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What to eat to lose weight

Eating a daily portion of French fries will eventually make you fat, and eating yogurt every day can keep you from gaining weight. This is one of the conclusions of a report published by researchers at Harvard University[1] which found that specific dietary and lifestyle factors are independently associated with long-term weight gain. The study found that a combination of these factors have aggregate effects. In essence, if French fries can make you fat and, independently, sugar-sweetened beverages can make you fat, the combination of French fries and sweet sodas will make you fatter than either one of them alone. The image above shows the pounds gained or avoided over four years for every additional serving per day of specific foods.

The research followed for twenty years 120,877 non-obese U.S. men and women, free of chronic disease from three different groups. Relationships between lifestyle factors and weight change were evaluated at 4-year intervals, with various adjustments made for age, baseline BMI, and lifestyle factors.

Overall, the participants gained 3.35 pounds, or 2.4% of their body weight, in each four-year interval. Over the 20 years of follow up, that amounted to almost 17 additional pounds. The data also revealed a strong weight-gain connection with certain foods, such as potatoes in various forms, sugar-sweetened beverages, unprocessed red meats, and processed meats. Some foods such as vegetables, whole grains, fruits, nuts and yogurt were inversely connected to weight gain, i.e., people who ate these foods gained less weight over time.

The study found that daily consumption of yogurt prevented 0.82 pounds of weight gain over each of the 4-year periods. Physical activity translated into 1.76 fewer pounds gained during each time period. Participants who slept less than six hours or more than eight hours per night gained more weight within each study period. Those who watched more television gained an average of 0.31 pounds for every hour of TV watched per day. Foods most strongly associated with weight gain every four years were potatoes, including fries (a 1.28-pound gain), sugar-sweetened beverages (1-pound gain), unprocessed red meats (0.95-pound gain), and processed meats (0.93-pound gain). Alcohol use was also associated with about a 0.41-pound gain per drink per day.

Each increased daily serving of potato chips alone was associated with a 1.69 pound-weight gain every four years. Potato chips are basically carbohydrates and fat with very little protein and almost no nutritional value. The Nutrition Label of Kirkland Kettle brand krinkle cut potato chips shows that one serving of 28 grams consists of approximately 9 chips. Eating those nine potato chips every day for four years results in a weight gain of 1.69 pounds.

One serving of potato chips

The results of the study demonstrate that the quality of the diet, i.e., the types of food and beverages that one consumes, is strongly linked to weight gain. One of your best strategies for losing weight is to increase your physical activity and reduce your consumption of potatoes and other simple carbohydrates such as white bread and sugar-sweetened drinks.

Learn more about weight loss.

[1] Dariush Mozaffarian, et al., Changes in Diet and Lifestyle and Long-Term Weight Gain in Women and Men, N Engl J Med 2011; 364:2392-2404 June 23, 2011

Comments »

healthyengineer said,
2011-06-27 @ 04:52:38

I suspect that the significant weight gain for soda and fries, and their combined effect are likely due to the hepatotoxicity of both polyunsaturated fat and fructose leading to both insulin and leptin resistance... and therefore destroying the bodies natural "lipostasis" system. Perhaps there is even a synergistic effect, where neither PUFA or fructose are nearly as toxic as their combination. Obesity often co-occurs with NAFLD. I doubt that "simple [starch] carbohydrates" play any role here at all... there's many traditional cultures (such at the Kitavans) whose diet consists largely of starchy root vegetables yet have virtually no obesity. Notice how "potatoes all" is significantly lower than potato chips and fries... likely because this group contains both potatoes fried in polyunsaturated fat (strongly obesogenic) and potatoes that are not (non obesogenic). As an epidemiological study this (1) doesn't determine cause and effect, and (2) doesn't isolate individual ingredients.

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