drinking an extra three coups of water a day meant you consumed up to 200 fewer calories which equated to losing a pound of fat in two weeks, regardless of what you ate or how much you exercised.

Scientists are also getting excited about pre-loading; drinking half a litre of water 30 minutes before each meal. Working with overweight and obese patients those who pre-loaded with every meal lost over 9lbs over a twelve-week period.

Even the dietitians are convinced. Although some experts say it’s better to sip little and often as drinking it all in one go can dilute your stomach acids and effect your digestion.

Health conscious people and gym goers tend to drink enough but the rest of us probably don’t. And that can lead to dehydration and putting on weight. Personally I’m averse to carrying a bottle of water around in my hand like a fashion statement saying how health-conscious I am.

And it only needs to be tap water. Not your expensive “hacked out of a glacier and towed from Iceland” variety. I made that up but I’m sure I read it somewhere. Sales of bottled water are worth £2 billion in the UK and up 10% on last year.

Researchers at Loughborough University have found evidence that high-intensity running can help you lose weight by suppressing your appetite through chemical changes in the body. It lowers the levels of a hormone which makes you hungry and boosts one which makes you feel full.

Some weight loss myths

apple_measure_tape_1600_wht_131291   Giving up carbs

Processed carbs can contribute to weight gain but you shouldn’t give up on complex carbs or wholegrain such as brown rice which have a lot of fibre and make you feel fuller longer.

Complex carbs can also have a lower glycaemic index (GI) – which is a measure of the rate at which sugar is digested – so you won’t get highs and lows in blood sugar.

Dietician Dr Sarah Schenker says it’s more about portion control and suggests limiting the calorie-dense healthy carbs such as rice, oats , or pasta, and alternate with lighter ones like butternut squash or corn on the cob which are just as filling.

2   Extreme exercise 

We think that if we expend more energy than we consume we should lose weight. And exercise does increase our metabolism (the rate at which we burn calories) but when we push ourselves too much it can actually prevent weight loss. “Pushing ourselves to do long runs and jogs can cause the body to release cortisol, a stress hormone, which encourages fat to build up round our middle” according to nutritionist Shona Wilkinson.

She recommends interval training instead as this boosts fat loss, gets the heart working, but controls the release of cortisol.  Also strength and resistance training which helps to build lean muscle and increases metabolism as well as burning calories which will lead to weight loss. She suggests 3 mins of fast running followed by 3 mins of walking, repeated 3 times 3 times a day.

3   Diet pills

A market worth £125 million ripping off people every day (in my opinion). All I want to say is that people who rely on pills are deluding themselves and may even put on weight because they aren’t careful about what they eat or exercising relying on their magic pill instead (And I could say the same about nutritional drinks sold by some sales people masquerading as personal trainers).

4   Skipping breakfast

Yes you might miss out on the 250 calories in an average breakfast but probably over-compensate by snacking mid-morning on sugary foods or eating more in your other meals. There is research that shows that people who skip breakfast are heavier than those who don’t  and Louisiana State University found that eating a 250-calories serving of oatmeal for breakfast resulted in reduced calorie intake at lunch.

5   Eating little and often

Or grazing. Problem is not the eat little but the often part of the equation. Just how often? it’s probably better to eat three meals a day. Our body releases insulin when we eat carrying sugar to our cells to burn as energy. This lasts for about 3 hours after which the body has to use energy from our fat stores. So an early breakfast followed by a noon lunch and you are already burning up your fat.

Research in Prague into people with Type 2 diabetes found that they lost more weight having two regular meals than eating 6 small meals with the same total amount of calories.

6   Going fat-free

All types of fat are high in energy. A gram of fat whether saturated or unsaturated provides 9 calories of energy compared with4 calories of carbohydrate and protein.

Healthier unsaturated fats are better at helping you to lose weight. For example Omega-3 fatty acids found in oily fish can help to reduce our addictive tendencies according to Dr Sally Norton, a former weight loss surgeon. “Fatty food also slows our stomach emptying making us feel fuller for longer”.

And beware foods labelled as healthy – they can contain more calories than the regular version. Harvard School of Public Health found that low-fat diets are no better for longterm weight loss than high-fat ones. (See “Healthy foods can be bad for you“)

7   Sticking to salads

Beware the calories in the salad dressings. And processed salads from fast-food chains or supermarkets can contain nuts and avocado which are rich in calories. Pret a Manger’s superfood salad contains 431 calories and 18 g of fat without a dressing but 662 calories and 42 g of fat with.

But who wants to eat nothing but salads? They hardly seem as if they would satisfy your appetite without some fish or similar alongside. So stick to salads as side dishes.

8   Not eating after 7 pm

Who comes up with these ideas. Have you never seen families eating evening meals in Spain late in the evening?

The premise behind this seems to be that eating later gives you less time to burn off the calories. It’s true that metabolism slows when you are asleep but it doesn’t automatically turn your food into fat.

Impose a deadline and you find yourself eating earlier so it doesn’t help you lose weight.And according to the US Department of Health it doesn’t matter what time of day you eat. “It’s what and how much you eat and how much physical activity that you do that determines whether or not you gain, lose, or maintain your weight level

And that’s the most sensible piece of advice I’ve heard.

Source: the Times

Size matters when it comes to plates

tape_measure_around_plate_1600_wht_15585It’s been officially confirmed by scientists that the smaller your crockery, the less you eat.

Researchers at Cambridge University looked at over 60 studies about the effect of portion size on calorie consumption. And surprise, surprise, the more food you give people the more they eat!

Giving people bigger plates encourages them to eat more. Tweaking plate sizes and portion sizes could reduce calorie consumption in the UK by 12% and by 16% in the USA.

It may seem obvious that the larger the portion size the more people eat but until this systematic review the evidence for this effect has been fragmented” said Gareth Hollands at the university’s behavioural and health research unit.

There has been a tendency to portray personal characteristics like being overweight or a lack of self-confidence as the main reason that people overeat. In fact the situation for most people is far more complex. Our findings highlight the important role of environmental influences on food consumption”

Short of controlling the amount of food people consume one way to cut down is to use smaller plates (plates have increased in size by 25% since 1900).

Reducing the appeal of larger portions (which may provide better value for money) is a challenge for future research.

Previous research has looked at other environmental factors.



Everybody’s walking…

stick_figure_normal_walk_500_wht_5051Experts say we should be walking at least 10,000 steps a day (about 5 Miles) just to stay healthy. But according to experts at Edinburgh University we are walking 80 miles a year less than we did ten years ago.

Research reported in The Lancet found that adding 2,000 moderately paced walking steps (20 minutes) a day to regular activity could cut the risk of strokes and heart disease by 8%.

Doing twice that many was as effective as being on cholesterol-reducing drugs such as statins i.e. by it reduces your cardiovascular risk by 16-20%.

Remember the controversy about taking statins because of their side-effects? Well walking doesn’t have any has been discovered to have these significant health benefits.

  • It can reduce cancer death risk by 34%
  • It can cut the risk of Type 2 diabetes by 50%
  • It can lower our risk of high blood pressure
  • It can lower our risk of high cholesterol
  • It can lower our risk of diabetes
  • It can lower the risk of osteoporosis

These facts are based on research by the American Heart Association based on a 6-year study published in their journal  Arteriosclerosis, Thrombosis and Vascular Biology. Furthermore research at the University of Oregon found walking was kinder to joints than running (no surprise there surely?)

Many personal trainers are incorporating walking into their programmes. One who runs “fitness walking camps” says “You can replicate all of the training methods used for running such as intervals and sprints on a walk” Including hills is one way of introducing intensity  as by walking uphill your body is subject to a form of resistance training.

You don’t have to go to fitness camp of course you can walk the kids to school, walk to work, or walk your dog.

Nordic Walking (ski-sticks without the snow) has been shown to provide more benefits than just a stroll through the park if you’re not worried what people think of your appearance.

Obviously the faster you walk the more energy you use. For example in 30 minutes a 9 and 1/2 stone person will use 75 calories walking at 2 mph. 99 calories at 3 mph, and 150 calories at 4 mph.

You can adopt an interval-training approach by walking at fast speeds for a few minutes then slowing your pace which is apparently good at improving cardiovascular fitness and boosting your metabolism.

If 10,000 steps a day, or 5 miles, sounds a lot start with 6,000 and 10 minutes of housework or shopping can equal 1,000 steps.

Professor Raustrop, who carried out research in Sweden, said that women aged 18-40 should do 12,000 steps, and 11,000 for those aged 40-50. For men the goals should be 12,000 up to age 50 and 11,000 after that. He also recommended that for girls aged 6-12 they should do 1,200 steps a day and boys 1,500.

If you’re thinking about walking to lose weight, think again. The Swedish research based on over 3,000 adult volunteers in 14 countries found that for women under 50 and all men, 10,000 steps is not enough to control weight. To lose weight you have to burn about 600 more calories a day than you consume.

  • 1 mile of brisk walking (4mph) = 1 Mars bar
  • I mile strolling (2 mph) = a small caramel latte
  • 1 Mile steady walking (3 mph) = a packet of Kettle chips
  • 1 mile of hilly walking = 1/2 a large ham & mushroom pizza
  • I mile speedy walking = a prawn & mayonnaise sandwich

Walking is a really good exercise for the over-60s. Even 30 minutes a day can prevent arthritis and disability.

People at risk of knee arthritis should be walking at least 6,000 steps a day. At 100 steps a minute that means asking for 1 hour. If you already have knee problems or are a beginner then start at 3,000 steps according to Professor Daniel White at Boston University. Research in Florida’s Institute of Ageing found that 150 minutes of walking a week resulted in 18% fewer episodes of disability in elderly patients.

If you are short of time then 15 minutes fast walking up stairs is just as good as twice that long walking or jogging on the flat according to the American Lung Foundation. Climbing stairs for an average of 6 minutes a day for 8 weeks led to a 15% drop in cholesterol evils and a 10-15% increase in fitness according to research at the University of Ulster. Stair walking is also good for toning legs and bums. Climbing 5 flights of stairs five times a week burns about 302 calories if you take every step but fewer calories if you take two stairs at a time.

Whichever way you look at it walking has got to be good for you!


Source: the Times Body & Soul 25 August 2014