The topic of weight loss is never more popular than at the beginning of the year. Between overindulgent holidays and New Year’s resolutions or mission statements, it seems everybody is looking to lose some weight.
But with so much information at once, how do you know what the latest and most updated facts are? Fear not – we’ve scoured the news for you and have your weight loss news roundup right here.
Although you’re probably aware of the two major dietary demons – added sugars and bad fats – we’re still need to curb our consumption of foods that contain these ingredients.
Added Sugars. A study released by the Obesity Society in November revealed that over the past 3 decades, average U.S. adult consumption of added sugars increased by more than 30%, comprising about 300 calories per day. Since this was the average, it means that for those in the top 20%, up to 721 calories per day come from these added sugars – sugars that are added to the food instead of those occurring naturally in the food itself. And added sugars consumed by children increased by 20% (329 calories per day), with the top 20% of kids taking in 673 calories from added sugars daily. These added sugars “pack non-nutritice calories into foods and can lead to weight gain,” said Jason Block, MD, of Harvard Medical School. “We need to think about calorie density in foods… foods that are high in sugars and fats and lower in water content provide excess calories,” he added.
Bad Fats. While Americans have cut consumption of saturated and trans fats, a new study published in the Journal of the American Heart Association (AHA) says we’re not where we need to be just yet. After looking at surveys from 1980 to 2009, researchers found that men were still consuming 1.9% of calories from trans fats and women about 1.7%. Still, the AHA recommends limiting trans fats to no more than 1% of calories – about 2 grams for a typical 2,000 calorie diet.
Saturated fat intake was too high, too, providing about 11% of daily calories for both men and women instead of the recommended 5-6%. And intake of heart-healthy omega-3 fats like EPA and DHA were too low, at just .08 grams of DHA and 0.04 grams of EPA despite the recommendation of 0.25g (250mg) daily. With trans fats in foods declining anyway, too much saturated fat and too little omega-3s are more pressing, so researchers suggest eating more plant food, like fruits and veggies, and more fish whenever possible.
From searching the internet to discovering the latest diet, food, ingredient or drug, we seem to have an insatiable thirst for ideas on how to shed those holiday pounds.
Web Searches. One of the first places people turn to for weight loss information is the internet, but a new study published in the American Journal of Public Health says that the most popular search results on the first page are likely to be unreliable, with less than 1/5 of 103 websites scoring at least 50% accuracy; instead, searchers should rely on sites by federal agencies, academic institutions, and medical organizations, which are often not the top links on search engines, for evidence-based guidelines.
“Natural” is Top Trend. “People’s desire to maintain a healthy weight and trim figure is the biggest influence on the key trends in food and health,” says Julian Mellentin, the author of 10 Key Trends in Food, Nutrition, and Health 2015. This means “improving digestive health and avoiding a bloated stomach to maintain a good figure,” which equals getting more digestive wellness foods with probiotics, eating good carbs (slow carbs and whole or ancient grains) instead of bad (processed or refined carbohydrates, simple carbs), and avoiding sugar, the newest “dietary demon” that is quickly overtaking fat and salt as the bad guy.
In addition, high protein foods stand to benefit from their link with weight management; protein is natural, easy for most people to access and understand, and it has an evidence-based association with maintaining a healthy figure.
So instead of seeing people move to Jenny Craig, Slimfast, Weight Watchers and Kellogg’s Special K to lose weight, you’ll continue to see people turning to naturally functional foods like Greek yogurt, coconut water, and almonds to meet their healthy weight goals.
Appetite-Curbing Food Ingredient. If you’re looking for something to help you eat less, you’re not alone, as science keeps looking in that direction, too. A study by researchers at Imperial College London and the University of Glasgow found that the food additive inulin-propionate ester (IPE), may help people feel full earlier, preventing additional weight gain and promoting loss of abdominal fat.
Made from propionate, a natural byproduct created when gut bacteria ferment dietary fiber, IPE helped study participants eat 14% less than those who were given a complete fiber, and just one out of 25 IPE-supplemented participants gained more than 3% of their body weight over 24 weeks. By contrast, 6 participants gained more than 3% of their body weight and 4 gained 5% of their body weight after supplementing with a complete fiber.
Still, it’s important to note that this study measured weight not gained instead of weight lost, and it is not yet available to the public.
New FDA Drug Approved. At the end of 2014, the FDA approved the drug Saxenda as a treatment option for chronic weight management. The drug is approved for use in adults with a BMI of 30 or greater or adults with a BMI of 27 or greater who have at least one weight-related condition such as high blood pressure, type 2 diabetes, or high cholesterol.
Saxenda is a glucagon-like peptide-1 (GLP-1) receptor that promotes the satiety hormone and dampens appetite. In a clinical trial over one year, patients taking Saxenda had an average weight loss of nearly 4.5% of their body weight – think 8 pounds lost off 175 pounds – but given the side effects, which include nausea, diarrhea, constipation, vomiting, low blood sugar, and loss of appetite, the results seem underwhelming.
And like any weight loss program, Saxenda should be used in conjunction with a reduced-calorie diet and physical activity, but if a patient does not lose at least 4% body weight after 16 weeks, use should be discontinued.
The Bottom Line
Just as it is every year, weight loss is a major topic in health and wellness. The bad news is that obesity continues to be an epidemic, with more than two-thirds of adults and one-fourth of school age children in the U.S. overweight or obese. The good news is that the headlines point that we’re moving in the right direction with our knowledge.
Reducing intake of saturated fat and trans fats, increasing intake of healthy fats like omega-3s, reducing caloric intake by removing added sugars from our diets, getting more lean protein, and turning to natural, whole foods instead of processed “diet” foods all help us move toward making long-term lifestyle changes – the type of advice you’d find on a trustworthy weight loss authority’s site.
And while scientific advances might not provide a miracle solution, they provide a glimpse into weight loss mechanisms – the link between the gut and dietary fiber, and the different hormones that control appetite.
So whatever your weight loss goals are this year, take these healthy lifestyle changes to heart and get one step closer to achieving them!
David H. Rahm, M.D. is the founder and medical director of The Wellness Center, a medical clinic located in Long Beach, CA. Dr. Rahm is also president and medical director of VitaMedica. Dr. Rahm is one of a select group of conventional medical doctors who have education and expertise in functional medicine and nutritional science. Over the past 20 years, Dr. Rahm has published articles in the plastic surgery literature and educated physicians about the importance of good peri-operative nutrition.