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Weight loss research 2011: Top findings for a healthier New Year

Kathleen Blanchard's picture
EmaxHealth looks at diet and weight loss research findings from 2011.

This year, much has been published about diet and weight loss. EmaxHealth has ferreted out the top research from 2011 to help you choose a healthy weight loss plan for 2012.

Weight Watchers

A study ,which was funded by Weight Watchers, showed the program works. If you’ve tried other diets without success, you might be able to lose weight with a structured program, rather than going it on your own.

One of the reasons Weight Watchers works may be from the motivational messages and support of others.

According to the September 8, 2011 findings, published in the Lancet and led by Dr Susan Jebb, UK Medical Research Council (MRC) Human Nutrition Research unit, Cambridge, UK, and colleagues, the program works so well, they advised physicians should consider referring people to Weight Watchers.

Drop 250 calories a day

Another diet and weight loss highlight this year came from Dr Kevin Hall, National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases, National Institutes of Health (NIH), Bethesda, MD, USA, and colleagues.

The study, also published in the Lancet, August 2011, challenged the notion that cutting 500 calories a day leads to steady weight loss. It just doesn’t work for everyone.

The researchers took into account variables that can stall weight loss, using a model that simulated physiological differences between people based on sex, age, height, and weight.

A more realistic diet approach than trying to eliminate 500 calories daily for weight loss, is cutting out 250 calories a day. The result should be 25 pounds shed in 3 years. Half of the weight loss will happen in the first year.

If you’ve been dieting for years without success, try just eliminating a small snack – perhaps a candy bar. If that’s too hard, start by cutting just 10 calories a day and work your way up.

Just exercise

A December 2011 study from Harvard suggested it might be okay to forget about dieting and just start exercising.

Miguel Alonso Alonso, a researcher at Harvard University conducted a review of studies that found when we start exercising we eat less.

According to Alonso, “…in time, exercise produces a potentiating effect of executive functions including the ability for inhibitory control, which can help us to resist the many temptations that we are faced with everyday in a society where food, especially hypercaloric food, is more and more omnipresent."

Instead of looking for the perfect diet, focus on being more active.

Online weight loss programs

Participants trying to lose weight were compared in a study to determine whether dieting is more successful with traditional health club sessions or an online weight loss program.

The study, "Comparison of a Face-to-Face versus Virtual World Weight Loss Program" published June 2011, found online weight loss participants fare better when it came to sustained behavioral changes.

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In both settings, participants learned about nutrition, physical activity, changing habits and the benefits of social support.

But for the online group, additional benefits were found to help with weight loss success. Specifically, enrolling in an online weight loss program helped people make positive changes for healthy eating and physical activity.

According to Jeanne Johnston, assistant professor of kinesiology at Indiana University, online weight loss participants “…also had more confidence in their ability to perform physical activity in difficult situations, such as bad weather, vacations, and low-energy days.”

Mediterranean diet

Eating a Mediterranean diet, or at least incorporating some components of the diet continues to excel in studies that can help with weight loss, prevent obesity and extend lifespan.

In March 2011, the American College of Cardiology published finding from a large meta-analysis, finding the Mediterranean diet, combined with an active lifestyle, is one of the best interventions for preventing metabolic syndrome – abdominal obesity, high blood pressure, high cholesterol and triglycerides and insulin resistance that can lead to Type 2 diabetes.

Foods from the Mediterranean diet include olives and olive oils; daily fruits and vegetables daily whole grain cereals, and low-fat dairy products; fish once a week, poultry, tree nuts, and legumes; limited intake of red meat; and a moderate daily consumption of alcohol, normally with meals.

DASH diet

A review of diets published by U.S. News in June 2011 found the DASH - Dietary Approaches to Stop Hypertension - diet ranked above all others.

The DASH diet has been around since 1992. According to an EmaxHealth summary of the report, choosing foods from the meal plan “beat out 19 others, among them Atkins, Jenny Craig and Slim-Fast, to win the 'Best Diets Overall.

The DASH diet was praised for its heart-healthy design, high nutritional value, safety, and weight loss potential.”

Weight-Watchers was the best diet for those who only wish to shed pounds. The review found the DASH diet was the best overall in for short and long-term weight loss, ease-of-use, nutritional quality and to diabetes and heart disease prevention and management.

Eat a light lunch

Cornell researchers suggested in August 2011 that eating a light lunch is an easy way to shed pounds without the hunger.

Doctoral student Carly Pacanowski, who co-authored the study with David Levitsky, Cornell professor of nutritional sciences and of psychology said, "Making small reductions in energy intake to compensate for the increasing number of calories available in our food environment may help prevent further weight gain, and one way of doing this could be to consume portion-controlled lunches a few times a week."

The result if 250 fewer calories a day without the hunger.

Levitsky said switching to a light lunch could lead to 25 pounds of weight loss in a year. In the study, participants were given a selection of portion controlled foods to choose from like Chef Boyardee Pasta or Campbell's Soup at Hand. but allowed to eat whatever else they desired the rest of the day.

Choosing a diet for weight loss of for improving and maintaining health isn’t easy, given all of the options.

It’s also important to note any weight loss plan is more successful when accompanied by exercise and plenty of leisure-time activity.

Research findings from 2011 show Weight Watchers, enrolling in an online program, adopting some components of, or a strict Mediterranean diet, just exercising, which changes the brain to eat healthier, eliminating just 250 calories a day that can be easily accomplished by ditching a snack or eating a lighter lunch, or adopting the DASH diet can all help with weight loss goals in 2012 and improve overall health and well-being.

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