Posts Tagged "weight gain"

Wednesday Bubble: word to the wise – move early, move often, keep moving

Posted by on Dec 15, 2010 in weight | 2 comments

I’m not bursting bubbles this week but rather  illusions about physical activity.  This advice is for women AND men. And not just for the midlife set:

Maintaining high activity levels throughout the young adult years may help to reduce weight gain during middle age.

It’s intuitive, isn’t it? And yet, obesity has been steadily increasing since 1973 and now affects almost a third of adults in the US. And while battling the bulge definitely becomes more challenging with age,  it appears that there is a rather easy solution: Move early. Move often.

In a newly published study of over 3,000 men and women, researchers found that habitual activity, described as maintaining high intensity activity (including sports, exercise, home maintenance and occupational activities) totaling roughly 150 minutes/week over a period of 20 years resulted in:

  • A weight gain of approximately 6 lbs to 13 lbs less per year in men and women respectively, compared to peers who were exercising only moderately or lightly
  • A lower increase in body mass circumference (measured by BMI) by as much as 1.2 inches to 1.5 inches per year in men and women, respectively, compared to peers who were only exercising moderately or lightly

These outcomes, which were especially notable in women, remained even when the researchers accounted for such factors as race, education, smoking, age, BMI at the study’s start, alcohol use and daily caloric intake.

One of the remaining questions is how much activity is needed to sustain these sort of changes, especially as we transition into middle age. That’s where experts disagree, with some claiming that 30  minutes daily is enough and others, suggesting that women in particular require at least 60 minutes daily. There is also indication that higher activity alone might not be enough to counter age-related weight gain although the findings only partially support this.  The bottom line is that there is no time like the present to start instilling good habits, which why I’m challenging you to share this post broadly, especially among the young adult women in your life. As I’ve written time and again, the earlier the intervention, the likelier you are to remain healthy and stave some of those troublesome menopausal symptoms.

Young or old, start moving, move often and keep moving.

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Wednesday Bubble: long-term effects of the short-term binge

Posted by on Aug 25, 2010 in exercise, weight | 4 comments

Stress, emotions, life.  All of these factors can contribute to binge eating. However, have you ever wondered if the binges that might occur during long vacations or breaks may contribute to a longer-term problem?

This week, I’m bursting the myth that many of us, including myself, like to tell ourselves after a few weeks of the ‘bad food’ binge, “it won’t hurt.”

Guess what?

This bit of information is straight out of BioMed Central‘s nutrition and metabolism section, and it ain’t pretty. However, the good news is that after reading this, lengthy binges may become a thing of your past and hopefully, not your future.

Researchers are saying that individuals who lead a fairly sedentary lifestyle and consume large amounts of energy (not nutrient) dense food over a period of as little as four weeks may end up with more fat mass over the long-term, even if they lose the weight they’ve gained from binging by returning to usual eating and activity levels.

In this particular case, 18 young men and women (aged ~26 years) who weighed within the normal healthy ranges were asked to increase their daily energy intake by 70% (including at least two fast food meals per day or foods rich in protein and saturated animal fat) over four weeks and limit physical activity to no more than 5,000 steps a day (which they measured using a pedometer). Thereafter, they could return to normal. The findings?

Compared to a group of men and women who ate and exercised normally, a month of binging led to an average weight gain of 14 pounds! Moreover, only a third of the people studied returned to their normal weigh after 6 months, and on average, they still managed to gain an extra 3 pounds by one year’s time following the study. Even worse was the fact that fat mass increased by as much as 3% of the total body weight by the end of the study. When the researchers looked at this separately, they found an average increase in abdominal/trunk fat by ~17% and leg fat mass by 28%.

The underlying message is that a short-term  excessive binge can possibly change your physiology, making it harder to lose the weight and keep it off.

Granted, this is a small study and was conducted in individuals substantially younger than the readers of this blog. Nevertheless, if the findings prove true, it is likely that the longer term ramifications of binging at our age may pose some serious effects on health.

Just a wee bit of food for thought for a Wednesday. Keep it healthy. And move your body.

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A bicycle built for…weight!

Posted by on Jul 12, 2010 in physical fitness, weight gain | 0 comments

I’d love to be writing to tell you that researchers have discovered a bicycle specifically built to boost weight loss.  However, better yet, it seems that any bicycle may be able to help you prevent weight gain during the premenopausal years. Moreover, the more you need to lose, the greater the benefits.

For some time now, experts have been telling us that daily exercise, even walking can help stave off weight gain. But is all walking created equal? And what about bicycling, which evidently, only 5% of the population over the age of 16, and mostly women, engage in?

Researchers report that among a pool of over 18,000 women studied between 1989 and 2005 (as part of the ongoing Nurses Health Study):

  • Increasing the amount of biking over the study period seemed to hold weight gain to a mininum even if that biking equaled only 5 minutes a day.
  • Women with normal weight who biked for more than 4 hours a week by the study weight had about a third lower odds of gaining about 5% of their body weight than women who did not bike at all.
  • Women who were considered overweight and obese had about half the odds of gaining weight if they biked for at least 2 to 3 hours a week.
  • Brisk walking was much better at holding off weight than slow walking — by about  a half pound.

The key take-away points of this study is that exercising is not created equal as we age. In this case, more is less is the rule of thumb, meaning that if you weigh more, you may gain less over time if you start bicycling at least 2 to 3 hours a week. If you are lean and mean, well, biking can still yield some significant benefits when it comes to weight gain.

Biking is definitely built for staving off weight gain. Go for it!

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Wednesday Bubble: is weight loss all in your head?

Posted by on Jul 7, 2010 in Uncategorized | 17 comments

It appears that weight loss, might indeed be in your head. But not the way that you think. This week’s bubble focuses on the brain and how it helps to regulate weight gain. In fact, researchers from the University of Texas Southwestern Medical Center are reporting that an enzyme in the brain, better known as P13 kinase, may help burn extra calories after eating a high-fat meal. Mind you, these findings are from a study conducted in mice so it is too early to assume that if there was a way to enhance the activity of P13 kinase in humans, then it would be easier to lose or maintain weight.

In the current study, researchers examined mice who had reduce P13 kinase activity and then fed them a high fat diet but did not alter their physical activity levels. When they compared them to normal mice, they found that their body heat did not increase and they became more likely to become obese. regardless of physical activity level. (Evidently, when we eat too many calories, the body tries to assist by expending more energy, in order to balance out our calorie intake. )

Interestingly, brown fat, or brown adipose tissue, is a key tissue that appeared to generate enough body heat in the mice to help them burn off excess calories. Two other important factors that appear to play a role include the hormones leptin which help regulate how the body uses energy.

Brown fat?

I contributed a post to MizFit Online last October that provides a bit more information about brown fat and I’m reposting it here to provide a bit of background to make the current study findings easier to understand:

What you need to know…

In mammals, fat (known among the medical set as “adipose tissue”) comes in two varieties: white and brown.

* White adipose tissue (or “WAT”)  is used for energy storage and to provide warmth. It also protects the organs by acting as a cushion. Most of the fat in our bodies is white.
* Brown adipose tissue (or “BAT”), is mostly found in newborns and tends to diminish as a person ages.  Brown fat is used by the body to regulate temperature and quickly burns sugar to keep infants warm, meaning that exposure to cold activates brown fat cells. This last point may be important when it comes to weight loss.

For decades, brown fat was believed to significantly decline as we grew older, mainly because as we become more able to regulate our body temperatures, we no longer solely rely on biology.  However, PET scanning has shown that healthy adults actually have stores of brown fat  scattered throughout the front and back of the neck and chest areas.

So, is brown fat an equal opportunist? NO!

In fact:

* Women with lean body mass have at least twice the ratio of brown fat compared to men.
* Exposure to temperatures of around 61º F appears to kick off brown fat cell activity, at least in leaner people.
* The higher your body mass index (BMI), the lower the amount of brown fat in your body.

Turning down the thermostat can help lose weight, right?  Well yes. And no.

In controlled situations, volunteers left “chilling” for at least two hours were shown to have a surge in brown fat activity. However, keep in mind that the body is fine-tuned to maintain equilibrium, so, what goes out often goes right back in.In other words, expend more energy, eat more food. And the “chill factor” hasn’t been extensively tested in people under normal, everyday conditions. Still, based on what researchers are able to learn from animal studies, they believe that having as little as 1 to 2 ounces of brown fat in your body could potentially burn about 20% of the average daily caloric intake, that is, if brown fat cells were properly activated.

If you combine the information from the mouse study with the information on brown fat, it seems that the combination of brown fat plus activating P13 kinase may produce a way to burn calories more efficiently. And, leptin and estrogen help regulate the process.

The question however, is how do we get there from here?

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Fat…to boldly go where where none has gone before

Posted by on Jun 28, 2010 in herbal medicine, weight gain | 2 comments

That body tire around the middle that tends to plague most women in their late forties and fifties and into old age reminds me of Star Trek – boldly going where no fat has ever gone before. Despite an hour at the gym daily, eating healthy and moderate (okay sometimes more than moderate) intake of alcohol, I still can’t seem to conquer that bulge that’s creeping into my midsection. I’ve spoken to trainers and nutritionists about it and have even tried conjugated linoleic acid (CLA), which theoretically helps reduce deposits of body fat. And still, fluctuating hormones and aging seem determined to redistribute that midsection bulge in ways that remain unacceptable (at least, to me). More importantly, however, is the fact that fat that settles in the abdominal areas increases the risk for impaired blood fat and insulin levels that can lead to diabetes and heart disease.

I’ve written about weight and the middle-aged bulge several times in the past and you can find some of these posts here. My friend Mollie Katzen and I collaborated on a post earlier this year about eating habits, food and midlife. And still, an effective solution to the bold bulge continues to elude women, trainers and researchers alike.

Still, a very small study published in the online edition of Menopause shows that hope may still spring eternal. In fact, results suggests that women who took 70 mg isoflavones daily (i.e. 44 mg daidzein, 16 mg glycitein, 10 mg genistein) for six months and then added at least an hour of intensive aerobics, circuit training and resistance training at least three times weekly for another six months experienced significant declines in blood pressure, fat mass and total body weight, and a small reduction in waist circumference (of about an inch and a half). In this particular study, the researchers selected women who were known to respond physically and beneficially to exercise. However, only the women who supplemented their exercise with isoflavones had demonstrable improvements in their fat mass and distribution. These women also experienced improvements in their insulin levels.

Clearly, the benefits of isoflavones added to exercise from both a weight and health perspective need to be explored more thoroughly and with larger numbers of women. However, it is possible that the addition of soy to a regular exercise routine may help to address that elusive bulge from entering the black hole that we call midlife.

Stay tuned!

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