Which Foods Will Give You Most Weight Gain – and Loss?

June 29, 2011 by  
Filed under featured, Food & Nutrition, Health

This is one of those studies from the US that will either cheer you enormously, or cause you to rethink your shopping trolley. It seems that the humble potato crisp may be the most dangerous food for your hips.

The man responsible for this – and other news – is Dariush Mozaffarian, MD, DrPH, of Brigham and Women’s Hospital and Harvard Schools of Medicine and Public Health in Boston, Massachusetts. He has laid out weight-associated foods by the pound and has calculated that roughly half of the average 3.35 pounds a healthy, non-obese American gains over four years could be chalked up to eating more potato crisps – though he doesn’t say exactly hw many so does one small bag of Smith’s non-salted really count?!

His results were reported in the June 23 issue of the New England Journal of Medicine and the foods most strongly associated with weight gain are these:

• Potatoes
• Sugar-sweetened drinks
• Unprocessed red meats
• Processed meats
• Alcohol

What is interesting to me is that there is little difference in his analysis between processed and unprocessed meats, but if you are looking to lose some pounds then over a four-year period the most weight loss was associated with these foods:

• Yogurt
• Nuts
• Fruits
• Whole grains
• Vegetables

This pretty much follows the well-known data that a vegetarian/vegan diet will generally help you lose weight and be healthier all round. In fact as we age, and tend to put on weight, such a diet may have only a slight creeping gain of 0.8 lb on average per year.

Two non-food items that will put on the weight are giving up smoking and too much television watching. If either of these is a factor for you then not surprisingly, physical activity will help you lost some of that extra weight effectively and healthily.

A Healthy Alternative:
If you want a savoury snack, then instead of crisps what about a brand new concept? Savoury Veatable bars are eaten fresh from the fridge and are soft and chewy. They only have 99 calories per bar and although I have to say I was not keen on the idea, once I tried one my favourite was the Tomato Pizza version which contains tomatoes blended with onions, cheese olive oil and mixed herbs and really was very tasty.

You might prefer the other two varieties: Roasted vegetable or Thai Sweetcorn. They are made from diced and roasted vegetables, 100% natural, gluten and wheat free, high in fibre and count as one of your five a day.

You should find them in health stores, or direct from www.veatable.co.uk.

And if you are serious about weight loss, make sure you get a good night’s sleep as a lack of it can slow the rate at which you burn calories, increase blood sugar levels and make you feel hungrier. Researchers at the University of Chicago recently studied a group of dieting men and women, some of whom had 8.5 hours sleep a night, the others just 5.5 hours, they found that those that got adequate sleep lost over 50% more weight than their sleep-deprived counterparts.

Time for a snooze, then?

The only thing you need to know about losing weight


There are a million diets out there, but if you want to lose weight the only thing you need to focus on is eating less. Obvious but true, and now Dr. Frank Sacks, a professor at the Harvard School of Public Health, has published a study in the New England Journal of Medicine that confirms what – if you have any sense – you already know. No one diet is better than any other, just find one you like and take in fewer calories than you are currently consuming. You just need to get the ratio right between the calories you burn up, and the calories you take in and the ideal diet plan would be to have 750 fewer calories each day than you are expending.

The Professor tested out various heart-healthy diets and asked the participants to also exercise 90 minutes a week. They all lost on average around 13 lbs.after six months of dieting, or about 7% of their starting weight, regardless of which diet plan they followed. As ever I am astounded that anyone would pay good money to prove something we all know – and may not like, but that’s another issue – but the US National Heart, Lung and Blood Institute handed over the funds for the study and they were delighted with the findings. However, most of the participants couldn’t sustain that 750 calorie mark and most by the end of the trial consuming only 225 calories less than they expended.

The researchers concluded that this target was too high, and a gradual reduction is better, and I entirely agree with them. A small reduction in calorie intake that is gradual and sustained will see the best results and a weight loss of just 5 percent can make a substantial difference to your health. So whatever diet you choose just eat less, and exercise more = boring, but effective.

Cholesterol – Keeping the balance naturally

If you watch television, or read magazines, you cannot miss the constant bombardment on the ‘evils’ of high cholesterol. Certainly, out of control levels of high cholesterol are to be avoided, but so too is low cholesterol. It is not the cholesterol itself that is ‘evil’; we actually require normal levels for the production of the hormones testosterone and oestrogen, and it is found in our cell membranes as part of the structure to keep them waterproof.

Without cholesterol, we could not have a different biochemistry on the inside and the outside of the cell. When cholesterol levels are not adequate, the cell membrane becomes leaky or porous, a situation the body interprets as an emergency, and then releases a flood of corticoid hormones to repair the damage.

Cholesterol is therefore essential as it is the body’s chief repair substance: scar tissue contains high levels of cholesterol, including scar tissue in the arteries. So you can see that so cutting out all cholesterol is actually a bad idea. Studies have shown that there is an increased risk of strokes and a compromised immune system when cholesterol drops too low, but as always the answer lies in balance.

If you do have high cholesterol then it can lead to hardening of the arteries and heart disease, but statin drugs, given for the inhibition of cholesterol, – as I have reported before – have their problems too. They have been associated with side effects such as muscle pain and weakness, memory loss, nerve problems and interference with production of Co-Q10.

Natural Solutions?

So, if you don’t want to take drugs to lower your cholesterol, what can you do? Back to the advertisers, who imply that by switching to their margarine, or yoghurt product, you can lower your levels naturally. Well, that depends on what you mean by ‘naturally’. If you read the labels on those products, they contain many chemical compounds, and the ‘healthy’ yoghurt drinks contain not only sugar but sweeteners as well.

So what else is left? Enter the humble grapefruit, wholly natural and a lot cheaper than buying the aforementioned products.

An international team of researchers from Israel, Singapore and Poland put grapefruit to an extremely rigorous cholesterol test. Researchers at the Hebrew University in Jerusalem, recruited nearly 60 subjects who had several things in common: they all had undergone recent coronary bypass surgery, had high cholesterol levels, and had used a cholesterol-lowering statin drug with no success. At the outset of the study, none of the subjects had taken any statins for at least 30 days and they were divided into three groups. Over the 30-day study, everyone followed the same low-fat diet, but one group ate one yellow grapefruit a day, while another group ate one red grapefruit daily. They all ate their normal, everyday diet and the third group got no grapefruit at all.

At the end of the study, the two groups who had eaten the daily grapefruit had lower levels of both total cholesterol and LDL – and it was even more marked in the group who ate red grapefruit. Another benefit seemed to be that triglyceride levels also dropped in the red grapefruit group, but not in the other groups. Triglycerides are blood fats that can leave deposits in coronary arteries, and so increase the risk of heart disease.

Now my problem is that my local supermarket has red, yellow and pink grapefruit so I might have to ask them for advice on whether ‘pink’ has a diluted effect from the ‘red’ benefits!

More Good Grapefruit News

Oh, and if you are wanting to lose some weight, there was a study at the Scripps Clinic in San Diego four years ago, in which a group of 100 obese subjects were told to stay on their normal diets, and in addition were given either grapefruit or grapefruit juice to have once a day. On average they lost 3lb, and one person lost 10lbs, as opposed to the non-grapefruit trial group who lost less than a 1lb.

Diabetics may also be interested to learn that the subjects in that same study also showed better management of insulin levels. Those in the two grapefruit groups had lower levels of insulin and glucose than they did at the outset, while levels in the non-grapefruit group were unchanged. The Scripps researchers believe that enzymes in grapefruit help control insulin spikes that occur after a meal, which frees the digestive system to process food more efficiently. This means that less nutrients are stored as fat.


Many foods can interact with the effectiveness or efficiency of drugs, and grapefruit are no exception. Chemicals in grapefruit interfere with the enzymes that break down certain drugs in your digestive system and this can result in excessively high levels of these drugs in your blood, and an increased risk of side effects. The following list is a generic overview of the classes of drugs that may be affected. Bear in mind that it may not be all drugs within a particular group, so consult with your doctor if you are taking any of the following types of medication:

Anti-seizure medication – anti-arrhythmia drugs – antidepressants – erectile dysfunction – Calcium channel blockers -HIV medications – HMG-CoA reductase inhibitors used to treat high cholesterol – Immunosuppressant drugs – Methadone Pain relief – Tranquillisers.

Natural tips for weight loss

October 28, 2007 by  
Filed under Diets, Food & Nutrition, Health, Lifestyle

Quick fix diets are just that – quick, but not necessarily healthy. Do you think eating salad will help? Well, it could but you would do better apparently by switching it for a nutritious soup before your main course. Medical researchers in Texas found that by giving their volunteers a bowl of a high-fat soup then sending them off to a pizza buffet – only in America would that be in a diet trial – the participants followed it by eating considerably smaller portions, and fewer calories from the buffet table. Apparently the reason it works is that when the small intestine absorbs fat it releases hormones that make you feel full, if you then wait 20 minutes before your second course – just keep talking, or read a book – then you will definitely eat less of a second course and so lose weight. Of course anyone on a limited budget discovered this all on their own without the benefit of a research grant. When I was at university, I made pots of homemade soup, which was cheap, so I wouldn’t need so much of the more expensive protein main meal that usually followed. I wasn’t trying to lose weight, but the end result was that I felt full by eating less. Ahead of my time, as usual.

Oh and the second tip? It’s often suggested you drink a glass of water before you eat, again to fool the stomach into thinking you are full before you start eating, but a more pleasant way to do it is include lots of water-rich foods in your diet and that means plenty of fruit and vegetables. Researchers from Penn State University found that those who did so on average ate 25% more food by weight but still lost more pounds than the control group. Again, it’s because you can eat lots of fruit and vegetables so you get the feeling of richness from the quantity, and the fibre fills you up but gives you far fewer calories.