It is no secret that one of the biggest problems all of us are faced with today is the sheer abundance of information on all topics, including weight loss. It is just too easy for very valuable articles (even those published in prestigious scientific journals) to disappear amongst all the other articles, blogs and advertisements all claiming that they have found the cure to all your weight loss problems. It is a rare pleasure then to stumble upon a research article published in a well known scientific journal that explains how and why a few changes to your lifestyle can help you lose weight and maintain your optimal body weight.
The article I am referring to, Strategies for Healthy Weight Loss: From Vitamin C to the Glycemic Response, was published in the Journal of the American College of Nutrition in 2005 by Carol Johnston from the Department of Nutrition at the Arizona. This article may have been published over three years ago; but all the strategies suggested are still valid. They are also easy to follow and understand. What follows is a discussion of this research paper.
The two most obvious factors contributing to the obesity problem faced by the American public are reduced physical activity and increased energy intake. Of course, while most people recognize these two factors as the real causes for the obesity epidemic, it is also becoming increasingly clear that there is more to this very serious health problem than meets the eye. The fight against obesity is further complicated by a number of other influences, including psychological issues, cultural differences, lifestyle choices, environmental factors and then of course individual differences. The good news is that there are a number of strategies available to improve your chances of losing weight permanently.
1) Your genes and obesity
Your genetic make-up affects your susceptibility to obesity. Differences in genetic makeup account for 30-70% of the variations recorded in body weight and fat mass. Your genes influence the chemical pathways that drive your body’s reaction to certain foods, determine how much energy you need, and how prone you are to overeating. The very idea that you may be predisposed to weight gain can be discouraging, but there is actually quite a lot that can be done to ensure that this predisposition to weight management problems does not dictate your destiny.
The same chemical pathways that drive your metabolism are also impacted on by specific foods and nutrients; so you can learn what to eat and drink to compensate for these genetic weaknesses. Findings of studies indicate that most individuals, genetically predisposed to being obese, will be normal weight or only slightly overweight in an environment where they are forced to follow a healthy lifestyle (encompassing a healthy diet and sufficient exercise). Your genes may determine how prone you are to becoming overweight, but you remain in control of your destiny. The typical American lifestyle is described as “obesogenic”, i.e. it promotes obesity. It is up to you to choose a healthier lifestyle.
2) Vitamin C and weight loss
The Vitamin C levels in your body are inversely related to your body mass. Higher Vitamin C levels decrease the chances that you will become overweight and will make it easier for you to lose weight. Clinical trials conducted show that people with adequate Vitamin C levels burn 30% more fat during a moderate exercise bout than people with low Vitamin C levels. It is estimated that about 20% of the adults in the United States are Vitamin C deficient, as opposed to the 3-5% 25 years ago – yet another indicator of the deterioration of the American diet over the past few decades.
There is continuing debate within the scientific community over just how much Vitamin C is needed for optimal health, but for now your best bet for now would be to stick to the North American Dietary Reference Intake that recommends at least 90 milligrams per day and no more than 2 grams per day (2000 milligrams per day). Remember that most fruit and many vegetables contain Vitamin C, as do sports drinks and juices. Make sure you take all of these sources into consideration. The toxicity of Vitamin C is very low, so it is not the end of the world if you take in slightly more than you should on any given day.
3) Thermic effect of food and energy expenditure
The thermic effect of food (the energy needed to process the food) accounts for approximately 10% of your daily energy expenditure. Some food types require more energy to ingest, digest, absorb, metabolize, and dispose of excess energy than other food types. The high cost of metabolizing protein means your body uses 3 times more energy to process protein than fat or carbohydrates of similar caloric value. Talk about keeping your metabolism going!
The other important benefit of protein is its ability to make your feel fuller for longer. During the trials if was observed that participants voluntarily consumed less during subsequent meals when on a high protein low fat diet than on the high carbohydrates low fat diet. Even though they were supposed to eat the same number of calories on a daily basis, the high protein participants reported greater feelings of satiety than their high carb counterparts. Moreover, a number of the participants on the high carb low fat diet dropped out of the trials as they could not deal with the feelings of hunger.
4) Glycemic response following meals
The typical American diet consist of about 50% carbohydrate-containing foods. These foods are differentiated by the Glycemic Index, which is an estimate of the impact of the food on your blood sugar levels. High GI foods (such as baked goods containing white flour, potato products and products high in sugar) result in large swings in your blood sugar levels, which in turn lead to food cravings one or two hours after a big meal. Low GI products (whole grains, fruits, vegetables, dairy products and legumes) in contrast, have a much smaller immediate impact on the blood sugar levels and keep you feeling fuller for longer. Sixteen out of 20 studies published between 1977 and 1999 demonstrated that low GI foods can help people lose weight, because they remain satiated for longer and are therefore less likely to succumb to food cravings and overeat.
Certain foods, such as vinegar and peanuts, help reduce the impact of carbohydrate containing foods on your blood sugar levels when you add them to your normal meals. Add some pickled vegetables such as beetroot or onion to your meal, or have a sweetened drink containing 2 tablespoons of vinegar before each meal. Add chopped peanuts to your food or use peanut butter in the preparation of your food. All of these additions will help reduce the glucose response of your body following your meals. Again – you stay fuller for longer and tend to eat less. This also explains why the Apple Cider Vinegar Diet is so popular. It is no magic bullet, but it can certainly help you lose a few pounds.
Lose weight by implementing the strategies listed above
In conclusion, many people may have slight to strong genetic predisposition towards obesity, but the environment and lifestyle of the individual plays a huge role in limiting the actual impact of these genetic influences. According to this report there is substantial preliminary evidence to suggest that it may be easier to manage your weight if you include more of the following into your diet: Vitamin C supplements, dietary protein, vinegar, and nuts. These foods can help increase the calories you burn on a daily basis, will help you eat less by increasing satiety, and may help control the production of body fat.
These strategies do not negate the need for a healthy diet and exercise plan, but it can certainly enhance the effectiveness of any healthy weight loss plan. Sometimes it is easier to add a few new ingredients into your diet than it would be to change to a totally new and unfamiliar diet.