Check out the New York Times, Sunday, July 24, 2011 edition, for a report on new research by five nutrition and public health experts at Harvard University. They studied about 121,000 well-educated men and women who were healthy and not obese when the study began.
They studied what factors influence weight gain, in the most detailed long-term analysis that we have to date. On average, study participants gained a pound a year, which added up to 20 pounds in 20 years. Some gained much more, about four pounds a year, while a few managed to stay the same or even lose weight. People who were overweight when the study started tended to gain the most weight.
Nobody will be surprised by the foods that tended to pack on the most pounds. Here is the list:
French fries led the list!
Red meats and processed meats
Other forms of potatoes
Sweets and desserts
Other fried foods
100-percent fruit juice
Surprised? Probably not. So why are you feeding these foods to your kids? You may argue that those are the foods they want! Well, time for the adult to step in and help the kids understand why these foods are just for special occasions, if at all, not every day foods.
In my family, the only time we ate at fast food places was when we were traveling. My little daughter always wanted the fried “chicken pieces”, or whatever they’re called, for dipping. She seemed to have too many stomach aches when we traveled, so we explained what this fried food did to her stomach. At about age 5 she was old enough to understand and decide to order something else. Not surprisingly, the stomach aches went away. We don’t do fast food anymore when traveling, with the exception of Subway (tasty sandwiches, lots of fresh vegetables). It’s just not worth the empty calories and bad reactions on tender stomachs.
Foods that Don’t Pack on Pounds
Researchers figured out which foods resulted in weight loss or no gain when consumed in greater amounts: fruits, vegetables and whole grains.
When people ate these foods, they experienced weight loss or no gain
More Things That Affect Weight Gain
Here are some more important tidbits from the study and the NYT article:
“Compared with those who gained the most weight, participants in the Nurses’ Health Study who lost weight consumed 3.1 more servings of vegetables each day.” (emphasis added)
When the people ate more dairy products, for example, low-fat (milk) or full-fat (milk and cheese), they did not gain additional weight. (An aside: the full-fat dairy products are not good for your heart, so maybe it’s best to avoid those.)
The people who ate more yogurt and nuts, including peanut butter lost the most weight! Despite the usual warnings that nuts are high in vegetable fat, those who ate nuts and yogurt actually lost more weight than other study participants.
“Previous small studies have shown that eating peanut butter can help people lose weight and keep it off, probably because it slows the return of hunger.”
“That yogurt, among all foods, was most strongly linked to weight loss was the study’s most surprising dietary finding, the researchers said.”
“Yogurt contains healthful bacteria that in animal studies increase production of intestinal hormones that enhance satiety and decrease hunger, Dr. Hu said. In other words, the yogurt may help turn on the “I’m full” signal. The bacteria may also raise the body’s metabolic rate, making weight control easier.”
The doctors also found that refined carbohydrates—sugars and starches stripped of their fiber, like white flour, white bread, white rice, etc., slows down your metabolism, which means weight gain. “Metabolism, which determines how many calories are used at rest, slowed with the consumption of refined grains but stayed the same after consumption of whole grains.” In other words, the empty calorie refined foods set your body up to pack on pounds while the whole grains did not!
“How long people slept each night influenced their weight changes. In general, people who slept less than six hours or more than eight hours a night tended to gain the most. Among possible explanations are effects of short nights on satiety hormones, as well as an opportunity to eat more while awake, Dr. Hu said.”
“He was not surprised by the finding that the more television people watched, the more weight they gained, most likely because they are influenced by a barrage of food ads and snack in front of the TV.”
There are more interesting results about alcohol and weight gain and smoking and weight gain, but since this is a children’s site, we’ll let you check those out for yourselves.
Look for yourself.
How to Find the Study Results
Here’s the link to the summary article on the study:
Here’s the citation to the actual study:
Title: Changes in Diet and Lifestyle and Long-Term Weight Gain in Women and Men
Authors: Dariush Mozaffarian, M.D., Dr.P.H., Tao Hao, M.P.H., Eric B. Rimm, Sc.D., Walter C. Willett, M.D., Dr.P.H., and Frank B. Hu, M.D., Ph.D.
Here’s the link to the research study summary.
Here’s the citation to the article in the New England Journal of Medicine:
N Engl J Med 2011; 364:2392-2404
June 23, 2011