Isnin, 17 Februari 2014

The Star Online: Lifestyle: Health

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The Star Online: Lifestyle: Health

Dieting makes you fatter?

Posted: 15 Feb 2014 08:00 AM PST

Diets set you up for failure, says a new book, which claims the only way to stay slim is to wean yourself off sugar.

IN recent years, there has been a considerable backlash against the diet industry.

The fact that we pour around billions into its coffers each year, while our waistlines continue to swell, has not gone unnoticed.

Nor has the fact that many of those who profit from the industry are also peddling the very foods blamed for causing obesity.

And yet, every new year, masses of intelligent people will fall hook, line and sinker for the claims of some aggressive new weight-loss manifesto.

And so, a timely title among 2014's crop of eating plans is Why Diets Fail, jointly penned by John Talbott (who usually writes about finance) and Nicole Avena, a neuroscientist working on the controversial hypothesis that sugar is clinically addictive.

The pair teamed up after Talbott kicked his sugar habit and felt he had found a permanent "magic cure" for not only being overweight, but also lethargy, snappiness and anxiety.

Patrick Bertoletti, of Chicago, Illinois, who finished in second place, competes in Wing Bowl 15 on 02 February 2007 in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. About 15,000 people came to watch 25 contestants eat buffalo wings in the annual competition.   William Thomas Cain/Getty Images/AFP   =FOR NEWSPAPER, INTERNET, TELCOS AND TELEVISION USE ONLY=

The authors say that we often believe personal behaviours are the primary reason why people are overweight, 'rather than the amount of junk food available or other environmental factors'. – AFP

Instead of a diet, the book offers a slow-burn programme for overcoming sugar dependency, while its opening chapters provide more weight to the growing public acceptance that conventional diets don't work.

We shouldn't wholly blame ourselves when we crash out of a diet, say the authors, partly because: "Just being on a diet sets you up for failure". Saying that you are going on a diet implies that you will come off said diet at some point; you just need to tough it out for a bit, and then, you can get back to normal – in other words, consuming more calories than you expend. Long-term results do not this way lie.

There is plenty of evidence that quick-fix approaches to weight loss will never solve the problem: in fact, they are more likely to make you fatter.

A review of 31 long-term dieting studies showed that most people who diet actually end up heavier.

One possible explanation is that hormonal changes resulting from restrictive diets mess with our appetites. An Australian study in 2011 showed that hormone levels had still not normalised a full year after its subjects' diets. "Leptin (a hormone that regulates appetite) falls and ghrelin (a hormone that stimulates appetite) rises after weight loss," says its author, Joseph Proietto.

Participants in a Columbia University, United States, study, who had dieted to shed 10% of their bodyweight, and were therefore low in leptin, were presented with a "parade" of foods while hooked up to an fMRI scanner, which looks at brain activity.

It showed they were responding to the foods with the emotional parts of their brains. They were then given leptin, and their frontal "executive" lobes regained control.

Psychologically and behaviourally, write Avena and Talbott, it is much easier to enact small changes over time than to try to "jump start" our eating habits.

They cite a study that compared a 20-week diet with the same programme implemented gradually, over 40 weeks. People in the 40-week group lost more weight and were better able to maintain their weight loss over time.

They point out that if you try to teach a dog a three-staged trick in one go, "learning might never occur".

Whereas if you teach step one first, and then start rewarding the poor mutt only after it has completed two stages, and then finally reward it only for doing all three actions in order, the dog will learn the trick without getting confused or overwhelmed.

This conditioning strategy is called shaping – and it works on humans, too.

The crux of the book's case against diets is that many of us are addicted to sugar, and so, our only hope of staying slim is to overcome this.

The authors say that we often believe personal behaviours are the primary reason why people are overweight, "rather than the amount of junk food available or other environmental factors".

And it compares this "unfortunate" self-blame with that of alcoholics and gamblers, asserting that personal responsibility is "part of a larger, more complicated puzzle, and some things are beyond our control".

Avena's work has shown that the brain's reward centres light up in response to sugary food in the same way they do to hard drugs, and that giving up sugar can elicit similar withdrawal symptoms, too.

Avena and Talbott write that, just as with other addictions, some people's genes make them more susceptible to the temptations of fattening foods. But applying the term "addiction" to food is contested by some scientists.

Marion Hetherington, of the University of Leeds, United Kingdom, says: "I don't believe genetics can explain the issue with dieting success, except that it will be more difficult for some people to lose weight since they are more susceptible to tempting food cues."

Addiction, in her view, is not a helpful word because "It can deflect focus on the cause of overeating from the person to the environment. For example, foods are addictive, so this creates food addicts."

Avena tells me that she doesn't think overweight people are necessarily slaves to their genes, although "Having the genetic tendency to be an overeater or to be obese does mean that some people might have to work harder to resist urges to eat."

Which does she think is the most influential factor in obesity: genetics, personal responsibility, or the abundance of sugary and fatty foods?

"They are equally to blame," she replies magnanimously. Whether or not you agree with the addiction tag, it will be interesting to see whether treating sugar cravings as such can help to beat them. – Guardian News & Media

Manage your cholesterol

Posted: 15 Feb 2014 08:00 AM PST

Beta glucan is a soluble fibre readily available from oats and barley grains that has been gaining interest due to its ability to reduce cholesterol levels.

THE Chinese New Year is synonymous with family gatherings, company functions and "open houses" where we typically eat more than we should. But have you ever considered the effects of that second (or third!) helping of aromatic lap mei fun (waxed meat rice), or the delicious and seemingly harmless bak kwa (barbequed meat)?

We all know fatty foods are bad for our waistlines, but what do they actually do to our hearts?

Cholesterol and the heart

One of the most accurate indicators of heart health is the state of the arteries that supply it.

Atherosclerosis is a condition whereby cholesterol plaques (fatty deposits) build up in the arteries over a long period of time. It is caused by eating unhealthy fats on a regular basis. The result is that the arteries that supply blood to your heart become narrower, which means it becomes increasingly difficult for your heart to get the blood (and therefore, the oxygen) it needs.

When these arteries are blocked, it is common for people to experience chest pain, known as angina. So, where does your heavy festive meal come in? Eating a heavy meal can cause a bout of angina. And if you suffer from unstable angina, this can indicate the possible threat of a heart attack.

A heart attack usually occurs because a cholesterol plaque inside one of the coronary arteries ruptures, and this causes a blood clot to form around the ruptured plaque. The clot then prevents blood from moving through to the heart. Therefore, your best remedy is to cut down on cholesterol-laden unhealthy fats at all times – and not just at Chinese New Year.

Cholesterol 101

Cholesterol comes from two sources: the body and food. The liver and other cells in your body make about 75% of blood cholesterol. The other 25% comes from the food you eat. Cholesterol is only found in animal products.

There are two types of cholesterol – HDL is the "good" cholesterol that helps keep the LDL (bad) cholesterol from getting lodged into your artery walls.

A healthy level of HDL cholesterol may also protect against heart attack and stroke, while low levels of HDL cholesterol have been shown to increase the risk of heart disease. It is thus, essential that we manage our cholesterol levels.

High cholesterol levels were initially associated with the middle-aged and elderly, but are increasingly being found in the younger generation. Many people are not even aware that they have high cholesterol because they don't do blood checks.

For those who are aware of their high cholesterol levels, their doctors would have prescribed them some cholesterol-lowering drugs. However, for those concerned about high cholesterol levels due to lifestyle habits, try taking high beta glucan cholesterol-lowering drinks.

Oats and barley have high levels of beta glucan, which is recognised by many authorities (such as the Health Ministry, the US Food and Drug Administration, and the European Food and Safety Authority) as a way to lower cholesterol.

Because oats and barley beta glucan is a soluble form of fibre, it dissolves inside the digestive tract, where it forms a thick gel. This gel is able to bind excess cholesterol and saturated fats within the gut, and help prevent these from being absorbed into the body.

The gel and the cholesterol are then excreted as part of the body's waste.

How does it affect the cholesterol profile?

Experts agree that oats and barley beta glucan can lower both total and the more harmful LDL cholesterol levels, while not affecting the beneficial HDL cholesterol.

This appears to be dose-responsive – in other words, the higher the intake of oats and barley beta glucan, the greater the reduction in total and LDL cholesterol. An optimal intake is considered to be three grams or more of oat and barley beta glucan per day.

In clinical trials, this effect can be seen within six weeks of intake.

Many people find high beta glucan cholesterol-lowering drinks unappealing because of its bland taste. Some people may mix it with sweetened soy milk or fruit juice to make it taste a little bit better, but this increases one's sugar intake at the same time.

An alternative is a lightly sweetened high beta glucan cholesterol drink, available in pharmacies. It is easy to prepare and tastes delicious. Simply mix it with cold or warm water (it is important not to use hot water), and drink it twice daily (approximately 15 minutes before two of your bigger meals of the day).

> For more information, call 03-6142 6570 (Mon-Fri: 9am-5pm); email; or visit The information provided is for educational purposes only and should not be considered as medical advice. The Star does not give any warranty on accuracy, completeness, functionality, usefulness or other assurances as to the content appearing in this column. The Star disclaims all responsibility for any losses, damage to property or personal injury suffered directly or indirectly from reliance on such information.


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