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Smaller Servings, Please

You may think this is a no-brainer, but researchers in England have found evidence that if we can eat smaller portions, we can cut calories substantially. Investigators from the University of Cambridge concluded that eliminating the larger-size portions served in many restaurants or eaten at home could result in reducing average daily calorie consumption by 16 percent (279 calories) among adults in the UK, and by 29 percent (527 calories) among adults in the U.S. They reviewed 61 studies that included data on 6,711 participants and found that the effect of trimming portion sizes didn’t vary substantively between men or women or by people’s body mass. These factors also didn’t affect susceptibility to hunger or tendency to consciously control eating behavior. The investigators noted that the incentive to purchase (and then eat or drink) large size portions is simply that these amounts are often perceived to be a better value for the money. Still to be determined is how to actually reduce the size, availability and appeal of large servings. Also at issue: whether short-term reductions in the amount people eat can translate into long-term beneficial changes in consumption.

Morning Light and Your Weight

If you want to slim down, you might try getting up earlier in the morning. A small study from Northwestern University in Chicago suggests that the timing of your daily exposure to moderate levels of light may influence body mass index (BMI) and body fat. The researchers found that people who received more exposure to moderate or high intensity light in the morning had a lower body mass index and a lower percentage of body fat than those who got most of their exposure to light later in the day. Only 23 adults, most of them women, mean age 26, participated in the study. All were healthy. They each wore a wrist monitor for seven days to determine the patterns of their exposure to light. Study co-author Ivy N. Cheung said that the results emphasize the importance of getting most of your exposure to moderate or higher intensity light early in the day, and that the new findings lend support to earlier evidence that changes in environmental light exposure may affect body weight regulation.

Abdominal Obesity: Is this You?

Although average Body Mass Index (BMI) numbers have been holding somewhat steady in recent years, American waistlines continue to expand, which is bad news for our country's health. The latest look at these measurements focuses on the changes over time in abdominal obesity. This "belly fat" is closely associated with metabolic syndrome, and can indicate increased risks of diabetes and heart disease. The investigation reveals that since 1999, waistlines and belly fat have increased among men, women, whites, blacks and Mexican Americans. The researchers, from the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), reported that in 2012 abdominal obesity was present in 54.2 percent of us, up from 46.4 percent in 1999. (In men, a waist measurement greater than 40.2 inches signals abdominal obesity. For women, abdominal obesity is present at a waist measurement greater than 34.6 inches). The CDC team analyzed data from nearly 33,000 men and nonpregnant women age 20 and up to reach their conclusions. The biggest increases from 1999 to 2012 were among non-Hispanic white men in their 40s and among African Americans in their 30s. You might not notice an increase in your waist size if your scale says you haven't gained weight, and you're better off using a tape measure to keep track of where the fat resides.