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Weighty Matters: What’s New in the Weight-Control Arena

Amy Campbell

April 2, 2012

Every now and then I like to write about some of the latest developments and findings in the arena of weight loss or weight control. Obviously, a lot of research is going on in this area, and given that so many of us (with and without diabetes) struggle with weight or have to work hard to stay at a healthy weight, I think it’s a good idea to periodically highlight these findings.

Link Between Weight and Cancer
I’m sure most of you have heard that there’s a link between being overweight or obese and the increased risk for heart disease, Type 2 diabetes, and arthritis. What you may not know is that being too heavy and not being active enough may account for up to one third of all cancer deaths in the US, according to the American Cancer Society. In particular, breast, colorectal, kidney, pancreatic, esophageal, and uterine cancers are linked with being overweight.

Why? Researchers speculate that excess weight can increase levels of certain hormones, increase inflammation, boost blood pressure, and affect insulin levels in the body. Overweight cancer survivors seem to have a worse quality of life than those who are not overweight, as well.

The good news? Deaths from cancer are down in the US, thanks to better screenings and treatments. But lifestyle factors still play a role in outcomes for many types of diseases, so focusing on eating healthfully, reaching a realistic weight, and being active most days of the week is a goal for all of us.

Eating Chocolate Makes You Thin?
Hey, if Katharine Hepburn stayed slim by eating chocolate, why not the rest of us? Researchers at the University of California, San Diego showed that adults who regularly eat chocolate are thinner than adults who don’t.

After looking at dietary data and other information from over 1000 adult men and women, the researchers puzzled over the fact that the chocolate eaters had a lower body-mass index but consumed more calories and did not exercise any more than the folks who didn’t eat much chocolate. Of course, this was a small study and the findings, while pleasantly surprising, do not mean that we should rush to stock up on chocolate bars. On the other hand, perhaps we don’t need to feel so guilty as we nibble on a piece of chocolate.

Green Coffee Beans Promote Weight Loss
No one is saying you should make your morning coffee with green (unroasted) coffee beans. But a very small study (only 16 people) showed that adults who were given two different doses of green coffee beans as a supplement for 22 weeks lost an average of 17 pounds. No changes were made to their diets or to their physical activity. The subjects took a placebo for the same amount of time at another point in the study, too.

What triggered the weight loss? The researchers think that it could be the chlorogenic acid, an antioxidant found in coffee beans. This antioxidant is thought to boost metabolism by affecting how glucose is absorbed and utilized in the body. Studies with larger amounts of subjects are planned, so stay tuned.

Bariatric Surgery Better Than Medicine for Managing Type 2
Last week, a study was published in The New England Journal of Medicine reporting that bariatric surgery was more effective at treating both obesity and diabetes than more conventional treatment. In this study, obese people were randomized into one of three groups: Roux-en-Y gastric bypass, biliopancreatic diversion, or medication, diet and lifestyle intervention.

Diabetes went into remission (and that remission was maintained) in 95% of those who received the biliopancreatic diversion and 75% who got the gastric bypass. None of the medication/lifestyle treatment subjects went into remission (remission was defined as a fasting blood glucose of under 100 mg/dl and an A1C of less than 6.5% for at least one year). Currently, guidelines limit gastric bypass procedures to those with Type 2 diabetes who have a BMI of 35 or greater. A study is going on now at NewYork-Presbyterian/Weill Cornell Medical Center with people who have BMIs between 26 and 35.

Extra, Extra: Most Weight-Loss Supplements Don’t Work
A researcher from Oregon State University confirmed what most of us knew but secretly wished wasn’t true: The majority of weight-loss supplements on the market just don’t work. In others words, there’s no magic pill that will magically melt those pounds away.

The study, published in the International Journal of Sport Nutrition and Exercise Metabolism, looked at a variety of supplements, including fat and carbohydrate blockers, stimulants that contain caffeine or ephedra, products that claim to change body composition, and appetite suppressants. Most of these supplements had no credible research to back up their claims, the studies using them did not include exercise, and any weight loss was very modest — less than two pounds — compared to a placebo. Some of these supplements also had mild to serious side effects, as well.

Are any supplements effective? Green tea, fiber, and low-fat dairy supplements may help you drop 3–4 pounds, but only if you cut calories and step up the physical activity.



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