What’s the best diet for your genetics?

Personalized nutrition is getting a lot of attention these days. Companies will analyze your DNA and tell you what foods and supplements you should and shouldn’t eat based on your genetic profile. But a huge new study throws cold water on the idea of matching your diet to your genetics.  Participants with a “low-carb genotype” (who would hypothetically do better on a low-carb diet) were no more successful on a low-carb diet than on a low-fat diet. The same was true for those with a “low-fat genotype.”

The study also found that, overall, low-carb diets are no better or worse than low-fat diets at producing weight loss.  Those are the two headlines from this study. (Examine.com has produced an excellent detailed analysis of the study, if you want to take a deeper dive.)

But there is so much more here that warrants mentioning. Here’s what really got my attention:

None of the study participants were asked to count or limit their calories. Instead, both groups were told to limit their intake of added sugars, refined flour and junk food, and to eat lots of vegetables and whole foods. And that was enough to produce weight loss.  In other words, when you pay attention to the quality of your food choices, the calories often take care of themselves. And when you’re eating a healthy, whole foods diet, low carb is no more effective than low fat.

When you pay attention to the quality of your food choices, the calories often take care of themselves. Click To Tweet

The other thing that’s notable about this study is that the participants received intensive coaching throughout the year. They were taught how to choose foods that kept them satisfied for fewer calories.   They were encouraged to avoid distracted eating and eat more mindfully. Making sustainable changes was a bigger priority than achieving fast weight loss.  (All of this will sound very familiar to participants of  the Weigh*less program, our 12-month coaching program for sustainable weight loss.)

Making sustainable changes matters more than achieving fast weight loss. Click To Tweet

At the end of the study, the most successful participants reported having changed their relationship to food. And that’s ultimately what’s required for permanent weight loss. Not calorie or fat or carb counting.

Click here to learn more about the Weighless Program.

This super easy hack could save you major calories

Can it really be this simple?

Researchers at the University of Surrey fed two groups of study subjects an identical pasta dish. Although the amount of food was the same, it was presented to one group as a “snack” and to the other as a “meal.”  The snackers ate standing up, using plastic utensils. The meal-eaters sat down at a table set with ceramic dishes and silverware.

A little bit later, both groups were given some additional foods to sample. Those who had merely “snacked” on the pasta dish consumed far more calories than those who felt that they’d just eaten a meal.

Doesn’t that ring true?

When we call something a snack, we tend to discount it.  It doesn’t register in quite the same way in our mental tally of how much we’ve eaten. We may not even feel as full afterward.  (Which just goes to show how much of our sensation of ‘hunger’ is actually in our heads!)

Try this: Instead of just grabbing a snack, consciously make it a meal. Even if it’s just a few bites or you don’t have much time, be sure to signal to your brain and senses that you’re satisfying your need for food.  Sit down. Put it on a plate. Mentally re-label those snacks as mini-meals and see if they don’t feel a little more satisfying.

Need to lower blood pressure? Here’s a tastier option

Over a million Americans developed high blood pressure overnight–and, no, it wasn’t the latest headlines.

The American Heart Association just lowered the bar on what is considered to a healthy blood pressure reading. Instead of anything under 140/90, you now need to shimmy under 130/80 to get the all clear.  That means that a whole bunch of people who had normal blood pressure yesterday are hypertensive today.

Diet and lifestyle change is the standard prescription in this situation. The time-tested DASH diet, in particular, has a great track record for lowering blood pressure.  But if the thought of giving up red meat and cheese leaves you feeling a bit bereft, I have good news.

Recent studies have found that modified versions of the DASH diet that include red meat and full-fat dairy products are just as effective as the more austere original.  The details are outlined in this episode of the Nutrition Diva podcast: The DASH Diet Gets an Upgrade.

Sugar and Cancer: What’s the Connection?

Whenever I talk about cancer and diet, I try to debunk the myth that eating sugar makes cancer grow faster. I explain that all cells, including cancer cells, use glucose (sugar) to fuel their metabolism. Cancer cells often have an accelerated metabolism and utilize blood glucose at a faster rate than other cells. But it’s a gross over-simplification to say that consuming sugar will make cancer grow faster or that eliminating sugar will slow the growth of a tumor.

So imagine my surprise to see a recent headline in Newsweek about a new study published in the prestigious science journal Nature.

Despite the provocative headline, however, this study has absolutely nothing to do with how sugar from foods affects cancer cells. The research explores how some cancer cells differ from healthy cells in the way that they metabolize glucose. This is undoubtedly important to cancer researchers. But it does not add to, subtract from, or change in any way what we know about the interaction of diet and cancer.  

The link between sugar consumption and cancer risk is more indirect.  Excessive sugar consumption often leads to obesity, which increases cancer risk. But it’s the excess body fat that is the problem, not the source of the calories that caused it. 

This is important to cancer researchers, but it doesn't change what we know about diet and cancer. Click To Tweet

There are a lot of good reasons to limit our consumption of added sugars.  Limiting these empty calories can make it easier to maintain a healthy weight. A diet that’s lower in added sugars is also likely to be higher in nutrients. Both can help to reduce your risk of cancer and/or improve your chances of beating it.

But the last thing a cancer patient (or survivor) needs is to stress about whether eating too much sugar may have caused their cancer or made it more aggressive. Neither is true.

See also:

Can the Right Diet Prevent Cancer?

Diet Recommendations for Cancer Survivors

 

Despite billions spent on dieting, obesity rate hits new high

Americans are spending more on dieting than ever before--more than $60 billion a year.  The percentage of obese adults is also at an all time high of 40%. 

Do you think there might be a connection between these two trends?  I do.

Clearly, dieting  is not the solution to the obesity problem. In fact, I think it's a big part of the problem.  

Problem #1:  Even the most "responsible" diets encourage you to lose weight far faster than your body can actually lose fat. As a result, you end up losing a little bit of fat and a lot of water and lean muscle tissue.

Problem #2: Diets teach you how to lose weight but they don't teach you how to weigh less.  (There's a big difference.)  As a result, most people will eventually regain all the weight they lose...or more.

Problem #3: When you regain the weight, you don't gain back the lean muscle that you lost while dieting. You replace it with fat, which makes it even harder to lose weight the next time.

It's time to try something different

Last summer, my colleague Brock Armstrong and I launched WeighlessTM, a program that shows people how to stop dieting and start weighing less. Weighless is not a diet or exercise program. It's a structured lifestyle change program that combines nutrition science, behavior modification, professional guidance, and community support.

The results have exceeded even our high hopes. It's been absolutely exhilarating to see people escape a lifetime of yo-yo dieting and find the path to sustainable weight loss.  I'm more convinced than ever before that diets are not the answer to our obesity epidemic. (They're a big part of the problem.)

If you think you might be ready to stop dieting and start weighing less, there are more details about the Weighless program here.

Losing weight will shorten your life? Not exactly.

A new study finds that people who lost more than 15% of their body weight over a five year period were actually more likely to die than those who didn’t lose weight. What’s more, the biggest losers were more likely to die than people who gained 20% during the same period.

How can this be? We’re constantly bombarded with headlines about the obesity epidemic and how it’s shaving years off our life span. Are you really better off remaining overweight than losing weight? 

Poor health causes weight loss, not the other way around. Click To Tweet

This latest study does not distinguish between intentional and unintentional weight loss, nor did it take into account the cause of death. People who are terminally ill tend to lose weight. But there's a world of difference between losing weight due to serious illness and intentionally losing weight.

Weight Loss vs. Fat Loss

One way to see this quite clearly is to distinguish between the loss of total body weight and the loss of body fat. The loss of total body weight may be associated with increased mortality. But the loss of body fat is associated with increased life span.

Another way to separate out the effect of wasting disease is to distinguish between intentional and unintentional weight loss. Previous studies have shown that while unintentional weight loss is associated with increased risk of death, intentional weight loss can reduce mortality by 15%

The Bottom Line(s)

Actually, I have three bottom lines for you

Bottom Line #1. Losing excess body fat will improve your health.

Bottom Line #2. Losing weight slowly will increase the percentage of body fat you lose.

Bottom Line #3. Losing a modest amount of weight and keeping it off will do more to improve your health than repeatedly losing and gaining large amounts of weight.

Need help with sustainable weight loss? That’s what the Weighless program is all about. ​Learn more.

More salad equals less joint pain?

Eating more salads and other whole vegetables appears to reduce your risk of knee pain from arthritis. Interestingly, this does not appear to be simply a factor of consuming more vitamins or anti-oxidants. There seems to be something special about eating whole vegetables that’s protective.

Doctors evaluated the diets of more than 6,000 adults and found that those who reported eating the most vegetables and fruits had the lowest risk of severe knee pain. However, there didn’t seem to be any relationship between the total amount of vitamin C or beta carotene consumed and knee pain.

Of course, this study revealed an association (or correlation) but did not definitely prove that eating more vegetables prevents knee pain. But what exactly is the downside of taking this advice?

About half of all adults will  develop knee pain due to arthritis (wear and tear in the joint) and the risk is significatnly higher if you’re overweight.  Not surprisingly, knee pain has negative effects on mood, participation in social and recreational activities, and sleep.

Eating more vegetables, on the other hand, is linked to a wealth of benefits, ranging from lower body weight to reduced risk of cancer, diabetes, stroke and heart disease, and–that old favorite–a longer and healthier life.

So eat up! Here are tips on working more vegetables into your day, and here are tips on finding vegetables you like to eat.  And if eating more vegetables is one of your goals, consider participating in the upcoming 30-Day Nutrition Upgrade. It’s a fun way to improve your eating habits…and eating more veggies and less sugar are the two biggest changes people report making. Click below for all the details.

How to bring down stubborn cholesterol

Just got an excited note from a member of the most recent 30-Day Nutrition Upgrade group:

“My cholesterol is 194! First time it has been under 200 in several years. Thanks for nutrition advice that works!”

Although the 30-day Nutrition Upgrade is not a cholesterol-lowering program per se, I’m not at all surprised by this news.

One of the things that makes the 30-Day Upgrade unique is that it’s not just about limiting unhealthy foods, such as those containing added sugars and refined flour. We spend just as much time focusing on the foods we want to eat more of, such as vegetables, nuts, and legumes.

Because adding is simply more fun than subtracting. Click To Tweet

Because adding is simply more fun than subtracting.  And when it comes to lowering cholesterol, adding healthy foods can be even more effective than limiting unhealthy choices.

A 2011 study published in the Journal of the American Medical Association, found that adding foods like nuts and dried beans to the diet was four times more effective in reducing LDL cholesterol than cutting back on saturated fat.

And a more recent study, just published in the Journal of Nutrition, found that those who ate a handful of almonds as a snack every day instead of a muffin–which is a popular Upgrade swap as well–saw a reduction in LDL, with no reduction in their “good” HDL cholesterol.

(We also don’t usually think of adding foods as a way to lose weight. Yet about half of participants report losing several pounds during the 30-day Upgrade.)

Ready to upgrade your nutrition? The next 30-Day Upgrade starts soon.  Learn more and save your spot here.