What’s New in the World of Weight Loss?

The dog days of summer are here. Many of us will soon be headed back to school or work (hopefully after a well-deserved vacation). You might be thinking that it’s time to try and get back in shape. This week, I’ll address a few hot topics related to weight.


Eat a bigger breakfast, drop more weight
All you breakfast-skippers, listen up! If you want to shed a few pounds, it pays to eat a substantial breakfast, according to researchers. In a study published in the journal Obesity, 93 women followed one of two 12-week diet plans. The first plan involved eating 700 calories at breakfast, 500 at lunch, and 200 at dinner. The second plan was just the opposite: 200 calories at breakfast, 500 at lunch, and 700 at dinner. The types of food didn’t vary (and yes, some of the food choices included sweets).

Those who ate bigger breakfasts lost nearly 18 pounds and three inches off their waists, compared to just 7 pounds and 1.4 inches in the small breakfast group. In addition, those eating the 700-calorie breakfast had lower levels of the hormone ghrelin, which meant that their appetites were better controlled throughout the day. Oh, and these women also had lower blood glucose, insulin, and triglyceride levels, too. Kind of makes you want to eat a good breakfast…

Coming one day: Take a pill instead of exercising
We all know that we should exercise. But life often gets in the way. Wouldn’t it be great to just swallow a pill and be fit? It sounds futuristic but it could happen. Researchers published a study in the journal Nature that involved injecting overweight mice with a compound called Rev-erb alpha, a protein that controls circadian rhythms and biological clocks. These mice ate a high-fat diet but were still able to lose weight and lower their cholesterol. They also used more oxygen and burned more energy than the control group mice, even though they didn’t do any more exercise. In fact, these mice were rather lazy.

What happened? The injected mice formed new mitochondria (the powerhouses of cells) after getting the Rev-erb alpha, mimicking the effect of exercise. The researchers hope that one day this substance could be used in people who are unable to exercise due to physical or medical reasons. Of course, the intent is not to turn us into sloth-like pill poppers; getting exercise is likely always going to be recommended!

Being “financially fit” — will money motivate you to lose weight?
Not feeling particularly motivated to lose weight? What if you were paid to lose weight? The Mayo Clinic did a study of 100 of their obese employees. Half of them received nutrition counseling, a gym membership, and monthly weigh-ins. The other half received the same, but were also given money. If they lost four pounds a month, they were given $20. If they didn’t lose weight, they had to pay $20.

After a year, the paid group lost an average of nine pounds while the unpaid group lost an average of two pounds. And not surprisingly, when the study ended, the paid group kept coming back, while the unpaid group lost interest.

In a similar vein, employees who put up their own money to lose weight and received a refund if they lost weight lost more weight than employees who simply joined a weight-loss program. Many employers who offer employee wellness programs are looking into this kind of model.

Do you trust your doctor to give you weight-loss advice?
Does your primary-care doctor give you weight-loss advice? If so, do you welcome it or dismiss it? Researchers at Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health looked at physicians’ BMI (body-mass index) and how that might impact the trust and perceptions of their overweight patients.

They surveyed 600 overweight and obese people, asking them a series of questions regarding trust in their doctor and trust in any kind of diet or weight loss advice given by their doctor. They were surprised by what they found: Overweight people were more likely to trust diet advice from their doctor if the doctor was also overweight. Yet, overweight people who went to overweight doctors for weight loss advice were more likely to feel judged by their doctor than if their doctor was not overweight.

On a side note, according to a study in the Journal of Academic Medicine, up to 40% of medical students are biased against overweight people. Having such a bias can affect the type and quality of medical care that overweight and obese people receive.

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  • Joe

    Many people are genetically programmed to gain weight easily and hold on to it tenaciously. It’s a survival mechanism inherited from ancestors who repeatedly suffered starvation. For them, the main issue is not gluttony and lack of exercise, but the lesser effect diet and exercise has on their weight due to their genetics. Treatments like Rev-erb alpha are *not* a “cheat” for lazy people. They are a scientific way to level the playing field between those who were gifted with an inefficient metabolism and those who were cursed with a very efficient one. They will not allow couch potatoes to eat unlimited calories, but for people who continually struggle with weight problems despite their best efforts, they may be a true life saver.

  • Mary G

    HA HA!!! I tried asking my doctor for diet advice. She handed me a very much copied Heart Association diet which emphasizes high carb, low fat. Needless to say, I recycled that form in my bin at home and researched what I should be eating on my own…which was the opposite of her advice. And, yes…my doctor is prejudiced against heavy people. Very dismissive and condescending.

    Don’t know if the money incentive is a good idea unless lifestyle change is addressed along with it…the long term goal of losing weight and keeping it off may not be achieved without it.

    A lot of doctors are clueless. They look for drug or surgical interventions. There are many reasons for obesity, not just overeating and lack of exercise. Matter of fact, some of the medications prescribed diabetics will cause weight gain…insulin for one. I was prescribed glipizide 5 mg and packed on 10 lbs in 4 months!!!! I also gained 15 lbs on Adalat which was changed to amlodopine (generic Norvasc)–both are calcium channel blockers for hypertension. There was more weight gain plus swelling feet and ankles, constipation, heart palpitations, sleep disturbances and headache. My doctor then wanted to prescribe a diuretic!!! Great!!! Another drug that has the potential of raising my blood sugar!!! I changed doctors…

    There are many reasons for weight gain…some people are emotional eaters, some have thyroid problems, others have hormone imbalances or food allergies…or even an injury that has made them more sedentary or even genetics.

    There is no “magic bullet” pill for weight loss that will work for everyone 100% of the time. Have the doctor explore these other areas if they haven’t already. Help is out there…just don’t give up!!!