Tag Archives: weight loss

Just one extra hour of sleep can help overweight people eat less

Credit: Pixabay.

Research conducted over the years has increasingly linked poor sleep (particularly sleeping less than the minimally recommended 7 hours per night) to the risk of weight gain over time. Not sleeping enough may result in hormonal imbalances that affect appetite, leading some to eat more than they normally would on a healthy sleep regimen.

To investigate in more detail how sleep affects calorie intake, researchers from the University of Chicago and the University of Wisconsin-Madison conducted a randomized clinical trial involving 80 young, overweight adults who habitually sleep less than 6.5 hours a night.

“Over the years, we and others have shown that sleep restriction has an effect on appetite regulation that leads to increased food intake, and thus puts you at risk for weight gain over time,” said lead investigator Esra Tasali, director of the UChicago Sleep Center at the University of Chicago Medicine. “More recently, the question that everyone was asking was, ‘Well, if this is what happens with sleep loss, can we extend sleep and reverse some of these adverse outcomes?’”

The volunteers were randomly split into two groups. One received personalized sleep hygiene counseling, which involved changing one’s routine to avoid the things that hinder sleep (caffeine in the evening, heavy meals close to bedtime, excessively warm bedroom, etc.) and introduce activities that aid sleep (going to bed at the same time, using your sleep only for sleep or sex, etc.). The other group received no intervention at all and acted as a control.

In the first two weeks, the researchers just gathered baseline information about sleep and calorie intake. Sleep patterns were measured using wearable devices while calorie intake was quantified using the “doubly labeled water” method. The doubly labeled water method is a trialed and tested urine-based test for objectively tracking calorie intake, which involves a participant drinking water in which some hydrogen and oxygen atoms have been replaced with stable isotopes that are easy to trace. With this technique, it is possible to measure every calorie a person burned over a one to two week interval, without having to hawkishly record everything a person puts into their mouths.

“This is considered the gold standard for objectively measuring daily energy expenditure in a non-laboratory, real-world setting and it has changed the way human obesity is studied,” said the study’s senior author Dale Schoeller, professor emeritus of nutritional sciences at UW–Madison.

A month after the study started, the researchers found that participants in the sleep intervention group managed to extend their sleep duration by an average of 1.2 hours. Compared to the control group, the sleep intervention reduced the participants’ daily calorie intake by 270 calories, the equivalent of a small meal.

Of important note is that this examination was performed in a real-world setting. Each volunteer slept in their own beds, ate what they wished, wasn’t prompted to exercise, and generally went about their day as they pleased and normally would. That’s in stark contrast to most weight loss studies that are generally short-lived and diligently measure calorie intake by making sure participants only consume a particular offered diet.

The only factor that was manipulated in the study was sleep duration, and this single aspect proved to have a significant impact on the participants’ calorie intake. If the average reduction in calorie intake of 270 calories per day is maintained over the long term, this would translate to roughly 12 kg (26 pounds) of weight loss over a three-year period. That’s on average; some participants consumed as many as 500 fewer calories per day.

“This was not a weight-loss study,” said Tasali. “But even within just two weeks, we have quantified evidence showing a decrease in caloric intake and a negative energy balance — caloric intake is less than calories burned. If healthy sleep habits are maintained over a longer duration, this would lead to clinically important weight loss over time. Many people are working hard to find ways to decrease their caloric intake to lose weight — well, just by sleeping more, you may be able to reduce it substantially.”

In the future, the researchers plan on studying the underlying mechanisms that may explain why more sleep can lead to weight loss. Previous research by Tasali and colleagues suggest that sleep is important for appetite regulation. Limited sleep may drive changes in appetite-regulating hormones and reward centers in the brain that could lead to overeating.

If you struggle with both your sleep and weight, these findings suggest a simple intervention could do wonders: just sleep more. That’s harder than it sounds, but with some hard work, it is possible. According to the researchers, limiting the use of electronic devices before bedtime was a key intervention.

Here are a few tips that may help you clock in more hours of sleep:

  1. Go to sleep at the same time each night, and get up at the same time each morning, even on the weekends.
  2. Don’t take naps after 3 p.m, and don’t nap longer than 20 minutes.
  3. Stay away from caffeine and alcohol late in the day.
  4. Avoid nicotine completely.
  5. Get regular exercise, but not within 2-3 hours of bedtime.
  6. Don’t eat a heavy meal late in the day. A light snack before bedtime is OK.
  7. Make your bedroom comfortable, dark, quiet, and not too warm or cold.
  8. Follow a routine to help you relax before sleep (for example, reading or listening to music). Turn off the TV and other screens at least an hour before bedtime.
  9. Don’t lie in bed awake. If you can’t fall asleep after 20 minutes, do something calming until you feel sleepy, like reading or listening to soft music.
  10. Talk with a doctor if you continue to have trouble sleeping.

The findings of the new study appeared in the journal JAMA Internal Medicine.

Overeating alone doesn’t explain the obesity epidemic. There’s more to it than just ‘calories in, calories out’

Credit: Pixabay.

The prevalence of obesity in the United States is over 40% at the moment, up from 30% two decades ago, with severe obesity doubling during the same time. According to conventional fitness wisdom, this must mean that Americans are eating too many calories and aren’t exercising nearly enough. While there is some truth to this century-old model of weight loss, researchers now claim that calorie management and exercise — although important — have been grossly overestimated. Instead, what we eat, rather than how much we eat, may actually be more important to consider when forging an effective weight loss strategy.

“The conventional approach to weight control, based on the Energy Balance Model (“eat less and move more”) has utterly failed to stem the rapidly rising prevalence of obesity and related diseases. This failure is often attributed to the difficulty most people have controlling their eating and physical activity behaviors in the modern environment,” Dr. David Ludwig, an endocrinologist at the Boston Children’s Hospital and Professor at Harvard Medical School, told ZME Science.

“Our paper proposes that the problem arises not from such personal deficiencies per se, but rather from a fundamental flaw in how obesity is conceptualized. We argue that the Energy Balance Model simply restates a law of physics, and lacks a focus on underlying causes, and on what’s driving the obesity pandemic,” Ludwig added.

In nutrition, energy balance is the balance of calories consumed through eating and drinking compared to calories burned through physical activity. What you eat and drink is energy in and what you burn through physical activity and your metabolism is energy out. If the number of calories in and calories out cancel each other out, your weight should stay the same, per this model.

But in their new study, Ludwig and colleagues performed a major review of the existing scientific literature and found fundamental flaws in the energy balance model, which could explain failures in policies and management strategies for public health.

Instead, they propose a potentially more reliable model known as the carbohydrate-insulin model. Rather than the broad number of calories, this model explains the obesity epidemic by virtue of intake of foods with a high glycemic load, particularly rapidly digestible carbohydrates.

These highly processed carbohydrates, which include foods such as white bread, white rice, white potato, cookies, chips, and sugary beverages, increase insulin secretion and suppress glucagon secretion. This hormonal response instructs fat cells to store more calories, which leaves fewer calories available to fuel work by muscles and other metabolic activities.

To the brain, it makes no difference that you’re stuffed with calories if the body isn’t getting enough energy. If there aren’t enough calories for metabolic activities, the brain will cause feelings of hunger even though you may gain excess fat. Since we tend to remain hungry when consuming processed foods, we’ll likely consume more calories.

The new study, which involved more than a dozen international leading scientists in their fields, has summarized a huge body of evidence supporting the carbohydrate-insulin model, with massive implications for weight management and obesity treatment.

If this model is validated by research in the future, it could lead to strategies that urge people to, first and foremost, change which foods they eat rather than recommending eating less.

“If the model is substantially right, it has major implications to obesity prevention and treatment. It means that a focus on what you eat, rather than how much, could be more effective over the long term. Reducing processed carbohydrates, rather than restricting total calories, may make healthy weight maintenance easier,” Ludwig said.

Instead of processed carbohydrates, people are advised to switch to healthy high-fat foods such as nuts and nut butters, avocado, full-fat dairy, and olive oil.

“With this first step, slowly digesting carbohydrates would still be fine (whole fruits, legumes, minimally processed grains, non-starchy vegetables). For people with more severe insulin resistance, such as type 2 diabetes, more strict restriction of total carbohydrates may be ideal,” the scientist advised.

Findings appeared in The American Journal of Clinical Nutrition.

Stock photo of a man trying to exaggeratedly open a jar of pickles.

Post-exercise hunger could thwart your efforts to lose weight

Exercise is the healthiest, most efficient way of losing those extra pounds. However, a new paper comes to show how physical activity can influence our appetite and desire to eat — and how best to manage these, if we want to lose weight.

Stock photo of a man trying to exaggeratedly open a jar of pickles.
Image credits Ryan McGuire.

Let’s face it — most of us have become a bit plump during the last year. Between the drop in physical activity as we quarantine in our homes and the comfort eating to soothe our troubled souls, it’s perfectly understandable. But most of us also harbor secret plans to shed the pounds once things quiet down.

A new paper could help us in that regard. Published by a team of researchers at the Technical University of Munich (TUM) and the University of Nebraska (USA), it details how people can feel the need to eat more food and faster after exercising. This, in turn, can sabotage our efforts of actually slimming down, and can make us give up on it entirely.

Food for thought

“In the sports context, we have the phenomenon of people overeating after physical activity,” said Prof. Köhler, Professor of Exercise, Nutrition, and Health at the Technical University of Munich. “People want to reward themselves and their bodies for being active. So we use a hypothetical experiment to find out why people eat more after exercise compared to when they don’t exercise.”

“Based on this study, we were able to show for the first time that certain characteristics, such as the amount and ‘urgency’ with which a person wants to eat, change over the course of physical exertion. These findings help us develop new interventions to optimize weight loss through exercise.”

The trial followed a randomized crossover structure involving 41 healthy participants (23 women, 18 men) between 19 and 29 years old with an average BMI of 23.7. They were randomly assigned to either a 45-minute exercise session or a 45-minute rest period. Either was performed during the participants’ first visit to the lab. Every participant was then asked to perform the other task upon their second visit.

After this, the real experiment would begin: the team wanted to see how exercise influenced the participants’ choices in regards to the amount and timing of food intake. Before the trials, participants filled out an electronic questionnaire that assessed how hungry or satiated they felt, had them pick between foods that differed in the time of consumption (i.e. immediately or delayed by preparation, for example), how much food they felt like eating (which they did by selecting the desired portions of each food item).

These preferences were recorded both for immediate and later consumption (i.e. they were asked to predict their food preference for four hours later). Then, the participants engaged in the exercise task, which consisted of 45 minutes of aerobic exercise on a bicycle ergometer. Upon completion, they were asked to fill the same questionnaire out a second time, and a third time half an hour later. Participants in the control (rest) group went through the same procedure, but with rest instead of exercise.

All in all, the team explains, exercise led to participants choosing a greater amount of food both immediately after the exercise and 30 minutes later, as reflected in their questionnaires. It also made them pick food that would be immediately available for consumption on both questionnaires.

“The actual results suggest that physical exertion can entice those who do sport to eat larger amounts of food more quickly after the training session,” says Prof. Köhler.

“Since weight loss is a main motivation for exercising for many, and failure to achieve the desired weight loss makes it likely to quit exercising, it could be a good strategy to think about what you want to eat afterwards before you start to exercise.”

The team is currently researching which strategies work best in improving the long-term effectiveness of training programs. But until they can pinpoint the most effective approach, just know that exercising will make you want to eat, a lot, and quickly. Keeping the reins on this can make or break your efforts to lose weight.

The paper “Exercise Shifts Hypothetical Food Choices toward Greater Amounts and More Immediate Consumption” has been published in the journal Nutrients.

Scientists may have found out why belly fat is so stubborn during weight loss

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Studies show that fasting is one of the best ways to lose weight. However, visceral fat can be particularly stubborn to weight loss, even through fasting. A new study offers a few clues as to why this happens — and it’s all the body’s way of saying that it really is fond of all that belly fat.

Repeated fasting may prime belly fat to become more resistant

Researchers led by Dr. Mark Larance of the University of Sydney examined various types of fat tissue from different locations in the bodies of mice in order to understand their role during every-other-day fasting, where no food is ingested at all on alternate days.

When fasting, the body starts burning fat tissue rather than glucose from food. You’d think that all fat tissue is the same and location makes no difference, but as the researchers found this is simply not true — location does matter.

Using a mass spectrometer, the researchers examined more than 8,500 proteins located in fat deposits, which enabled them to catalogue changes occurring during fasting.

The mass spectrometer, a machine at the heart of proteomics, in the midst of analysing the sample. Credit: Mark Larance.

This investigation, known as proteomics — the study of all proteins — revealed the inner workings of fat tissue, alerting the researchers of major cellular alterations caused by intermittent fasting. It also showed that visceral and subcutaneous fat increased their ability to store energy as the body entered fasting. The body is basically compensating for the lost fat stores by rapidly rebuilding them before the next fasting period is triggered.

“Our data show both visceral and subcutaneous fat undergo dramatic changes during intermittent fasting,” said Dr. Larance, who is also a Cancer Institute of NSW Future Research Fellow.

According to the researchers a history of repeated fasting may trigger a preservation signal pathway in visceral fat that basically tells the body ‘I really need this fat so we must make it costly to lose it’.

Although the researchers used an animal model, the researchers are pretty confident that the results are analogous to humans as well. In any event, they plan on repeating this investigation in humans.

These findings, however, may not apply to different fasting regimes, such as 5:2 diets (fasting 2 days out of 7) or calorie restriction, the latter of which is most common among people seeking to lose weight.

This is why the researchers plan to do more research that may paint a more complete picture of fat storage dynamics and reveal what’s the most efficient diet for getting rid of stubborn belly fat.

“This sort of research has been enabled by these new instruments that allow us to ‘look beyond the streetlight’ – it’s hypothesis-generating; we knew we would find something but we didn’t know what,” Dr. Larance explained.

“Now that we’ve shown ‘belly fat’ in mice is resistant to this diet, the big question will be to answer why, and how do we best tackle it?”

The findings appeared in the journal Cell Reports.

Green Mediterranean diet may be even better for losing weight than regular Mediterranean

In recent years, the Mediterranean diet has emerged as one of the healthier eating patterns out there. Now, a new study suggests that the ‘green’ Med diet (which features even more plant-based foods) may be even better for health than the traditional Mediterranean diet.

Some of the core foods of the Mediterranean diet. Image credits: G. Steph / Wikipedia.

It’s not exactly a diet in the strict sense — it’s rather a set of eating habits inspired by Mediterranean countries like Spain, Italy, or Greece. The diet can’t be strict because there’s no one single ‘Mediterranean’ way of eating — it varies from country to country and even from area to area. Some even argue that it’s not only about what you eat, but also about how you eat.

The general idea, however, is that you’re supposed to eat a lot of plant foods: fruits, vegetables, legumes, nuts, beans, whole cereals and grains. When or if you do eat meat, it’s fish and maybe chicken — red meat doesn’t have a central spot in the Mediterranean diet.

Although scientists are still debating just how good the Mediterranean diet is, most studies seem to suggest that it’s quite healthy. A 2017 review of studies found evidence that practicing a Mediterranean diet could lead to a decreased risk of cardiovascular diseases, overall cancer incidence, neurodegenerative diseases, diabetes, and early death. Another 2018 review echoed the findings, reporting that the Mediterranean diet may improve overall health status.

Now, a new study reports that, when it comes to weight loss at least, the ‘green sister’ of the Mediterranean may hold even more benefits.

Fiber, healthy fats, and polyphenols, are thought to be the key to the benefits of the Mediterranean diet. In a new study, researchers wanted to see whether an even higher intake of these compounds (and an even lower red meat intake) is even better. They randomly assigned 294 sedentary and moderately obese people into three dietary groups:

  • the first group only received a guide on how to achieve a healthy diet and boost their physical activity;
  • the second group received the same guide, plus advice on following a calorie-restricted Mediterranean diet (1500-1800 kcal/day for men and 1200-1400 kcal/ day for women);
  • the third group received the same thing as the second group, but featuring a green version of the Mediterranean diet (the so-called green Med).

Specifically, the green Med diet included 28 g/day walnuts, 3-4 cups/day of green tea, an avoidance of red meat, and 100 g frozen cubes of Wolffia globosa (cultivated Mankai strain), a high protein form of the aquatic plant duckweed, to substitute animal protein.

After six months, the researchers checked up on the participants. All three groups lost weight, but the results were striking: the healthy diet participants (first group) lost 1.5 kg. The Mediterranean diet participants lost 5.4 kg. Lastly, the green Med participants lost 6.2 kg. Waist circumference also shrank by 4.3 cm, 6.8 cm, and 8.6 cm respectively. Similar drops were also observed for cholesterol.

It’s still a small-scale study, but the results warrant further investigation, researchers say.

“Education and encouragement to follow a green Med dietary pattern in conjunction with physical activity has the potential to be a major contributor to public health as it may improve balancing of cardiovascular risk factors, eventually preventing cardiovascular morbidity and mortality,” the authors note in the study.

The dietary results of the Mediterranean diet have not always been clear, as is often the case in nutritional studies. However, this could be at least in part owed to the many varieties of the Mediterranean diet. If many of the benefits come from a subset of Mediterranean foods, it could be worth exploring particular variants of the Mediterranean diet.

Ultimately though, both types of Mediterranean diet seem to offer significant advantages when it comes to weight loss. Reducing your calorie intake is obviously one of the first things that gets recommended for weight loss, but some diets make it easier than others — and are also healthier than others.

“Our findings suggest that additional restriction of meat intake with a parallel increase in plant-based, protein-rich foods, may further benefit the cardiometabolic state and reduce cardiovascular risk, beyond the known beneficial effects of the traditional Mediterranean diet,” the study concludes.

The study has been published in the British Medical Journal.

We eat more with friends and family than when we’re alone — here’s why

People tend to eat more when they’re having dinner with friends and family. Scientists refer to this effect as the “social facilitation” of eating. Now, a new study has come up with several evolutionary and psychological hypotheses that explain our tendency to eat more grub when having company.

Researchers at the University of Birmingham, UK, performed a meta-analysis of 42 studies that focus on the effects of social facilitation of eating. Some of these observed participants eating either alone or with company, while others relied on the participants’ self-reported social eating habits, such as those recorded in a food diary.

The results suggest that when we’re eating out with friends, meal sizes were between 29% and 48% larger compared to when eating alone. This was especially the case for fatty and protein-rich foods such as hamburgers and other meat-based meals.

Interestingly, sometimes people would eat less than they would normally do alone in certain social situations. For instance, women tended to eat smaller portions in front of men — whether they were strangers or friends — and overweight people ate smaller portions in public, perhaps out of fear of being judged. According to one study, these groups would eat 18% less food when with others compared to when they were alone.

“People want to convey positive impressions to strangers. Selecting small portions may provide a means of doing so and this may be why the social facilitation of eating is less pronounced amongst groups of strangers,” Dr. Helen Ruddock, from the School of Psychology at the University of Birmingham, said in a statement.

“Findings from previous research suggest that we often choose what (and how much) to eat based on the type of impression that we want to convey about ourselves. Evidence suggests that this may be particularly pronounced for women eating with men they wish to impress and for people with obesity who wish to avoid being judged for overeating.”

The researchers claim that social facilitation may be a remnant of our hunter-gatherer days when food was scarce and communities used to share a common food source. In such tight-knit groups, equal distribution of food resources must have been important — a behavior that has been observed elsewhere, in other species like chickens, rats, and gerbils.

Eating more than other tribe members would have been seen as unfair, leading to ostracization, which could jeopardize food security in the future for a greedy individual. But, if that’s the case, why eat more?

Dr. Ruddock says that the eat more when we’re trying to match the consumption of others in the group. “Individual members match their behaviour to others, promoting a larger meal than might otherwise be eaten in the absence of this social competition,” she commented.

“What we describe as ‘social facilitation’ can be seen as a natural by-product of social food sharing – a strategy that would have served a critical function in our ancestral environments. This also explains why it is more likely to occur in groups with individuals who are familiar with each other,” Ruddock added.

Eating in the presence of others is also generally thought of as more pleasant, so there may also be a psychological reward for social eating, which may trigger over-consumption.

The problem is that we’re now living in a food-abundant society. Although we have no issue accessing food, we may still be acting on psychological mechanisms that are ingrained in us from our hunter-gather days. Just another thing to look out for when trying to meet your dietary goals.

Findings appeared in The American Journal of Clinical Nutrition.

Credit: Pixabay.

Which is better: low-fat or low-carb? Neither option is superior, says new weight-loss research

A new study found cutting carbs or fats both result in about the same amount of excess weight loss. However, there was a lot of weight loss variability among people for each type of diet, which suggests that what works for some people won’t necessarily work the same way for others.

Credit: Pixabay.

Credit: Pixabay.

Christopher Gardner, a professor of medicine at Stanford University, says that every individual’s body is unique, and we’re only beginning to understand the reasons for this diversity.

“We’ve all heard stories of a friend who went on one diet — it worked great — and then another friend tried the same diet, and it didn’t work at all,” Gardner said in a statement.

“Maybe we shouldn’t be asking what’s the best diet, but what’s the best diet for whom?”

He and colleagues investigated the biological nuances that that might encourage a person’s body to favor a low-carb diet over a low-fat diet with weight loss as the main objective.

The team enlisted 609 participants between the ages of 18 and 50. which were divided into two equally-sized groups. One followed a low-carb diet, which started off pretty aggressively as participants were allowed to eat only 20 grams of carbs per day — that’s no more than one a half slices of whole wheat bread. The other group went low-fat, starting with no more than 20 grams of fat per day, the equivalent to a handful of nuts.

After the first month, the participants were instructed to gradually add 5-15 grams of fat or carbs to their diets until they reached a more balanced diet. Studies have shown that if a diet is too aggressive with what and how much people are allowed to it, then rebounds are very likely — the key is to find a balanced nutrition.

Twelve months later, the low-fat diet group reported intaking 57 grams of grams on average while the low-carb group consumed 132 grams of carbohydrates per day. Before the study started, the average fat consumption for the participants was around 87 grams a day, and average carbohydrate intake was about 247 grams.

Before they embarked on the study, each participant had part of their genome sequenced and their baseline insulin outputs measured. This was to allow scientists to investigate any gene patterns that might be associated with weight loss from carb or fat metabolism.

Gardner emphasizes that it’s all about healthy low-fat and low-carb diets.

“We made sure to tell everybody, regardless of which diet they were on, to go to the farmer’s market, and don’t buy processed convenience food crap. Also, we advised them to diet in a way that didn’t make them feel hungry or deprived — otherwise it’s hard to maintain the diet in the long run,” said Gardner. “We wanted them to choose a low-fat or low-carb diet plan that they could potentially follow forever, rather than a diet that they’d drop when the study ended.”

Credit: JAMA.

By the end of the study, individuals in both groups lost weight, on average about 13 pounds (almost 6kg). However, some dropped as much as 60 pounds (27kg), while others, on the opposite end of the spectrum, gained 15 or 20. This huge variability was observed for both kinds of diets. Perhaps, it could be explained by genotype patterns and baseline insulin levels, but Gardner and colleagues failed to make any association between these factors and the propensity to succeed on either diet.

So, by answering some questions, the research is opening the door to new ones. Gardner and colleagues now want to investigate the microbiome, epigenetics, or a different gene expression pattern they’ve yet to figure out for clues that might explain the drastic variability.

For you the reader, the biggest takeaways would be that there isn’t a clear-cut winner between low-fat and low-carb. It really depends on your body, so if you fail on low-carb, try low-fat, and vice-versa. And regardless of your diet, choose to eat less sugar, less refine flout and as many vegetables as possible.

 “On both sides, we heard from people who had lost the most weight that we had helped them change their relationship to food, and that now they were more thoughtful about how they ate,” said Gardner.

“I’m hoping that we can come up with signatures of sorts,” he said. “I feel like we owe it to Americans to be smarter than to just say ‘eat less.’ I still think there is an opportunity to discover some personalization to it — now we just need to work on tying the pieces together.”

The findings appeared in the journal JAMA. 

Eating quickly might favor weight gain, study suggests

Japanese researchers found a link between eating speed and weight gain. They interviewed almost 60,000 type 2 diabetes patients about their eating habits and then analyzed the data.

Credit: Pixabay/PublicDomainPictures

The satiety mechanism

When people eat too fast, hormones in the gut that relay the “I’m full” signal to the brain aren’t given enough time to work. This means you’ll eat more food, falsely believing you aren’t full yet. More calories result in weight gain.

As partially digested food enters the small intestine, a series of hormones are released into the bloodstream. Cholecystokinin (CCK), is released by the intestines in response to food consumed during a meal. Leptin, another hormone implicated in satiety, is an adiposity signal that communicates with the brain about long-range needs and satiety, based on the body’s energy stores. Research suggests that leptin amplifies the CCK signals, increasing the feeling of being full. By eating too fast, people may not give this intricate hormonal system the needed time to tell the brain that the stomach is full.

Eating slower lowers obesity development

Study authors Haruhisa Fukuda and Yumi Hurst of Kyushu University Graduate School of Medical Sciences in Fukuoka, Japan, confirm this hypothesis in their paper published in the journal BMJ Open.

Researchers measured the participants’ Body Mass Index (BMI) and waist circumference. Obesity is defined as 25 or more BMI points. Next, the participants answered a set of questions about their eating speed (‘fast’, ‘normal’ and ‘slow’), whether they had dinner within 2 hours of sleeping, but also habits concerning after-dinner snacking, skipping breakfast, alcohol consumption frequency, sleep adequacy and tobacco consumption.

The results showed that 21.5% of the slow-eating group was obese, compared to almost 30% of the normal-speed eaters and 45% of the fast-eating group. Slow eaters had an average BMI of 22, normal eaters had a BMI of approximately 23.5, and fast-eaters had an average BMI of 25. Waist circumference was found to be directly proportional to eating speed as well.

No sleep loss, not skipping breakfast and not eating dinner two hours before bed were all associated with a lower BMI.

This is an observational study because researchers did not measure calory intake and physical activity, which could have affected the results in an unknown manner.

Also, the terms ‘fast’, ‘normal’ and ‘slow’ were used by the participants of this study just as a self-evaluation, without a strict definition of the eating speeds, and without timing the participants while eating.

The verdict: eat slow and enjoy your meals, stop living your life on fast forward and take your time to savor the delish in your dish.

“Interventions aimed at altering eating habits, such as education initiatives and programmes to reduce eating speed, may be useful in preventing obesity and reducing the risk of non-communicable diseases,” the authors conclude.


Have a fat cat? Here’s how much you should feed it to lose weight, according to science

It’s a problem many cat owners struggle against: extra pounds. Not on themselves, but on their beloved furry pets. Especially after being neutered, house cats can get lazy — and fat. Most owners switch to special diet or neutered food (hopefully), but that’s not always enough, as often times, cats just eat too much. Now, a new study from the University of Illinois comes to the rescue, explaining just what it takes to help kitty slim down.

In other words, they came up with a cat diet.

“A diet for me? Why, human?” Because being fat is bad for you, kitty. Image credits: Allen Watkin / Wikipedia.

“The intent with this diet was a healthy weight loss: getting rid of fat while maintaining lean mass. The big question was how much does it take to make cats lose weight, especially lazy neutered males? It turns out you have to keep reducing their food intake because they’re not very active. It takes a long time,” says Kelly Swanson, a Professor at the Department of Animal Sciences at the University of Illinois.

Keeping a pet on a diet can be more difficult than with a human. It’s not just about the motivation and know-how — there are many more health risks associated with weight loss in pets than in humans. But as long as the change is slow and gradual, things should be ok.

“The risk with rapid weight loss, especially in a cat, is hepatic lipidosis. The body releases too much fat, and the liver gets bogged down. They can’t handle that much,” Swanson says. “We targeted a 1.5 percent body weight loss per week, which falls in line with the range (0.5-2 percent per week) suggested by the American Animal Hospital Association.”

So the first goal is to achieve a 1.5% body weight loss per week, and in order to do this, pet owners should reduce food intake by 20 percent compared to a maintenance diet. But this is only the first step. After that, food intake should be cut bit by bit. Researchers monitored the cats so that their health wasn’t threatened as they successively reduced the food intake. The key to the sustained weight loss was the constant, small reduction of food.

“That’s a key point. When we go on a diet ourselves, we might lose a lot of weight in the first few weeks and then hit a road block. Same with these animals. We had to keep going down, but it can be hard to convince a pet owner to do that. You might get owners to reduce intake from 60 to 50 grams per day, but we’re telling them they might have to go to 45 or 40 grams. We got really low, but we were monitoring them so they were healthy,” he says.

A small but constant reduction of food intake is key to our pets’ weight reduction. Image credits: NekoJa / Wikipedia.

Cats’ weight, like dogs’, is typically assessed on the Body Condition Score (BCS), which rates from 1 to 9. A BCS of 1-3 indicates a less than ideal weight, while a 6-9 BCS indicates an overweight animal. Ideally, pets should have a BCS of 4-5. However, people often tend to underestimate their pets’ BCS. Basically, pet owners tend to ignore their furry friends’ extra pounds. This means that it’s not just the pets, but the humans as well that need to be trained.

“We’ve done some clinical studies in dogs showing that misconception. If you have a veterinarian do a BCS assessment of a pet and then have an owner do it, the owner will almost always underestimate the BCS. Owners need to acknowledge the weight status of their pets.”

“The second thing that needs to change is the owner’s behavior: getting them to reduce food intake to maintain a healthy BCS. Food companies recognize that many owners feed too much, so they’re trying to formulate their diets so it’s easier for the animals to maintain or lose weight even if an owner overfeeds,” Swanson says.

The eight cats in the study were housed together, only going to their individual cages to be fed. Researchers report that their level of activity hasn’t changed significantly over the course of the diet. Researchers emphasize that it’s also important to ensure that your cats are active by playing with them and placing food bowls farther away from favorite resting spots.

Journal Reference: Marissa R. Pallotto et al. Effects of weight loss with a moderate-protein, high-fiber diet on body composition, voluntary physical activity, and fecal microbiota of obese cats. https://doi.org/10.2460/ajvr.79.2.181

Visual depiction of the bodyline task, in which a female body image was presented for 250 ms, immediately followed by a visual noise mask for 500 ms. Participants indicated the perceived size of the image by clicking on the bodyline delineated with extreme female bodies as anchors presented a further unit of scale beyond the bounds of the numberline. Credit: Nature.

The brain might trick most people into thinking they’re thinner than they actually are

How we perceive our own bodies, as well as those of others, is likely distorted by past observations, and may have serious consequences for eating disorders.

Credit: Pixabay.

Credit: Pixabay.

Australian and Italian researchers set out to investigate how an inherent bias called serial dependence relates to body size. Scientists have observed that the human brain has the tendency to average data over time, skewing overall perception towards recent percepts. For instance, a 2016 study found that participants who were showed a series of portraits would judge the attractiveness of a person while bearing in mind the attractiveness level of facial images encountered up to 6 seconds prior.

Serial dependence has been reported in the perception of orientation, position, facial recognition, facial emotion, numerosity, and more.

Researchers led by Dr. Jason Bell from the University of Western Australia have now demonstrated that serial dependence can also act on body size perception. The team’s experiment involved 103 female participants who were shown a series of images depicting a range of female bodies: underweight, normal-weight, overweight, and obese.

Visual depiction of the bodyline task, in which a female body image was presented for 250 ms, immediately followed by a visual noise mask for 500 ms. Participants indicated the perceived size of the image by clicking on the bodyline delineated with extreme female bodies as anchors presented a further unit of scale beyond the bounds of the numberline. Credit: Nature.

Visual depiction of the bodyline task, in which a female body image was presented for 250 ms, immediately followed by a visual noise mask for 500 ms. Participants indicated the perceived size of the image by clicking on the bodyline delineated with extreme female bodies as anchors presented a further unit of scale beyond the bounds of the numberline. Credit: Nature.

For each image, the participants were asked to judge the size of the body by marking a visual scale called the body-line. What the researchers found was that participants showed evidence of sequential bias in their own perceived body size with judgments guided by the previously viewed body. As a person’s weight increases above the average, so too does the likelihood that their prior experience involves smaller bodies. Because the brain combines our past and present experiences, it creates an illusion whereby we — as well as people around us — appear thinner than we actually are.

“The research demonstrates human observers are often poor at estimating their own body size, and the size of others,” Dr. Bell said.

“Crucially, body size judgments are not always accurate and can be biased by various factors. Sometimes it’s influenced just by the people we stand next to,” he added.

This sort of bias may make it more challenging for people to reach their weight goals. In the case of those suffering from eating disorders, serial dependence might actually cause serious problems. For example, individuals suffering from anorexia (extreme weight loss) and bulimia (excessive overeating and purging) have a distorted body image.

“These findings have important implications for weight loss approaches, including our chances of dieting successfully. What makes this particularly interesting from a health perspective is that misperceiving body size is a common symptom of eating disorders or obesity.”

“Ideally, we’d like to correct these illusions, so people are able to make an accurate assessment of their weight and whether it has changed for better or worse.”

Scientific reference: “Past visual experiences weigh in on body size estimation” by Joanna Alexi, Dominique Cleary, Kendra Dommisse, Romina Palermo, Nadine Kloth, David Burr & Jason Bell in Scientific Reports. Published online January 9 2018 doi:10.1038/s41598-017-18418-3.

Intensive weight management can put type 2 diabetes into remission

After the intensive program, patients lost 10 kg (22 pounds) on average and half of them reverted to a non-diabetic state without any diabetes treatment whatsoever.

Image credits: Tero Vesalainen.

Type 2 diabetes is a chronic, lifelong condition where the body doesn’t produce enough insulin or the cells stop responding to insulin, leading blood sugar to rise to dangerously high levels. Almost 90% percent of the people suffering from it are overweight or obese, and there’s a very tight connection between extra pounds and diabetes. Worldwide, type 2 diabetes incidence has quadrupled, rising from 108 million in 1980 to 422 million in 2014 and showing no sign of stopping. The world is eating unhealthily and it’s paying the price for it. Heavy medication can keep the disease under control, but Scottish researchers had a different idea: if the problem lies in the diet, the solution might also be there. So they implemented an aggressive diet to 298 adults aged 20-65 years who had been diagnosed with type 2 diabetes. Results were encouraging to say the least.

“Our findings suggest that even if you have had type 2 diabetes for 6 years, putting the disease into remission is feasible”, says Professor Michael Lean from the University of Glasgow who co-led the study. “In contrast to other approaches, we focus on the need for long-term maintenance of weight loss through diet and exercise and encourage flexibility to optimise individual results.”

Rather surprisingly, diet and lifestyle are rarely discussed as a treatment for diabetes. Even when they are discussed, the focus is more on what you should and shouldn’t eat, not on how much you should eat. The root cause, unfortunately, is often ignored.

“Rather than addressing the root cause, management guidelines for type 2 diabetes focus on reducing blood sugar levels through drug treatments. Diet and lifestyle are touched upon but diabetes remission by cutting calories is rarely discussed”, explains Professor Roy Taylor from Newcastle University, UK, who co-led the study.

So researchers started by changing the diet of the patients. It wasn’t a simple diet to follow, as they were only allowed to consume 825-853 calories/day for 3 to 5 months — for comparison, sedentary men and women burn around 2,400 and 2,000 calories per day, respectively. After a period, patients were gradually reintroduced to a normal diet. They were also offered support for weight loss maintenance, including cognitive behavioral therapy combined with strategies to increase physical activity. For this entire period, all diabetes and blood pressure-lowering drops were completely stopped.

Image credits: Blue Diamond Gallery.

Interestingly, the program was considered acceptable by most participants. Dropout rate was 21%, but it was mostly caused by social reasons (i.e. moving to a different city or starting a new job). The results were truly impressive.

The average weight loss was 10 kg, but a quarter of participants dropped 15 kg (about 33 pounds) or more. The remission rate was also tightly connected to the weight loss rate. For instance, half of all participants were diabetes-free by the end of the study, but 9 out of 10 participants who lost 15 kg or more went into remission. Researchers note that the patients were white and British, so the same findings may or may not carry on to other types of people.

Even so, the results are truly encouraging, and there is a good chance they do pass on to other populations. The fact that simply losing weight (which also reduces your risk of cancer, cardiovascular diseases, and many other health issues) gives people a great chance of getting rid of diabetes, should give many people hope. Now, all we need to do is convince people to lose weight and not gain it back. Professor Taylor concludes:

“Our findings suggest that the very large weight losses targeted by bariatric surgery are not essential to reverse the underlying processes which cause type 2 diabetes. The weight loss goals provided by this programme are achievable for many people. The big challenge is long-term avoidance of weight re-gain. Follow-up of DiRECT will continue for 4 years and reveal whether weight loss and remission is achievable in the long-term.”

The study was published in The Lancet.

elliptic balloon

Temporary swallowable gastric balloon helps obese lose 15kg on average in only 4 months without surgery

An ingestible balloon can help the obese dramatically lose weight without invasive surgery. The balloon is swallowed, then filled with water while it’s still in the stomach. After 16 weeks, the balloon spontaneously collapses and its contents are excreted with no danger to the patient whatsoever. On average, each patient lost around 15 kg.

elliptic balloon

The balloon is swallowed and then filled with water through a tube that is later detached. Credit: Zack Williamson/WilliamsonVisual.

The procedure was demonstrated by researchers led by Roberta Ienca, from the Department of Experimental Medicine, Food Science and Endocrinology at Sapienza University, Rome. The team recruited 38 obese patients for their 1st phase clinical trial. At the end of the 4-month period, the average reported weight loss was 15.2 kg (33.5 lbs) or about a third of their excess body weight. By all accounts, that sounds mindblowing considering:

  • it’s temporary;
  • no surgery involved;
  • is cheap compared to other methods.

Credit: Roberta Ienca.

Credit: Roberta Ienca.

Right now, the go-to method for fast weight loss is bariatric surgery. The weight loss is achieved by reducing the size of the stomach with a gastric band or through the removal of a portion of the stomach (sleeve gastrectomy or biliopancreatic diversion with duodenal switch) or by resecting and re-routing the small intestine to a small stomach pouch (gastric bypass surgery).

If you find all of that nasty, you’re not alone. Post-surgery, there could even be complications like:

  • Excessive bleeding
  • Infection
  • Adverse reactions to anesthesia
  • Blood clots

    ellipse balloon

    Graphic: ZME Science.

  • Lung or breathing problems
  • Leaks in your gastrointestinal system
  • Death (rare)

Moreover, it can cost a fortune. The average cost of gastric bypass surgery is $23,000, the average cost of lap band is $14,500, and the average cost of sleeve gastrectomy surgery is $14,900. Yet thousands are on waiting lists around the world for bariatric surgery because it works. Some patients can lose more than a hundred pounds extremely fast. But it’s not all rosy. After this type of surgery, you can only eat a couple of types of food and the patients need to undergo psychological counseling.

The new method developed at Sapienza, dubbed the Elliptic Balloon, is not meant to replace bariatric surgery. Unlike bariatric surgery which comes with lifelong change, the Elliptic Balloon is temporary and once it’s gone, that’s all you get. Basically, instead of cutting the stomach to make it smaller, the Italian researchers insert an object that reduces the volume.

The Elliptic Balloon technology is not meant for those who are extremely obese, though. Rather, its niche is geared towards those are moderately obese.

“Because the Elipse Balloon does not require endoscopy, surgery or anaesthesia, this may make it suitable for a larger population of obese patients not responding to diet/lifestyle treatment and also for use by a variety of clinicians — nutritionists, dietitians, and internists — who currently do not have access to or are qualified to fit endoscopic or surgical weight loss devices,” Dr. Ienca told The Guardian.

Findings were presented at the European Congress on Obesity in Porto, Portugal.



A thick drink, like a smoothie, will make you feel full regardless of how many calories it has


Credit: Pixabay

A meal high in protein will make you feel full fast, while also keeping you satiated throughout the day. But apparently, the brain can be fooled that enough nutrients were ingested with a thick drink, despite the drink may contain little to any calories.

The study was made by a team at Wageningen University in the Netherlands which asked 15 men to drink four milkshakes. Each milkshake varied in calorie content (100 or 500 calories) and viscosity (thin or thick). Next, the men were brought to the lab to perform MRI scans on their stomachs. These scans enabled the researchers to measure the volume of liquid in the stomach.

Every 10 minutes for an hour and a half after the participants drank the milkshakes they were asked how full they felt.

The 100-calorie shake left the stomach first, even when fibers were added. However, when thick smoothies were put into question everything changed. People who drank a thick 100-calorie shake reported feeling fuller than people who drank a thin 500-calorie shake.

The authors call this the “phantom fullness” effect, because the drink’s viscosity drives satiated feelings, and not energy density as it should normally be the case.

These findings suggest that people looking to lose weight should prepare low-calorie thick drinks to meet their goals without having to starve. This also goes both ways. Drinks high in calories but very thin, like sugary pop drinks, will make you drawn in calories, yet still feel hungry.

“Our results show that increasing the viscosity is less effective than increasing the energy density in slowing gastric emptying. However, the viscosity is more important to increase the perceived fullness. These results underscore the lack of the satiating efficiency of empty calories in quickly ingested drinks such as sodas,” the researchers wrote.

It should be noted, however, that this study had a very slim sample size and the relationship between thick drinks and weight loss wasn’t even on the researchers’ menu. Follow-up studies might want to confirm these findings, but also which fiber, thickness makeup works best.

Scientists think they’ve figured out why green tea helps you lose weight

Green tea is one of those things that’s really healthy for you, but its health benefits have been greatly exaggerated; one of the things which has been consistently reported about green tea is that it helps you lose weight, but scientists didn’t know how (or if) this happens. Now, a team from Poland believe they’ve zeroed in on this mystery: it’s all about the starch.

Image via University of Florida.

Jaroslaw Walkowiak of Poznan University of Medical Sciences, Poland, found that a single dose of green tea extract made people digest less starch and eliminate more of it. He gave people the equivalent of drinking a few cups of green tea every day after they had breakfast.

“Green tea is known worldwide for its beneficial effects on human health,” the researchers write in the journal Scientific Reports. “However, objective data evaluating this influence in humans is scarce.”

Indeed, green tea is given credit for many health benefits – it’s supposed to help against cancer, but despite suggestive evidence, there is no conclusive evidence that green tea helps to prevent or treat cancer. It’s supposed to level glycemic control but again, evidence is inconclusive, and it’s supposed to help with losing weight. It’s safe to say that green tea is quite controversial, but hopefully, studies like this one will shed some light on what the substance actually does.

“In most subjects (78.6%), the decreased starch digestion and absorption due to GTE was rapid and the aforesaid effect persisted until the last measure.”

They continue making a case for using the substance instead of other weight-loss substances.

“Our data suggest that the use of GTE is a viable alternative to pharmaceutical inhibitors of glucoside hydrolase enzymes. This plant extract is widely available, inexpensive, and well tolerated, so it has potential utility for weight control and the treatment of diabetes. Our study supports the concept that pure GTE inhibits starch digestion and absorption. However, the clinical significance of each green tea catechin and the exact mechanism responsible for this action in humans remain to be determined.”

The debate around green tea won’t end anytime soon, but regarding weight loss, the evidence seems to be piling up: a few cups of green tea per day might actually help you lose weight.

Journal Reference: Klaudia Lochocka, Joanna Bajerska, Aleksandra Glapa, Ewa Fidler-Witon, Jan K. Nowak, Tomasz Szczapa, Philip Grebowiec, Aleksandra Lisowska & Jaroslaw Walkowiak. Green tea extract decreases starch digestion and absorption from a test meal in humans: a randomized, placebo-controlled crossover study. doi:10.1038/srep12015

Love Hormone might help men lose weight

A study conducted on a small number of men concluded that the “love hormone” oxytocin may reduce appetite, helping men lose weight.

Oxytocin – the so-called love hormone. Image via Nauka.

Oxytocin is a hormone existing only in mammals, produced by the hypothalamus and stored and secreted by the posterior pituitary gland. Recent studies have begun to investigate oxytocin’s role in various behaviors, including orgasm, social recognition, pair bonding, anxiety, and maternal behaviors. Most recently, oxytocin has been linked with sobriety from alcohol intoxication. For this reason, it is sometimes referred to as the “bonding hormone” or the “love hormone”.

This new study gave men oxytocin in the form of a nasal spray to see if it can help them lose weight.

“We are seeing early signs that oxytocin reduces how much food someone eats at a meal and improves the way their body handles blood sugar,” said study lead author Dr. Elizabeth Lawson, assistant professor of medicine at Harvard Medical School in Boston.

However, despite the conclusive results of the study, I’d advise maintaining a healthy dose of skepticism, as the research was conducted only on 25 men. The men (12 of which were overweight or obese) had an average age of 27 years; they were asked to self-administer the oxytocin nasal spray one hour before breakfast, and then they were given twice as much food as they ordered.

During the double-blind, controlled, crossover study, the food intake was measured and calories and fat consumption was evaluated. The group was re-tested after two weeks, and the scientists report that people who used the spray significantly reduced their food and calorie intake compared to the control group. Study lead investigator Elizabeth Lawson, MD, assistant professor of medicine at Massachusetts General Hospital and Harvard Medical School in Boston, said:

“We studied the effect of a single dose of oxytocin on food intake and metabolism on healthy men. We are seeing early signs that oxytocin reduces how much food someone eats at a meal and improves the way their body handles blood sugar.”

The research team said that with reduction in calorie and fat intake, oxytocin nasal spray could help in weight loss up to 9 pounds (4 kg) over 12 weeks or 35 pounds (16kg) over a year.  However, it’s quite unlikely that this medication would be used as an effective weight-loss strategy; the monthly cost of administering the spray three times a day would be $275.

Paul Zak, founding director of the Center for Neuroeconomics Studies at Claremont Graduate University in California,  sees potential.

“From an evolutionary perspective, oxytocin is released during positive social interactions — when we are around others who care about us. This is just when food sharing is likely to occur. If we want to lose weight, having others around us who care about us can help reduce appetite,” he suggested.

But there are some significant caveats with this study; first of all, as mentioned above, the small number of study subjects is an issue, and the results have to be replicated over a larger sample size. Manfred Hallschmid, a neuroendocrinologist with the University of Lubeck in Germany is very skeptical of the results:

“Long-term clinical trials are clearly necessary to answer the question whether oxytocin is effective in reducing body weight and if such an effect might go along with unwanted psychosocial side effects.”

It remains to be seen if further studies confirm the potential role of oxytocin in weight loss.

Scientific Reference: Elizabeth Lawson, M.D., assistant professor of medicine, Harvard Medical School, and director, Interdisciplinary Oxytocin Research Program, neuroendocrine unit, Massachusetts General Hospital, Boston; Paul Zak, Ph.D., chairman and professor, economics, and founding director, Center for Neuroeconomics Studies, Claremont Graduate University, Claremont, Calif.; Manfred Hallschmid, Ph.D., neuroendocrinologist, department of neuroendocrinology, University of Lubeck, Germany; March 8, 2015, presentation, Endocrine Society annual meeting,

Weight loss drugs may lead to cancer development

In the developed world, obesity is one of the biggest health concerns, so weight loss is one of the hottest topics today. But while dietary supplements and gastric by-pass surgeries are becoming more and more popular, we are also starting to discover issues associated with these procedures. Recently, a study published in Cell showed that the new generation of weight loss drugs may actually favor cancer development.

cureWeight loss products typically work by encouraging and stimulating gut hormones and acids. All gut hormones and bile acids aid in digestion, but some actually encourage growth – for example, the peptide-2 (GLP-2) stimulated cell division in the intestines. Now, scientists at Mount Sinai Hospital in Toronto found a new gut-growth role for another gut hormone, glucagon-like peptide-1 (GLP-1). They report that the increase in GLP-1 activity, can increase the incidence of intestinal tumors, while removing the peptide actually reduces tumor incidence.

“For many years, people focused on GLP-1 as a b cell growth factor, and some investigators raised questions about the possibility of pancreatic cancer,” says senior author Daniel Drucker, MD, an endocrinologist at Mount Sinai Hospital’s Lunenfeld-Tanenbaum Research Institute and a Professor of Medicine at the University of Toronto. “We don’t have any evidence that that’s the case; however, our paper now raises the possibility that GLP-1 is an intestinal growth factor. No previous studies to date have linked long-term use of GLP-1-based drugs with increased rates of cancer; however, we think patients with a previous history, or increased risk, of colon cancer may not be ideally suited for these therapies,” he adds.

Based on data gathered on mice, Drucker is not only questioning the long term impact of weight loss products, but also raising concerns about new investigational drugs in clinical development for diabetes and other metabolic diseases, which elevate GLP-1, GLP-2, and bile acids.

“We’re pretty conservative about not overstating the potential clinical relevance of our studies done in mice, but mouse data always generate a hypothesis, and my hypothesis would be that if you have increased levels of gut-growth molecules, I would consider following up with regular colonoscopies for the appropriate patients,” Dr. Drucker says.

This study highlights once again that weight loss supplements and surgical procedures are not a replacement for a healthy lifestyle and a proper diet. The negative side effects are often far-reaching and unforseeable.

Journal Reference: Cell Metabolism.

Scientists Retract Research On Dr. Oz-Endorsed Weight Loss Pill

If you live in the US, then you almost certainly know who Doctor Oz is – or at least you’ve heard of him. Even if you’re not, there’s a pretty good chance you might know a thing or two about him. But do you know that some (if not all) of the products he promotes on his shows and markets as “miracle cures” are little more than shams?

Good Doctor, Bad Doctor

 Screenshot from doctoroz.com

Screenshot from doctoroz.com

Dr. Mehmet Oz is an Ivy League trained heart surgeon who rocketed to fame through the endorsement of Oprah Winfrey. Oz is considered to be one of the most influential celebrities in the US (Forbes), and a big part of his TV show is used to promote healthy products. But are they really healthy, or was it yet another marketing ploy? Millions of Americans (and not only) believed in him; people bought the products, hoping for magic results – because after all, that’s what he promised. Here are some of his quotes, as pointed by a Senate committee:

“You may think magic is make believe, but this little bean has scientists saying they’ve found the magic weight loss cure for every body type, it’s green coffee extract.” Quote: “I’ve got the number one miracle in a bottle to burn your fat. It’s raspberry ketone.” Quote: “Garcinia cambogia, it may be the simple solution you’ve been looking for to bust your body fat for good.”

Promoting miracle cures? Yikes! That sounds like TV mumbo jumbo, not something a bright medic would prescribe – yet that’s exactly how dr. Oz described some products. Surely, you might say, he’s simply overreacting the scientific benefits of the products. But those scientific benefits seemed to have been fake all along, as a study on Green Coffee Extract has been withdrawn.

A federal agency called the research “hopelessly flawed” and the retraction was the only logical result. The fact that it passed original scrutiny is baffling to me. The retraction followed a $3.5 million Federal Trade Commission (FTC) settlement with Applied Food Sciences (AFS), a Texas company that hawked the phony pills. An FTC press release summed up the damning charges against the company and researchers:

AFS paid researchers in India to conduct a clinical trial on overweight adults to test whether Green Coffee Antioxidant (GCA), a dietary supplement containing green coffee extract, reduced body weight and body fat.

The FTC charges that the study’s lead investigator repeatedly altered the weights and other key measurements of the subjects, changed the length of the trial, and misstated which subjects were taking the placebo or GCA during the trial. When the lead investigator was unable to get the study published, the FTC says that AFS hired researchers Joe Vinson and Bryan Burnham at the University of Scranton to rewrite it. Despite receiving conflicting data, Vinson, Burnham, and AFS never verified the authenticity of the information used in the study, according to the complaint.

Despite the study’s flaws, AFS used it to falsely claim that GCA caused consumers to lose 17.7 pounds, 10.5 percent of body weight, and 16 percent of body fat with or without diet and exercise, in 22 weeks, the complaint alleges.

green coffee extract oz

Green Coffee is not so magical afteer all.

Ignorance or trickery?

Now, this is where it gets a little dicey. Did Oz not check the facts close enough? Surely it would take an experienced medic little more than a diagonal glimpse on the study to realize the claims and results are bogus. But to present these results on national television and with such appraisal, the results should have at least been thoroughly double-checked, which he clearly didn’t do. So are we dealing with something else here? Was he trying to use his show for promotion?

The thing is, Oz didn’t make any money from this – not directly, anyway. The companies simply used him and his show to promote their own products – he argued (and if there is not a bigger, underlying plot, he’s right) that he is also a victim. But if this is the case, then he’s a victim of his own misrepresentations which got him here in the first place.

But I have my doubts; how could an educated man tout a “staggering newly released study” that showed participants lost an “astounding” amount of fat and weight … by doing absolutely nothing except taking the supplement? Again, that sounds like marketing, not like medicine.

But either way, Oz has to learn from this. As the Senate committee pointed, he does a lot of good with his show – he offers valuable information in a simple and attractive way. People like him, and more importantly, people trust him. If he deliberately misled his viewers, this is inexcusable. But even if he simply didn’t check the facts and chose to present them as “magic”, I think people should rethink doctor Oz’s position as a trustworthy TV host.


Popular weight loss may cause fatal liver problems

Popular weight loss aid Alli has been available since 2009; you take it three times a week for 12 weeks, and if everything goes according to plan, you lose 10 percent of your body fat. Over 12 million people worldwide use it, because, as it turns out, it’s actually quite good. But according to a study recently published in Biochemical Pharmacology, the drug may cause toxicity of the liver, inhibit the efficacy of cancer drugs, and even be fatal (at least in one case).

Alli, while it works as a weight loss supplement, also has a load of other side effects, ranging from fatigue, headaches and depression to serious issues like stomach problems and hepatitis. Bingfang Yan and his colleagues say that orlistat, the active ingredient in Alli, is responsible for the side effects; however, GlaxoSmithCline, the big pharma company which produces the drug, was quick on its feet to dismiss the charges, claiming that Alli has been tested by several government bodies and found to be safe.

If you ask me, it’s at least a little weird that the European Medicines Agency openly announced they don’t want to look into the safety of the drug, especially considering that the drug has been linked to four liver toxicity cases. There are better ways to lose weight ZME readers, don’t go for this kind of drugs!