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Is High-Fructose Corn Syrup Behind the Obesity Epidemic?
For decades, many dieters seeking to shed a few excess pounds have avoided indulging in too many desserts, sugar, and other sweet treats. Though tasty, these foods pack a lot of calories into each bite, with few nutritional benefits to help soften the blow. The irresistible taste of sugary snacks also makes it difficult to say no, presenting a portion-control challenge for wary weight watchers, as well.
While many nutritionists, dieticians, and bariatric specialists agree that sweets should be eliminated from serious weight-loss efforts, some researchers are now contending that another culprit -- a common sweetening agent known as high-fructose corn syrup -- may pose a greater threat in the battle of the bulge.
This sweetener is a byproduct of naturally-sweet corn that has been enhanced to increase its sugary properties. The resulting sweetening agent is now used to add flavor to a staggering array of processed foods, ranging from catsup to sandwich bread.
Although the health impact of high fructose corn syrup remains a topic of heated debate, a growing number of researchers are identifying this sweetener as a possible cause of the unprecedented obesity epidemic now sweeping the United States and other developed nations. This week, we?ll review the findings of several recent studies that have looked at the possible relationship between high fructose corn syrup and weight gain.
Fructose May Play Key Role in Weight Gain
During the last decade, proponents of low-carb diets vilified all carbohydrate-containing foods as equally fattening. However, according to the results of a recent study conducted by researchers at the University of Florida, some carb-laden foods may be worse than others.
Comparing the weight-gain effects of a wide variety of starches and sugary foods and beverages, the researchers found that sugary foods were more likely to promote weight gain than were starchy foods like rice and potatoes. The most pronounced weight-gain effects were associated with foods with high fructose contents, including high-fructose corn syrup.
More specifically, the researchers singled out fructose and fructose-containing food products as being the most dangerous in terms of their ability to spark insulin resistance and metabolic syndrome, two causes of obesity, type II diabetes, and myriad other health problems. They suggested that a fructose index of foods could be used as an important tool in the weight loss process.
Fructose, Sugar Increase Appetite in the Same Manner, Study Shows
It has long been suspected that the appealingly sweet taste of sugary foods often prompt people to overindulge in sweet treats, overriding their bodies' natural hunger mechanisms simply as a means to taste more of the sweet food. However, according to the results of a recent study conducted by scientists at the Nutritional Sciences Program at the University of Washington, fructose and fructose-containing products appear to incite the appetite in much the same way.
In a study that compared the eating habits of individuals consuming sugary and diet sodas and other beverages, it was found that the subjects who drank the sugar- or fructose-containing beverages consumed more calories than those who were served diet drinks. The appetite-stimulating effect held true whether the sweetener used was cane sugar, sucrose, or fructose.
The researchers called for further investigation into the link between fructose, appetite, and obesity. In addition, they cautioned dieters to avoid sweetened beverages when trying to limit total calorie intake.
Drinks Sweetened with Fructose Linked to Obesity, Other Health Problems
There are many variables in the modern diet that differ drastically from the consumption patterns that persisted for millennia. Scientists all over the world have focused their efforts on determining which of these changes has given rise to the obesity epidemic now facing many industrialized nations.
One common variable that has emerged in a recent analysis of world health data is the prevalence of beverages sweetened with fructose and high-fructose corn syrup. A research team affiliated with the University of Barcelona has identified the molecular processes that may link fructose and obesity.
According to the team, fructose works to change the way the body processes lipid energy. Over time, long-term consumption of fructose-consuming products may result in fatty liver and metabolic syndrome. These conditions, in turn, are strongly implicated as precursors of obesity.
The scientists agree that more research will be needed to make a conclusive determination as to the relationship between fructose and obesity. However, in the interim, they suggest that dieters avoid beverages containing the substance.
If you have questions about the health impact of high-fructose corn syrup, talk to your doctor or a licensed nutritionist. Check back each week for more of the research news you need to succeed in your journey toward better health.
Researchers Work to Discover Causes, Solutions for Abdominal Fat
Known variously as the beer belly, the spare tire, the middle-age spread, the gut, the paunch, the pooch, the potbelly, the breadbasket, or love handles, those extra pounds that tend to collect around the midsection can be frustratingly resistant to diet and exercise. No matter what you call them, these pounds can add up to a serious health risk, according to the latest studies.
Although all types of obesity pose a health risk, research has shown that fat concentrated in the abdominal area can be particularly dangerous. Apple-shaped individuals with a disproportionate amount of belly fat are more likely to fall prey to health risks such as heart disease, high blood pressure, Type II diabetes, and some types of cancer.
To further complicate the problem, this type of fat is often unusually resistant to even the most dedicated efforts to minimize it. In both the research literature and the personal accounts of dieters, tales of stubborn belly fat abound.
Fortunately, researchers around the world are working diligently to solve the belly fat dilemma. This week, we'll take a look at the results of three recent studies that have attempted to shed some light on these hard-to-shed pounds.
Despite Challenges, Consistent Exercise Can Chip Away at Belly Fat
Many dieters with excess weight around the middle have complained about the difficulty of spot-reducing this area. Some fitness gurus have even gone as far as to suggest that spot-reducing isn't effective against stubborn belly fat. However, according to the results of a recent study, this assertion may not be entirely accurate.
Researchers at the Wake Forest University Baptist Medical Center conducted a five-year-long study designed to assess the best ways to help patients lose abdominal fat. They found that traditional dieting techniques, such as reducing calories, were often not enough to reduce the proverbial "spare tire."
Instead, the scientists found that an exercise program paired with a reduced-calorie diet was the most effective way to shrink the size of abdominal fat cells. In the study, the group of subjects who combined both diet and exercise were able to reduce the size of their abdominal fat stores by an average of 18%. In contrast, the group that relied only on reduced-calorie dieting did not achieve any statistically significant reduction in belly fat.
While the researchers underscored the importance of additional research to confirm these preliminary findings, they indicated that this conclusion may represent a breakthrough in the recommendations doctors make to help their patients lose dangerous abdominal fat.
Alcohol Consumption Linked to Abdominal Fat, Study Shows
The slang term "beer belly" has long been used to describe especially protuberant abdominal fat stores. But according to the results of a recent study conducted by researchers at the University of Buffalo, not all types of alcohol consumption contribute equally to the concentration of belly fat. Instead, the research found that certain alcohol consumption patterns are much more likely to result in fat around the abdomen.
The study participants who reported infrequent but intense bouts of drinking had the largest concentration of belly fat. Conversely, the subjects who drank consistently, but only in small amounts, displayed the least amount of abdominal fat.
The researchers pointed out that these findings underscore the importance of moderation in alcohol consumption, which is the approach that is already recommended by most physicians and health experts.
Genes May Play a Role in the Distribution of Abdominal Fat
Although most recent studies that have looked at the problem of belly fat have emphasized the importance of lifestyle choices in the management of this health risk, a study conducted by researchers at Joslin Diabetes Center in Boston looked into the role that genetics can play in the problem.
According to the researchers, both obesity in general and certain patterns of fat distribution on the body appear to be linked to inherited genes. Using tissue samples from both humans and mice, the researchers were able to make highly accurate predictions about BMI and fat distribution patterns by focusing on a sequence of three specific genes.
The scientists say that lifestyle choices such as eating patterns and fitness level also play a role in the distribution of body fat. However, when excess fat is accumulated, the genes seem to play a very significant role in determining how -- and where -- it will be stored on the body.
The researchers say that this knowledge may be able to used as a treatment for both obesity in general and abdominal fat in the distant future.
If you're concerned about abdominal fat, talk to your physician or a licensed nutritionist to devise a diet and fitness strategy that is suitable for your needs and limitations. And don't forget to check back each week for more of the diet and weight loss news you need to succeed.
Recent Studies Uncover Risks and Benefits of Weight Loss Drugs
To those who have struggled mightily with the scale, the idea of a "magic pill" that can put weight loss within reach for everybody can be very tempting. Although most of the so-called miracle drugs and over-the-counter concoctions out there that purport to help speed up the weight loss process aren't truly effective, researchers are now focusing in on a new generation of pharmaceutical interventions for weight loss that may prove to be more help than hype.
As the worldwide obesity epidemic continues to spiral out of control, scientists are searching for treatments that can help reverse the weight gain that can, over time, lead to obesity and a wide range of other health problems. A safe and effective weight loss drug could aid those for whom traditional weight loss methods such as calorie-counting and exercise are difficult or otherwise out of reach.
However, because of past controversies and health scares that have surrounded popular weight loss drugs in the past, these recent research efforts have been carried out carefully and gradually, with a great deal of emphasis now being placed on safety concerns and long-term health implications. This week, we'll take a look at some of the recent research targeting the development of new weight loss drugs.
New Diet Drug Shows Promise as Treatment for Obesity
The search for a safe, effective pharmaceutical treatment for overweight and obesity has been a goal of scientists around the world for decades. However, the process of finding a treatment that offers both safety and efficacy has been fraught with difficulty and unforeseen challenges.
A recent breakthrough by scientists at Tel Aviv University's Sackler School of Medicine may offer new hope to people who are struggling with excess pounds. According to Dr. Nir Barak, the leader of a research team that has been formulating and assessing different weight loss treatments for several years, a new drug that is based on a compound that is used in the treatment of vertigo may represent a significant step forward in the treatment of obesity.
In a preliminary study, the new drug was found to block a number of key hunger receptors in the brain that are responsible for regulating the feeling of satiety and fullness. When taken by overweight and obese patients, the drug has been found to significantly diminish cravings for fatty foods. For reasons the researchers have not yet been able to determine, the drug is particularly effective in female patients.
In the study, the group that took the drug lost approximately 7 times the amount of weight lost by the control group, who took a placebo. No serious side effects were reported. The results also indicated that the new drug might be effective as a means of reducing cholesterol.
More testing is needed before the drug can be released to the public, but because the early research was partially subsidized by a pharmaceutical company, the general release of the product -- now known as Histalean -- could be relatively swift.
Study Finds that Most Diet Drugs Can't Work Miracles
Despite dieters hopes to the contrary, the results of a recently released study conducted by British researchers indicated that three of the most popular weight loss drugs resulted in only mild to moderate weight loss in most cases.
In an experiment that compared the performance of popular diet drugs -- orlistat. rimonabant, and sibutramine -- participants lost an average of only 11 pounds. Of the three, rimonabant was generally found to be most effective.
Although the drugs were found to be somewhat helpful in kick-starting weight loss, the researchers emphasized that they should not be relied upon as substitutes for the most reliable dieting standbys -- namely, reduced calories and increased exercise.
Despite Controversy, Over-the-Counter Diet Drug Shown to Speed Weight Loss for Some
The first FDC-approved over-the-counter diet drug was released to great fanfare and criticism in the summer of 2007. Known popularly as Alli, the drug orlistat has elicited mixed reactions from critics, users, and health advocacy groups.
However, despite the controversy surrounding the drug, several recently released studies have confirmed that the formulation is effective in enhancing weight loss results for most users, with relatively few side effects.
In a recent study conducted by British scientists, orlistat -- which is a milder version of long-established prescription weight loss drug Xenical -- was shown to significantly boost weight loss for those in the moderatately-overweight category. Compared to the control group, the participants who took orlistat lost an average of five percent of their initial body weight. The most dramatic results were seen among those who paired the drug with a consistent low-fat diet regimen.
Although orlistat does not offer users rapid weight loss, the scientists emphasized that the gradual shedding of pounds is a healthier path than dramatic declines in body weight. With these findings, orlistat has now been proven effective in the treatment of a broad range of weight problems, ranging from mild overweight to morbid obesity.
If you think a prescription or over-the-counter diet drug might help your weight loss efforts, talk to your doctor to get a recommendation that's right for you. Don't forget to check back each week to get more of the breaking diet news you need to make your weight loss journey a success.
How to Stay Thin for Life: Studies Assess Strategies for Weight Loss Maintenance
You've counted calories, monitored carbs, avoided sweets, eliminated junk foods, watched your portion sizes, and made an effort to eat healthy foods. You've fought the good fight and found yourself at the end of your weight loss journey. Now what?
First of all, congratulations are in order. Not everyone who tries to shed excess pounds makes it to the finish line, so you should definitely be proud of your efforts. You've made some important life changes, and as a result, you've probably significantly increased your overall health and well-being.
That's the good news. The not-so-good-news? Well, research has shown that successful dieters often find healthy weight maintenance to be far more difficult than they imagined. In fact, most report that the maintenance phase can be even more wrought with challenges and frustration than the process of actually loosing weight in the first place.
Luckily, researchers around the world have focused their attention on weight loss maintenance, searching for techniques, strategies, and solutions to help make this phase of the process less challenging for intrepid dieters who are desperate to keep their lost weight off. This week, we'll take a look at several recent studies that have evaluated the challenges, triumphs, and pitfalls of weight loss maintenance.
Finnish Researchers Look for Clues to Long-Term Weight Loss Maintenance Success
Drawing on a large body of previously published research on the subject, a team of scientists from the University of Helsinki recently undertook a project that aimed to identify success factors in long-term weight loss maintenance.
The researchers compared dieters who had lost weight and kept it off with dieters who had lost weight and then subsequently regained some or all of it. Overall, they found that only 6% of their sample had successfully kept off all of their lost weight.
The researchers found that among male dieters, low stress levels and a high determination to stay healthy were the factors that were most strongly associated with successful weight loss maintenance. However, they also found that health problems were associated with successful weight loss maintenance in the male participants. Alcohol intake and high stress levels were linked most strongly to subsequent weight regain.
Among the women in the study, the researchers found that successful weight maintenance had more to do with successful lifestyle changes. Many of the successful dieters lost weight to improve pre-existing health conditions, and they reported that they did not want to let themselves relapse into poor health after loosing weight. In addition, a gradual but permanent change in eating and fitness habits was associated with long-term weight maintenance in women.
Social Support and Accountability May be Key to Maintenance Success
Many past studies of weight loss maintenance have focused on the contributions and efforts of the individual. However, the results of a recent investigation published in the prestigious New England Journal of Medicine emphasized the importance of an accountability group of supporters in the maintenance phase.
The study tested the efficacy of several support group-type "buddy systems" for dieters seeking to maintain their weight losses. It was found that both online and in-person support groups were very helpful in helping successful dieters keep the weight off over an extended period of time.
In-Depth Analysis of US Health Data Yields Clues About Healthy Weight Maintenance
In 1994, American researchers worked jointly to establish the National Weight Control Registry, a clearinghouse for health data about obese and overweight individuals and their efforts to shed excess pounds. Since that time, millions of medical records have been entered into the system, and scientists from around the world have used the data to better understand the weight loss process.
One recent analysis focused on the factors that are linked with long-term weight loss maintenance. The study found that the following variables promoted success in the maintenance process:
- Keeping a close watch on calories, eating patterns, and weight regain
- Sticking to a regular fitness and exercise program
- Avoiding fad diets or easy weight loss scams
- Taking responsibility for their own weight, rather than blaming stress or genes
- Developing new, healthy habits to replace old, harmful ones
- Focusing on accountability through frequent scale checks, support groups, and other healthy outlets
If you're concerned about maintaining your weight loss, talk to your doctor or a licensed nutritionist to develop a plan that fits your needs. Check back each week for more of the diet and weight loss news you need to succeed on your journey to better health.
Scientists Seek Answers about the Problem of Emotional Eating
In theory, the process of shedding excess pounds should be easy. If one simply eats less and expends more energy through exercise and other activities, the unwanted weight should gradually begin to come off. The universal laws of physics dictate that this must be the case.
But anyone who has ever gone to bat in the battle of the bulge knows that it isn?t always that simple. Physical needs aside, human beings are enormously complex creatures who don?t always act in their own best interest. Decades of research have shown that hunger is not the only impulse that controls our eating patterns. Often, the food that we crave has more to do with psychology than biology.
One problem that many overweight people have to face before they can be successful in their weight loss efforts is the issue of emotional eating. Many of us have developed unhealthy eating habits that compel us to turn to food as a source of comfort or a coping mechanism, rather than just as a source of nutrition.
These detrimental eating patterns can be extremely difficult to overcome. In recent years, scientists the world over have made significant inroads into cracking the case of emotional eating. This week, we?ll survey some of the most significant recent research findings that have emerged from this field of study.
Study Shows Emotional Eaters to be at High Risk of Regaining Lost Weight
In some instances, people with emotional eating issues are able to overcome their impulses to binge on unhealthy foods and succeed in their weight loss efforts. However, a recent study conducted by scientists at the Miriam Hospital's Weight Control & Diabetes Research Center indicates that individuals with past histories of emotional eating patterns are especially prone to relapsing and regaining weight that they have worked hard to lose.
The study compared the eating habits of two groups of subjects. One group was comprised of people who reported that they tended to overeat in response to external events, such as parties, holidays, and other celebrations. The other group of people was comprised of experimental subjects who had past histories of emotional overeating.
Not only did the emotional eaters lose less weight in the course of the study?s diet component, but they also tended to regain more of the weight that they had lost in comparison to those in the ?external event overeaters? group. The authors concluded that the issue of emotional eating should play a central role in the development of future methods of treatment, prevention, and intervention for weight loss.
Inability to Discuss Emotions Found to be Linked to Binge Eating Disorder in Obese Women
A recent study conducted by an interdisciplinary team of scientists at the Research Center for Psychopathology at the Universit? Toulouse Le Mirail and the Department of Nutrition at the Centre Hospitalier Universitaire in Strasbourg, France assessed the emotional root causes of overeating. The researchers sought to determine whether women who self-identified as emotional eaters often experienced troubling episodes that kicked off periods of overeating.
The results of the study indicated that many of the overweight women who were emotional overeaters also suffered from an emotional disorder known as alexithymia. This disorder is characterized by extreme difficulty in identifying, processing, understanding, and describing their emotional states.
The study results identified a very strong statistical correlation between alexithymia, emotional overeating, and binge eating. This finding prompted the researchers to conclude that treatment for emotional overeating and binge eating should also include screening and treatment for alexithymia.
When Emotional Eaters Ignore Their Cravings, Binges May Enter the Picture
The conventional wisdom on dieting holds that people looking to shed excess pounds should fight their cravings for treats, sweets, snacks, and comfort foods. It has long been believed that giving into one?s cravings can trigger a wave of overeating that could lead to even more weight gain.
However, according to the results of a recent study conducted by researchers at Cornell University, the reverse may actually be closer to the truth. When people who self-identify as emotional eaters ignore their food cravings for long periods of time, they are actually more likely to fall prey to binges. On the other hand, when they gave into their cravings, focusing on healthy food substitutions and moderate serving sizes, binges were often averted.
The researchers acknowledge that more investigation is needed, but they assert that these findings may offer new insight into the way that dieters are counseled to deal with their persistent food cravings.
If emotional eating is a roadblock in your path to a healthy weight, talk to your doctor or a licensed nutritionist to develop a personalized eating and behavior plan that will be effective. Please be sure to check back each week for the diet research news you need to succeed.
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