I think a balanced diet promotes a healthy life, and it is important to contact a professional if you need help. Depending on your goals, a nutritionist can teach you and can support you to reach your goals.
I noticed how high the interest is in the subject of dieting and admit that I felt a kind of pressure and responsibility when I started documenting to bring you the best advice.
With my scientific training, I was surprised a few times what I found on the Internet. At the same time I tried to comprehend how hard it is, in this avalanche of information – some true, some not- to take the right decision a simming “simple” matter – what we eat.
Unfortunately we live in some crazy times and we must retrain the basic things – how to move, how to sleep, how and how much to eat, how to be human.
Reading from trusted scientific sources (the latest food guidelines, WHO opinion about obesity and diet tips, NIH, Pubmed, Cochrane), we came to the following conclusions:
My mother was right and I still have much to learn about what it means to eat healthy:
- I believe more in a balanced lifestyle and dieting rather than loosing 10kg / week
- I will continue to document and really think to make some interventions in my own diet
- I will introduce a few general tips to help you have a healthy lifestyle and present you some diets that are proven to be effective.
What does science say about weight loss programs effectiveness?
Annals of Internal Medicine published a study in April 2015 the researchers reviewed the effectiveness of several commercially available weight loss programs and found that two programs – Jenny Craig and Weight Watchers– really help in weight loss. However, weight loss was relatively small and the participants started to reinstate the lost weight after a year. Even a small weight loss remains valuable!
This study has, so far, assessed the quality of slimming programs and included the results of controlled clinical trials from 11 of the most popular diets. In all cases, participants were randomly chosen to follow a weight loss program and received counseling or just received counseling. The diets with the longest duration were – Jenny Craig and Weight Watchers – the patients were followed for 2 years. At baseline, participants who entered in the Jenny Craig program had on average 92 kilograms and lost an average of 6.5 kg after 2 years. In Weight Watchers group, participants had on average 94 kilograms and lost 3 kilograms (mean). Researchers noted that Nutrisystem had promising initial results, but studies have not lasted long enough that it can determine whether participants are able to maintain the lost weight. Participants lose weight following very restrictive diets such as Optifast, Medifast or Health Management Resources, but had an increased risk of digestive problems (frequent constipation). eDiets, Lose It! or Slimfast were not significantly more effective than counseling, even in the short term.
How healthy are commercial diets?
Most programs are based on already prepared foods that come in as canned, frozen or dried, and ask the users to add fresh fruits, vegetables and dairy products to supplement pre-manufactured foods.
Main meals have less than 200 calories. To have so few calories, these foods are almost completely devoid of fat (9 kcal / g). To compensate for the lack of taste, many of them have added sugars, making the daily sugar percentage to 25% (it should be 10%). Only 15% of calories come from fat and often they are saturated (which increase the risk for cardiovascular diseases).
Other approaches to long-term success
National Weight Control Registery (http://www.nwcr.ws/) is a research organization that investigates eating habits and physical activity of people who have successfully lost considerable weight. To be included in the study, participants must have lost at least 15 kg and keep the weight for more than a year. At this time, the register contains data from over 10,000 people who have managed to lose 30 kg and maintained the loss for 5.5 years (mean). Each year, participants respond to questionnaires about foods they consume, when, how and what are their eating and physical activity habits. This is what emerged:
- 98% of participants have changed the way they eat to be able to lose weight
- 94% have increased levels of physical activity, most often indicated as walking
- 78% eat breakfast every day
- 75% weigh-in at least once a week
- 62% watch less than 10 hours of television per week
- 90% do exercise, at least an hour a day
2 diets that we need to know more
There are many diets that can help weight loss, but these 2 are special because, in addition to helping the patient lose weight, it also helps to prevent chronic diseases.
Health researchers observed that people in the Mediterranean region (Italy, Spain, France, Greece) have lower rates of cardiovascular disease and noticed that their diet influences disease prevention. Mediterranean diet means:
- Plants are the main source of calories! These include fruits, vegetables, whole grains, seeds and “feculente” (beans, peas…) with a preference for fresh and minimally processed foods to preserve all the nutrients
- Olive oil is the main source of fat. Some studies suggest that extra-virgin olive oil contains more beneficial substances that other types of oils
- Small to moderate amounts of cheese and yogurt
- Minimal amounts of red meat, but moderate quantities of fish and poultry for protein intake of animal origin
- Small amounts of sweets, eaten occasionally; fresh fruit instead of dessert
- For those who drink alcoholm it is recommended to drink red wine in small to moderate ammounts usually accompanying the meals
What does science say about the Mediterranean diet
The largest study so far on the Mediterranean diet is PREDI-MED, a randomized trial from Spain which included 7,500 participants aged between 55 and 80 years. They were told to eat either a diet with very little fat or Mediterranean diet supplemented with nuts and extra-virgin olive oil. After five years, people who followed the Mediterranean diet supplemented with olive oil had a 30% lower risk of heart attacks, stroke, or death from cardiovascular problems.
Besides dieting, physical exercise and other factors probably play a role. The Mediterranean Diet approach requires a healthy and balanced lifestyle!
The DASH diet is a diet specifically designed to lower blood pressure. The DASH diet’s important features are in common with the Mediterranean lifestyle diet and contains generous amounts of fruits, vegetables and grains, but is more strict in terms of fat and salt consumption. The main features of the DASH diet are:
- Most calories should come from fruits, vegetables and cereals
- Reduced amounts of fat and saturated fat
- Moderate amounts of low fat dairy products
- Small amounts of red meat, sweets and sweetened drinks
- Reduced quantities of salt because of its adverse cardiovascular effects
- Rich in potassium, magnesium, calcium and fibers
What does science say about DASH
In the 90s, two major clinical trials have demonstrated efficacy in controlling blood pressure using the DASH diet. In addition, it is considered a diet rich in nutrients and healthy for the cardiovascular system. If the main health problem you have is a cardiovascular one, it is worth to research about the DASH diet!
A few tips from your pharmacists to win the war against the extra pounds
- Choose a healthy, balanced diet
- It includes physical activity. Aerobic exercises burn calories and increase muscle mass, muscle mass needed for an efficient use of the sugar in the body.
- Gradually adjust your eating habits to make permanent changes in you diets. You may need counseling, but search for quality tips on changes you can make.
- Consume alcohol in moderation.
- Last but not least, seek support from you close ones, it is essential.
- To know where you start, find out your body mass index. You can calculate here!
For any other advice, do not forget to ask your pharmacists about the best personalized diet.
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