Weight Loss Studies
Weight loss, diet and nutrition studies produce a lot of results, some conflicting and some contradicting, showing how our eating patterns and behaviors impact or lives. What is the best way to lose weight? Why is it so hard for some people to lose weight and easy for others? What is the best diet plan? What vitamins do we need on a daily basis to stay healthy? Is a low-carb diet really the healthiest diet? What really is a balanced diet? These are just a few of the questions that such studies attempt to answer.
Weight Loss Studies
Before looking at weight loss studies to determine what works best and why and other factors, it is important to start with the basic reasons people gain weight in the first place. Many people gain weight in spurts.
Most weight loss studies indicate that gain is not continuous. There are points when an individual levels off. Most weight gain is a result of binge-eating or periodic indulgences.
Understanding Weight Gain
Weight gain may be attributed to any number of causes. Some of these may include pregnancy, lifestyle changes, hormonal imbalances and various mental health issues such as stress and anxiety.
Poor eating habits may contribute to weight gain, especially with high-carbohydrate and high-calorie diets. Metabolism is another factor in weight gain, explaining why some people struggle to lose weight while others never gain much beyond their normal weight.
Weight Gain Factors
Depression is the leading emotional factor contributing to weight loss, according to most studies. Additional factors may include guilt and anger. Some people eat when they are upset or dealing with stressful personal issues. Those who are in the process of quitting smoking may have a noticeable weight gain from substituting food for the act of smoking. Alcohol consumption, drug use and certain medications may also be weight gain factors.
Certain medications, such as lithium, tranquilizers, tricyclic antidepressants, corticosteroids, cyproheptadine, phenothiazines and some medications that increase fluid retention. Physical injury may also contribute to weight gain due to increase mobility and lack of or reduced physical activity. There are five basic factors of weight gain recognized by several weight loss studies.
- Lifestyle - An exercise deficit is the main contributing lifestyle factor to weight gain. This may also include bouts of food binges from other issues that contribute to sporadic weight gain.
- Metabolic - Changes or variations in metabolism combined with reduced physical activity may contribute to weight gain due to increased activity of fat storage mechanisms.
- Aging - Decreased lean-body mass with age leads to slow progressive weight gain, generally in the sixth and seventh decade.
- Food-addiction - Compulsive eating, for any number of reasons, is generally associated with weight gain or rapid weight gain.
- Emotional eating - Lifestyle and emotional issues often result in sporadic weight gain and weight loss once the trigger issue has been resolved. This is called pattern eating.
These factors are not mutually exclusive. Studies confirm that weight gain tends to be a combination of two or more of these factors over time. Often a lifestyle pattern resulting in weight gain is associated with other factors such as emotional eating affected by metabolism disturbances compounded by aging.
People often develop dysfunctional habits in their mid-thirties to early forties. Individuals who have not altered these patterns by their early fifties are at an increased risk of health issues associated with weight such as high blood pressure, higher levels of "bad" cholesterol and increased risk of heart disease.
Obesity and Weight Loss
The reasons to lose weight are highlighted by stats confirming an alarming rate of obesity. Thirty-four percent of adults over the age of 20 are considered obese, with another 34% considered to be overweight, but not obese. Eighteen percent of children age 12-19 are considered obese with 20% of children 6-11 years of age considered obese and 10% of children age 2-5 considered obese.
Obesity is defined as having a body weight that is 20% over an individual's ideal body weight. BMI or Body Mass Index is not always an accurate indicator of determining if an individual is overweight because it does not directly measure body fat. For example, some athletes may be classified as overweight or obese while realistically not fitting into either category when other factors are considered.
Certain foods and behaviors have been shown to be conducive to weight gain. Recent research suggests that a focus on preventing weight gain as opposed to concentrating on weight loss techniques may be more effective in the long run. These foods and behaviors may not have an immediate impact, yet still have result in weight gain over time.
- Potatoes/potato chips
- Sugar-sweetened drinks
- Unprocessed red meats
- Watching TV
Foods that tend to be beneficial in terms of weight loss include:
- Whole grains
The key to losing weight is not eating less, but eating smart. A Penn State study found that diets emphasizing low calorie intake promote healthier weight loss. The study found that more restrictive diets tended to produce temporary results or no results at all and did little or nothing to control hunger. Healthy weight loss should be done gradually.
Healthy Weight Loss
The general recommendation for a healthy weight loss rate is 1-2 pounds per week. Any significant weight loss effort should be done under a doctor's supervision. Healthy weight loss including moderate exercise is considered the most effective weight loss plan. The reasons for weight gain varies per individual. The same is true with weight loss efforts.
One recent study suggests that weight loss is controlled by the brain in terms of how we think about weight loss. Ultimately, it takes time to find a weight loss plan that works for each individual.
A healthy diet is frequently mentioned as the best way to lose weight, but what exactly is a healthy diet? Standard dietary guidelines include a diet that balances calorie intake and incorporates physical exercise. A healthy diet should include foods with beneficial nutrients such as vegetables, fruits, whole grains, seafood and fat-free and low-fat products. A healthy diet should include the following basic elements:
- An emphasis on fruits, vegetables, fat-free or low-fat dairy and milk products and whole grains.
- Incorporate lean meats, fish, poultry, eggs, nuts and beans in the overall dietary intake.
- Be low in salt, certain forms of cholesterol, added sugars aside from the natural sugar consumed in foods, refined grains and saturated and trans fats.
According to the American Dietetic Association, a diet should focus on smart choices from each of the recognized food groups, meet daily calorie requirements, find a balance between diet and exercise and consume calories mostly for nutritional benefit. A UCLA study echoes other research suggesting that conventional diets do not work.
There are several diets where an individual can realistically lose five to ten percent of their body weight. However, most individuals on such diets experience a weight regain with some gaining back more than their initial weight.
Diet and Nutrition In Our Environment
An ongoing Total Diet Study by the Food and Drug Administration determines the level of nutrients and contaminants in the most common foods Americans eat on a regular basis. The market basket study has been an ongoing FDA program since 1961. The goal of the program is to monitor contamination in foods in terms of pesticide residues, toxic and industrial chemicals and nutritional elements.
The study is unique since foods used in the study are table ready, meaning they are prepared as they would be for a typical meal. This provides realistic dietary information and analysis. Information from this study is used to make official government dietary and nutritional recommendations as well as warn about possible food dangers from over exposure to certain contaminants.
Balanced diet is another term often used in connection with dietary issues. What exactly does it mean? It means getting all the nutrients needed by the human body in the correct amounts. Generally, a balanced diet should contain protein, carbohydrates, healthy fats, vitamins, minerals and fiber.
The problem with some diets, such as Atkins, is that essential nutrients are eliminated from the diet. Research studies on so-called fad diets show that they may produce results, but not be the healthiest way to achieve those results. In fact, some diets may do more harm than good because they eliminate certain essential components from a daily diet.
Diets associated with lifestyle, such as a vegetarian or vegan diet, produce conflicting results. Some studies argue that an individual obtains all the necessary dietary needs from such diets, while other research suggests that there are noticeable dietary deficiencies.
Some studies suggest vegetarians have health benefits such as lower rates of high blood pressure and heart disease. Studies suggest there may be health issues with vegan diets such as an increased risk of blood clots. Variations of this diet include fruitarianism and raw veganism. Veganism, dating to 1944, eliminates non-human animal products from an individual's diet.
Types of Diets
Dieting is more than restricting calorie intake, it is a change in lifestyle and a new way of looking at food and its relationship to the human body. Choosing the right diet depends on an individual's goals. Basic diets can be broken down as follows:
- Fixed-menu diet
- Exchange diet
- Prepackaged-meal diet
- Formula diet
- Questionable/fad diets
- Flexible diets
There is no one diet that is right for everyone. Although, most studies agree that a healthy and balanced diet in connection with at least light to moderate exercise can produce several noticeable health benefits.
Fad diets and diets that restrict proper nutritional levels should be avoided. A healthy diet is one that takes effect gradually, but produces continued results.
Good nutrition provides energy. Proper nutrition gives the body the fuel it needs to function. The main form of energy humans ingest is carbohydrates. This is way diets that eliminate carbohydrates tend to lack sufficient nutritional benefits.
Studies show that a balance of carbohydrates is best for overall health. If the body does not get enough carbs, it produces glucose from protein or fat. If the body has too many carbs, it then stores them as fat.
Sorting Out the Info
Nutrition research can be all over the place and even be contradictory at times. Recent studies extol the virtues of fish Oil, omega-3 fatty acids, antioxidants, soy milk and ginkgo biloba extract. Most nutrition research does find agreement on some basic points. Protein is important. Protein in food breaks down into individual amino acids.
Vitamins and minerals are important because they function as co-enzymes to help with certain chemical reactions in the body. Antioxidants help the body put up a defense against contaminants and harmful environmental factors such as sun damage and cigarette smoke irritants.
Importance of Nutrition
Several studies confirm the numerous health benefits of good nutrition. Good nutrition can have an impact on every aspect of our lives, both physical and mental. A balanced nutritional intake helps all the systems of the body function properly. The benefits of proper nutrition may include:
- Improved sleep and better mood
- Promotes healthy bones
- Better heart health due to solid nutritional choices
- More energy
- Improved self-confidence
- Improved brain functioning and memory
Nutrition In Our Lives
According to a recent study, about 19 percent of men and 26 percent of women eat at least five servings of fruits and vegetables a day. This is a major reason why nutritional and dietary supplements are needed.
All the nutritional information that is bombarded at us can be confusing and overwhelming. People have different nutritional needs at different points in their lives. There is general agreement that a balanced diet, exercise and solid nutritional decisions can achieve the basic goal of overall good health.