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.



What can you do to help the bees?

On a recent trip (sponsored in part by the National Honey Board), I had a chance to rub wings with some professional beekeepers. Like many of you, I am concerned about the plight of our honey bees (and, by extension, all of us). Did you know that plants pollinated by honey bees and other pollinators make up about one-third of our diet?

Bees and other pollinators are struggling against many challenges, including decreasing food and water supplies as well as pathogens and pollutants that threaten the health of the hive. I wanted to pass along this list of four things we can all do to support the health of honey bees and pollinators.

  • Plant bee friendly flowers and herbs in your garden or yard. Bees are particularly fond of blue and purple flowers that are on the small side.
  • Put a shallow pan of fresh water out for bees to drink. Putting small rocks or marbles in the water gives them something to land on.
  • If you must apply pesticides or other chemicals to your lawn or garden, try to apply them at dusk, when bees and other pollinators are less likely to be visiting the flowers. (Happily, this is actually the most effective time to spray for mosquitoes).
  • Spread the word by sharing these bee-friendly tips with your neighbors and friends. Or, if you’re so inclined, learn more about bee-keeping, a hobby that many of my friends have taken up and find enormously satisfying (and not just because of the honey!)

Learn more by visiting the Honey Bee Health Coalition.

Why you shouldn’t drink sweetened beverages with meals

One of the reasons I suggest drinking only water (or unsweetened tea or coffee) with meals is that calories you drink don’t contribute at all to your sense of satiation.  In other words, you’re not likely to eat any less to compensate for those extra calories you’re drinking. They just get added to the total.

Conversely, replacing a caloric beverage with water is an easy way to subtract a few hundred calories from a meal without noticing a thing!

But here’s another log to throw on that fire: A small but meticulously done study finds that drinking a sweetened beverage along with a meal substantially increases the amount of fat that gets stored from the meal. Who needs that? The effect is magnified when the meal is high in protein, such as drinking a soda with a burger or chicken.

Interestingly, the study did not see the same effect with artificially-sweetened beverages. Although I recommend limiting your intake of diet soda, this would be one scenario where a diet soda might be a better choice than a regular soda (but still not as good as water).

Mac and cheese if you please

On my list of things to do this week was write a post responding to the recent scare over toxic chemicals in boxed macaroni and cheese.  Fortunately, my friends at Examine.com have save me the trouble. If this is something that you saw in the headlines and were concerned about, here is an excellent analysis of what we know and how much we need to worry about it.

Here’s the bottom line. An occasional box of mac and cheese isn’t going to kill anyone. However, there’s a pretty good argument for not eating it every day.  Phthalates are just one more good reason to not make packaged foods the mainstay of our diets–and to eat a variety of foods.

See also: How important is a varied diet?

Given up on losing weight?

The number of overweight and obese Americans has climbed steadily in recent decades, from 53% of adults in 1988 to 65% in 2014. At the same time, fewer overweight Americans are trying to lose weight--just 47%, down from 55% back in 1988.

The authors of the study, which was published in JAMA this month, wondered whether we've simply made our peace with being fat.

"As more people around us are getting heavier, we simply believe we are fine, and no need to do anything with it," lead author Liang Zhang told the AP News Service.

That may be part of it.

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