Monday, July 23, 2012

There's a Pill for That . . . Really?

There’s a great difference in weight loss and overall health. For two-thirds of our population, weight loss is important, but how we go about that weight loss is really important. Weight loss without health is not sustainable and is not beneficial. Weight loss itself is an action, and an action that can lead to that elusive overall health—or not. People looking for wellness want to feel good, they don’t want pain, they don’t want to rely on medication to be healthy, they want to like that image in the mirror looking back at them—looking back with pride rather than in judgment. Guess what? The next best, newest, greatest pill won’t address these wide-ranging wellness goals.

And, now there’s a new pill . . . Belviq. It’s the new weight loss drug that suppresses appetite and stimulates metabolism. But here’s the conundrum—our problem is a combination of people eating too much food, and people not eating enough good food. How exactly does a pill solve this puzzle? If it suppresses appetite, how does the pill dictate exactly which food we eat to maintain balanced nutrition?

Now, here’s what the research says: Not even considering the side effects, which are significant, you can expect to lose 5 percent of your body weight in a year—if you weigh 200 pounds, that’s 10 pounds of weight loss, or less than a pound a month. Really? Hmmm . . . there’s always the alternative—portion size, healthier choices and lifestyle behavior choices and changes, without the side effects.

One more thing, the FDA rejected this same drug in 2010. The manufacturer came back this year with new data—new data, not a new drug. 

Here’s a little food for thought that doesn’t come in a pill. 

Does a pill tell you which food to eat? For many of us, won’t an appetite suppressant-type pill just keep us from eating the good food our bodies need in our collective effort to lose weight?  Won’t it (if it even works) create more malnutrition because it won’t even begin to change behavior? 

 Now, if we could only put lifestyle behavior change in a pill . . .

Friday, July 6, 2012

Fat Unplugged . . . Good fat, bad fat

Dietary fat that is. And, contrary to a popular misconception, all fat is not bad. Some oils, nuts, avocados, fatty fish, olives—and more, are found on the USDA’s MyPlate, which replaces the old food pyramid. The guidelines call for the equivalent of 5 to 7 teaspoons of these healthy oils daily. All fat is not bad—but all fat is not the same.

So, in addition to what’s good and bad about dietary fat, what about low-fat and no-fat products?

This gets tricky and it involves pairing, or combining the right compounds found in real food with the right real fats. Example: A recent Purdue study found that fat-free and even low-fat salad dressings actually reduced the absorption of fat-soluble carotenoids—those beneficial compounds that are in that hypothetical salad such as lutein, beta-carotene and lycopene. Pouring the bottled fat-free or low-fat dressing on your salad, rather than creating your own vinaigrette with olive oil and balsamic vinegar results in the double whammy. You lose out on the benefit of the healthy, good fat oil, and lose many of the original nutrients in the salad you just prepared. Sure, there’s a reduction in calories, but also a reduction in nutrients. The answer to this is portion size.

Studies from Cornell University have demonstrated that when participants are given the choice between a salad with low-fat dressing and a vinaigrette dressing, they choose the low-fat dressing thinking it’s better for them, and then eat twice as much (overfed and undernourished). And, there’s more . . .

When you buy a low-fat or fat-free product, compare the list of ingredients on the label to that same product in its original state. Conventional wisdom says that if you can’t pronounce it and don’t know what it is or does, you don’t want it in your food. An added caveat—those lower or non-fat products are usually higher in sodium and sugar.

Fear of fat? What about paying close attention to calorie count, portion size, dietary recommendations and requirements, and the nutritional content of real food?