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Your Marriage And Your Weight

Marriage is supposed to be good for your health, but a new study from Switzerland shows that it may not be a panacea, at least where weight is concerned. Investigators from the University of Basel and Max Planck Institute for Human Development interviewed more than 10,000 men and women in 9 European countries to compare the relationship between marital status and body mass index (BMI). They found that married men and women actually have higher BMIs than single adults and “the differences between countries were surprisingly small.” However, the researchers also reported that married people were more likely to buy more unprocessed products and less convenience food, and that married men were more likely than single men to buy organic and fair trade food. Their final report suggests that married couples, although weighing a bit more, have healthier diets than single adults. The average BMI of single men was 25.7 compared to 26.3 for married men. The average for single women was 25.1 compared to 25.6 for married women. Those differences equal about 4.4 pounds, a small but meaningful difference, suggesting that at least in one key respect, marriage isn’t as healthy as had been assumed. 

Weight Benefits of Standing

If you can spend at least a quarter of the day standing (and moving) you’re less likely to be obese than if those hours are spent sitting. A new study from the American Cancer Society shows that men who spent a quarter of their waking time on their feet were 32 percent less likely to be obese and those who spent half their daytime standing were 59 percent less likely to be obese than people who don’t stand as much. Women who spent a quarter of their time standing were 35 percent less likely to be have large waist circumferences (abdominal obesity) while the risk was 47 percent lower for those who spent half their time on their feet and 57 percent lower for those who spent three-quarters of the day standing. Researchers came to these conclusions after examining more than 7,000 adults attending the Cooper Clinic in Dallas from 2010 to 2015. They checked each individual’s body mass index, body fat percentage and waist circumference. The study participants also reported on the amount of time they spent on their feet. Those who said they met guidelines to perform 150 minutes of moderate activity or 75 minutes of vigorous activity daily had even lower risks of obesity. The researchers said that it is unclear whether their study participants were standing still or moving but noted that standing motionless essentially burns no more calories than sitting. 

Less Weight for More Life

If you've been thinking about your New Year's resolutions and have put weight loss at the top of your list, take it seriously. A Canadian research team examined the relationship between body weight and life expectancy and calculated that being overweight or obese can steal up to eight years of your life. Worse, they concluded that because those excess pounds often lead to diabetes or cardiovascular disease earlier in life, they could deprive you of nearly two decades of good health. The team used data from 4,000 people included in the 2003 to 2010 National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey. Their lifestyles were used to develop a model estimating the annual risk diabetes and cardiovascular disease pose to individuals, and it revealed how different body weights affect life expectancy and years of healthy life lost. They found that the very obese could lose up to eight years of life, the obese up to six years, and the overweight up to three years. In addition, healthy life-years lost were two to four times higher for overweight and obese individuals compared to those whose weight was healthy. They reported that the worst cases were those individuals who gained weight at early ages. Now the team is looking into how weight loss can affect life expectancy.

My take? Obesity remains a widespread medical problem in the U.S. - one third of adults and 17 percent of children are considered obese, and, as a result, at increased risk of heart disease, diabetes, stroke, high blood pressure, high cholesterol, and kidney and gallbladder disease. Obesity may also increase the risk for developing some types of cancer. And it is strongly associated with osteoarthritis and sleep apnea. So it should be no surprise to learn that being overweight or obese can take years off your life, and make the years you do have less enjoyable. The obvious solution is to lose weight - no easy task although we all know what's involved - avoid foods that are high in fat and sugar; eat foods that are low on the glycemic index and, especially, in glycemic load; cut back on alcohol; avoid stress, frustration and boredom; if you're depressed, seek treatment and get at least 30 minutes of exercise a day, five times a week. Your health and life are worth the effort.

The Obesity Paradox – Health Effects of Excess Weight (Video)

Dr. Weil discusses the health effects of excess weight and how new research is showing that carrying extra weight may not be as bad as once believed. The Obesity Paradox is a term used to describe that being fat and fit may be healthier than skinny and unfit due to the fact that extra fat may protect the body.

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Surprising Route to Weight Loss Success

Here’s a strategy that may be worth trying if you want to lose weight: focus on what you eat during the week – that is, Monday through Friday - which is when you’re most likely to lose. A study conducted by a joint American and Finnish research team involved 80 people aged 25 to 62 who were asked to weigh themselves daily before breakfast. The weigh-ins were performed by participants for periods as short as two weeks and as long as nearly a year. The recorded weights showed that everyone participating – whether they gained or lost – had weight fluctuations over the course of the week and that nearly everyone loses a little weight during the week and regains it over the weekend. But in this study the participants who succeeded in losing weight and keeping it off were those who focused on healthy eating habits during the week and compensated more strictly Monday through Friday for a weekend gain. Those who tended to gain weight during the study didn’t compensate as strictly for weekend splurges. The researchers concluded that “we can expect weight to rise during weekends and treat it as a normal variation” and that “allowing more flexibility during weekends and holidays might be more realistic and successful in the long term than a strict regimen.”

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Brian Wansink et al, “Weight Rhythms: Weight Increases during Weekends and Decreases during Weekdays,” Obesity Facts, DOI:10.1159/000356147

How Do You Rate Your Chance of Living to 85? (Poll)

A recent Q&A discussed the issue of carrying extra weight as you age: Should Seniors Worry About Weight? Check out the article and let us know what you rate your chance of living to 85.

How Would You Describe Your Weight? (Poll)

A recent Q&A discussed the effects of genes on weight: Do Your Genes Make You Fat? Check out the article and let us know how you would describe your current weight.

Almonds for Weight Control

Snacking on 1.5 ounces of almonds daily reduced hunger and didn’t lead to weight gainThe latest news on nuts comes from a Purdue University study showing that snacking on 1.5 ounces of almonds daily reduced hunger and didn’t lead to weight gain, even though participants continued eating their customary daily diets. The investigators also reported that by eating almonds the study participants boosted their vitamin E levels as well as their intake of healthy monounsaturated fats. The research team recruited 137 adults at increased risk of type 2 diabetes and divided them into five groups: a control group, separate breakfast and lunch groups and morning and afternoon snack groups. All of the groups except the controls ate 1.5 ounces of almonds daily, either with meals or as morning or afternoon snacks. (Those in the control group were told not to eat any nuts or seeds for the duration of the four-week study.) All the participants (with the exception of the controls) reported daylong reductions in hunger and the desire to eat, particularly those in the “snack” groups. No one gained weight. The researchers suggested that this might be due to compensating for nut consumption by unconsciously eating less food at meals or to inefficient absorption of calories from the almonds.

My take? We already know that nuts are good for us, and this study shows that eating them daily (in a limited amount) doesn’t cause weight gain and, in the case of almonds, improves intake of vitamin E and monounsaturated fat. Even better, the ongoing Nurses’ Health Study at Brigham and Women's Hospital in Boston and the Harvard School of Public Health, which is monitoring the health of 86,000 nurses, has found that those who ate more than five ounces of nuts per week (for comparison, airline-size packets are about an ounce) had one third fewer heart attacks than those who rarely or never ate nuts. Other studies have supported these findings. I usually eat a handful of nuts per day - my favorites are cashews, almonds and walnuts.

Richard Mattes and Y.T. Tan “Appetitive, dietary and health effects of almonds consumed with meals or as snacks: a randomized, controlled trial,” European Journal of Clinical Nutrition, doi:10.1038/ejcn.2013.184