The Lure and Myths of Diets

“All excess calories are stored as body fat whether they come from fruit or fudge”
What To Eat by Marion Nestle

 Diets come and go, all promising revolutionary changes, even though they really don’t work.  A recent Gallop poll showed than 52% of the adult population in the US is on a diet, fueling  a $35 billion industry, yet less than 5% of people can actually keep the weight off. In 2003,when the low-carbohydrate Atkins diet was all the rage, research had found that obese men and women , after 6 months on a low-carb diet lost 13 pounds on average compared to  a 4 ½ pound loss on a low-fat diet. But new research shows that eventually all that weight comes back on, and even more than pre-dieting. If you’re looking for a quick fix to lose some weight this spring, recognize that fad diets are just that, often eliminating important macronutrients, hyped by the media, and often ignore  basic exercise physiology. “People have been trying to figure out if it’s the carbs or is it the fat, when really it’s the calories, says Dr. Lona Sandon, an assistant professor of clinical nutrition at the University of Texas Southwestern Medical Center at Dallas. “It doesn’t matter where the calories are coming from – carbs, protein, or fat-it’s the calorie balance. We’re trying to get people away from the idea that it’s a single food group or a single nutrient that’s causing the weight gain”

Melting the Myths: Fad Diets

If a diet promises quick weight loss, has limited food selections, is promoted as a cure-all, and recommends expensive foods or supplements, says Laura Kruskall, Ph.D., R.D., and Director of Nutrition Sciences at the University of Nevada, Las Vegas, you can be sure it’s a fad diet. Typically heavy handed on its’ use of testimonials, or not recommending permanent lifestyle changes are other red flags of a fad diet. Diets such as Scarsdale, Fat Flush, Carb Addicts, Eat for your Blood Type, Food Combining, Suzanne Sommers, Zone, Protein Power, Medifast , Slimfast  and Sugar Busters all promise  quick initial weight loss and do deliver, at first, because they all are low calorie diets. But do they last? If you are losing more than 2 pounds a week, it is more likely the result of fluid and lean body mass loss. Aiming for ½ to 1 pound a week loss is more realistic. Watching your calories and regular exercise is also the key. We gain weight because the body’s furnace is not burning quite enough fuel to keep pace with how much more we are eating. If you’re repeatedly gaining and regaining the same 10 or 20 or 30 pounds year after year, you know that fad diets won’t help you in the long run.  Acknowledgement of the need for lifelong changes, being flexible in your food choices, along with the advice of a registered dietician, Dr. Kruskall says, is your key to success.

Low carb, high carb  or all protein?

It’s a myth that carbohydrates are bad for you. A new study published in The Annals of Internal Medicine March 2010 showed that obese people who followed a low fat diet were more likely to keep the weight off after three years than those following a low carb diet. Although they lost more weight in the first year, they regained more during the next two years. The lead author of the study, Marianne Vetter, medical director of the Center for Weight and Eating Disorders, at the University of Pennsylvania, said that it’s really hard to sustain a low carb diet. Carbohydrates provide valuable nutrients, dietary fiber and volume and should generally make up the highest percentage of macronutrients calories when you’re trying to lose, or gain weight. The thrill of the initial weight loss on a low carbohydrate diet is due to several factors: you’re taking in fewer calories as well as losing fat free mass, and losing valuable glycogen stores, which also flushes out valuable water.  Almonds, low-fat yogurt, blueberries, strawberries, oranges, red and green peppers, whole grain bread, tomato juice, hummus, lentils, soybeans and oatmeal ; the list is long and colorful, and are all examples of carbohydrates, all providing the body’s preferred energy source. Atkins may work well for some, but the research supports the view that low carb diets, whether extreme or moderate, don’t help you lose weight, says Dr. Frank Sacks, of the Harvard School of Public Health. (Those with metabolic syndrome, or diabetes should always consult with their physician) Healthy eating following a low calorie low fat diet rich in fruits, vegetables, beans, or fish will also protect you against disease. A study published in the journal Molecular Neurdegeneration tested the effects of several diets and were surprised to find that eating too much protein contributes to plaque buildup that may make you more vulnerable to Alzheimer’s disease.  Mice fed a high protein/low carbohydrate diet (60% protein/30% carbohydrate) were 5% lower in weight than brains from all other mice, posing the question whether particular diets, if eaten at particular ages, might affect the susceptibility to Alzheimer’s disease.

Instead of stress, food cues, moods, habits, obsessions, advertising, and social expectations; let  common sense and true hunger be your guide.

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Top Treatments for Osteoarthritis

You don’t have to let osteoarthritis, the most common form of arthritis, stop you from staying active as you age. Also called degenerative joint disease, osteoarthritis is the progressive breakdown of cartilage, a joint’s natural shock absorber, and its underlying bone within the joint. Firm and rubbery, cartilage covers the ends of bone to reduce friction. It also has the ability and qualities to change shape when compressed, like play-dough. Unfortunately, as cartilage breaks down, bones start to rub against each other, causing pain, grating, crackling sounds, swelling or stiffness. The most common joints affected are the hands, knees and hips. Estimates from the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention indicate that approximately 27 million Americans have arthritis.  “Osteoarthritis is the signature medical issue of Baby Boomers”, says Dr. Robert Sallis, Co-Director of Sports Medicine Fellowship at Kaiser Permanente Medical Center in Fontina, California. However, osteoarthritis is not a natural part of aging and something you have to just put up with. You have a lot of options to manage it in order to  delay or prevent surgery.  Self management and medications are the first line of defense.

Moving is the Best Medicine

Genetics, excess weight, prior injuries, such as cartilage tears at an early age, all can contribute to osteoarthritis. Those younger patients who suffer cartilage tears in high school, says Dr. Sallis, show significant arthritic change by their mid-thirties.  It’s not only a Baby Boomers problem, as degenerative changes can also begin as early as your teen-age years. Most alarming is that one out of 250 US children have some form   of arthritis. Losing  weight, at any age, will give you symptomatic relief. A study in Arthritis & Rheumatism showed that losing just one pound resulted in a fourfold reduction in knee joint  load among overweight people with osteoarthritis.


Rest  and Recovery. Repeat!

Moving is the first line of defense, but it’s important to rest until you’re pain free.”As our bodies get older”, says John Koth, physical therapist and owner of Koth Sports Physical Therapy in Ketchum, “what we can accomplish in terms of athletics is no different than when we were younger-the amount of recovery we need is the only factor that changes. Allowing rest for  to recover between activity prevents overload and the inflammatory response to arthritis.”Don’t increase the stress on an already stressed area.

Take Tylenol or Topicals

One Tylenol , 4 times a day , to help  reduce inflammation for mild to moderate pain, is the initial treatment  recommended by The American College of Rheumatology . Non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs, despite cardiovascular and gastrointestinal concerns, in smaller doses, also help relieve pain. Capsaicin, an analgesic derived from chili peppers, can be used, as well as Bengay, although there is no real data on it. Also, very low doses of anti-depressants   are sometimes recommended.

Glucosamine and Chrondroitin

Supplements are unregulated, but these supplements seem to work for some people with knee osteoporosis. Although the research is mixed, they are much better than being on NSAIDs, says Dr. Sallis, and recommends them for his patients. Experts advise to stop taking them if you don’t notice any difference in six months.

Corticosteroids Injections

These shots, 3 or 4 times a year, although they don’t slow the disease down, can be helpful. Corticosteroids injections seem to work well with younger patients, when arthritis is not so advanced. Getting hyaluronic acid joint injections  may also provide pain relief, though experts say it depends on your symptoms  and the other treatments you’ve tried.

Ice, Canes and Nordic Poles

Ice   helps control swelling, more so than heat. Studies show that there isn’t any benefit   to the old thinking of heat and ice combinations. Canes or Nordic poles are helpful to unload forces to your knees and hips, especially when you consider that walking transmits 3-6 times your body weight across these joints for every step that you take. Core training  and building muscles up around those very joints is crucial, as well. Finally, Sallis also highly recommends an Unloader Knee Brace ,  that shifts  forces from one side of the knee to the other.

Whatever you chose, don’t let arthritis stop you from moving-make it your signature issue!