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Letters: Lose weight? Not this way

Re “A wait control approach,” May 18

Talk about unrealistic. The study suggesting that allowing 16 hours between dinner and the next meal will help you lose weight is ridiculous.

Assuming you finish dinner as early as 6 p.m. (unlikely, especially if you prepare it after work), waiting 16 hours until the next meal means 10 a.m., too late for breakfast before work or school. And skipping breakfast is associated with weight gain, according to many other studies.

Avoiding snacks after dinner is good advice, but otherwise the article is yet another reminder that we are not rats.

Sue Guild

Sherman Oaks

Diets work when math adds up

Home » Writers» Dan Neman

In the Woody Allen movie Sleeper, scientists of the future determine that steak, cream pies, and hot fudge are good for you.

In other words, if I may quote another ’70s comedy icon, everything you know is wrong.

This is especially true in the constantly evolving world of food, weight gain, and dieting. The latest news comes from a mathematician, Carson C. Chow, in a paper he gave to the American Association for the Advancement of Science and an interview with the New York Times.

Mr. Chow works for the National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases, specializing in obesity, which now afflicts one out of every three Americans. In fact, he notes, over the last 30 years, the weight of the average American has increased by 20 pounds. So he and a colleague, Kevin Hall, decided to look at the problem through mathematics.

Mr. Hall is a mathematical physiologist, so the two of them worked out a formula to predict what people will weigh when you factor in their body size, how many calories they consume, how much they exercise, and so on.

Before we get to their results, I just have to say this: A mathematical physiologist? There really is such a thing? In the community of nerds, of which I am a proud member, that has to be the coolest job ever. Well, maybe after astronaut.

The big headline news that came out of Mr. Chow and Mr. Hall’s calculations is their answer to the question of why so many Americans (and increasingly, people worldwide) are overweight and obese. They see a direct correlation between the gain in weight and the increased production of food.

“Beginning in the 1970s, there was a change in national agricultural policy. Instead of the government paying farmers not to engage in full production, as was the practice, they were encouraged to grow as much food as they could,” Mr. Chow told the Times.

At the same time, farming techniques continued to be more efficient. Farms produced more food than ever, outpacing the rate of population growth. Doing the math (they’re big on math), they determined that there are now 1,000 more calories available to Americans than there were in the 1970s.

What do we do with all that extra food and all those extra calories? We eat them.

You’ve probably heard how much food Americans throw out these days. Everyone bemoans this huge amount of waste, but Mr. Chow points out that if we were discarding less food, we as a nation would be even heavier.

This theory can also be applied to the sense, shared by many, that the proliferation of restaurants and our increasing habit of going out to eat are also leading to our weight gain. According to Mr. Chow, the huge increase in the food supply has made restaurants cheaper. And cheaper food has led to more fast food restaurants.

But it was their other mathematical discoveries that interested me even more. Perhaps you know the theory that if you eat 3,500 fewer calories (or work off a similar amount) you will lose one pound.

According to the mathematicians, everything you know is wrong.

They found that the body changes as you gain or lose weight. Obese people gain weight faster from the same number of calories. As Mr. Chow put it, “an extra 10 calories a day puts more weight onto an obese person than on a thinner one.”

They also discovered that one of the most vital factors in all diets is time. They found it takes three full years for your body to adjust to a diet; after three years, the weight you have lost will stay off — unless you go back to eating the way you did before. Similarly, eating a lot more food or a lot less over a short period of time will not affect your weight in the long run, as long as you average the same amount of calories from one year to the next.

All diets work, they say. But for lasting results, they take some time.

Contact Daniel Neman at or 419-724-6155.

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Moderate Weight Loss Can Decrease Breast Cancer Risk

Could moderate weight loss lower your chance of developing breast cancer? Researchers from the Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research Center think it’s possible.

The connection between obesity and breast cancer risk in women after menopause has long been suspected. Specifically, weight gain from early adulthood into the 60s has been consistently associated with risk of breast cancer after menopause. Cancer researchers believe the reason for this is that fat tissue becomes a major source of estrogen in postmenopausal women, and this estrogen causes certain types of tumors in the breast to grow. Because obese women have more fat tissue, they make more estrogen when compared with women who are thin.

Now, this new study shows for the first time that weight loss directly lowers hormones linked to breast cancer.

Dr. Anne McTiernan, director of the Prevention Center at Fred Hutchinson in Seattle, Wash., and author of the study, said that postmenopausal women who reduce their weight moderately through diet and exercise can lower the amount of these hormones circulating through their bodies, which can in turn decrease their risk of developing breast cancer.

Up to 75 percent of postmenopausal women with breast cancer have the estrogen receptor positive variety, meaning that these cancer cells will grow when estrogen is present. McTiernan estimated that reducing these estrogen levels through weight loss can lower a woman’s chance of estrogen sensitive breast cancer by as much as 50 percent.

“Twenty-five to 50 percent breast cancer reduction is estimated based on how much we know estrogen can affect breast cancer risk,” she said. “There were nine studies who had been done that showed women with the highest estrogen / testosterone levels had at least a two times increased risk of breast cancer. We estimated that we could see that reduction based on these studies.”

Importantly, the study found that even modest weight loss can lower breast cancer risk.

“One main point is that women don’t have to be like the ‘Biggest Loser,’” McTiernan said. “A lot of people are thinking for general health benefits that they have to lose 50 pounds if they are 200 pounds. That’s not what we are seeing.

“Having a first goal of 10 percent of weight lost can have major health effects; it’s not as difficult as people are thinking it is.”

One of the world’s leading epidemiologists, Dr. Walter Willett of Harvard University said the findings were supported by past research.

“From many studies, we know that lower levels [of sex hormones] reduce risk of breast cancer,” Willett said. “We have seen that levels of estrogens are about three times higher in obese compared to lean women.

“Weight loss by postmenopausal women is one of the best ways to reduce risk of breast cancer.”

Willett also mentions a study showing that women who lost a moderate amount of weight had a 60 percent lower risk of breast cancer.

“And best of all are the side effects: lower risk of diabetes, heart disease, stroke, and other forms of cancer,” he said.

While other experts agree weight loss is important they note that there is limited evidence to support these findings.

There is “no direct evidence for this at present,” said Dr. Clifford A. Hudis of Memorial Sloan-Kettering Cancer Center in New York.

But, he said, “There is no argument in favor of obesity. Protection from breast cancer is simply one more good reason to be thin, whether it actually prevents breast (or other) cancers needs to be confirmed.”

Mike Aviles, David Ortiz Credit Healthy Diets for Continued Success This Season

Mike Aviles, David Ortiz Credit Healthy Diets for Continued Success This Season

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Mike AvilesThe majority of baseball players adhere to diets. Whether it’s during the season or the offseason –– when players aggressively prepare for the upcoming season –– they want to keep their bodies in top physical shape.

Count shortstop Mike Aviles as one of the Red Sox players that has worked to maintain a chiseled frame. While he doesn’t specifically count calories, the 31-year-old is still picky with his choice of cuisine.

“I don’t try to eat anything with fat,” Aviles said. “It’s usually the same [during the season and offseason]. I may eat some food with a little fat during the season because I’m burning so much of it out on the field.”

Aviles also burned the Phillies’ pitching staff over the weekend, hitting two leadoff long balls. On Sunday, the shortstop became the first Red Sox player to hit back-to-back leadoff homers since Harry Hooper achieved the feat in 1913.

Through the first two months, Aviles has made the most of his starting opportunity on the field, hitting eight homers and 27 RBIs. He’s poised for a career-year, considering he hasn’t clubbed more than 10 home runs and 51 RBIs in a season.

Aviles takes pride in his healthy lifestyle, which includes a strong workout routine and a disciplined diet.

Red Sox designated hitter David Ortiz has taken a cue on adhering to a diet as well. In an attempt to reduce his cholesterol –– and avoid taking medicine –– the 36-year-old trimmed roughly 20 pounds by cutting out alcohol and munching on more vegetables.

It’s allowed Ortiz to speed around the bases much better and patrol first base in interleague play with more dexterity. The weight loss hasn’t affected Ortiz’ power one iota, as he’s blasted 10 home runs and driven in 30 runs.

And teammates like Red Sox catcher Jarrod Saltalamacchia are taking notice of the positive ramifications of the slugger’s diet.

“You know he lost all that weight and he’s got some speed now, so he’s feeling good right now,” Saltalamacchia said. “That’s how we like it.”

For Aviles and Ortiz, it starts with a strong diet.