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FOR THE LOVE OF FOOD: Skipping breakfast messes up your clock, running is good for your back, and different bread types impact different people differently

by | Jun 9, 2017

Welcome to Friday’s For The Love of Food, Summer Tomato’s weekly link roundup.

Next week’s Mindful Meal Challenge will start again on Monday. Sign up now to join us!

This week skipping breakfast messes up your clock, running is good for your back, and different bread types impact different people differently.

Too busy to read them all? Try this awesome free speed reading app to read at 300+ wpm. So neat!

I also share links on Twitter @summertomato and the Summer Tomato Facebook page. I’m very active on all these sites and would love to connect with you.

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How to Discover and Reach Your Ideal Weight

by | Aug 23, 2016
Photo by foshydog

Photo by foshydog

When I was a dieter I always had a goal weight that I thought would change my life. I’d get on the scale (if I was brave enough) and would hold my breath as I watched the needle move, calculating in my mind how many pounds away I was from happiness.

In retrospect I don’t know what I expected to happen at that magic number. If I had been less delusional I might have acknowledged that the few times I did manage to reach my goal I instantly adjusted it a few pounds downward, the flicker of joy suppressed by the sudden realization that an even smaller pair of jeans may be in my future.

Ugh. Dieting is the worst.

Okay, so what if you’re done with the dieting neurosis but still want to lose weight for health reasons? Is there a target or ideal weight you should shoot for?

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For the Love of Food

by | May 8, 2015
For The Love of Food

For The Love of Food

Welcome to Friday’s For The Love of Food, Summer Tomato’s weekly link roundup.

This week your BMI is lying to you, your brain’s role in late-night snacking, and the best way to reduce diabetes risk.

Too busy to read them all? Try this awesome free speed reading app I just discovered to read at 300+ wpm. So neat!

Want to see all my favorite links? (There’s lots more). Be sure to follow me on Delicious. I also share links on Twitter @summertomato and the Summer Tomato Facebook page. I’m very active on all these sites and would love to connect with you. (Yes, I took that picture of the pepper heart myself.)

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For the Love of Food

by | Aug 8, 2014
For The Love of Food

For The Love of Food

Welcome to Friday’s For The Love of Food, Summer Tomato’s weekly link roundup.

This week one fish serving is linked to bigger brains, omega-6s aren’t so bad for you, and BPA linked to developing food allergies.

Want to see all my favorite links? (There’s lots more). Be sure to follow me on on Delicious. I also share links on Twitter @summertomato,  Google+ and the Summer Tomato Facebook page. I’m very active on all these sites and would love to connect with you. (Yes, I took that picture of the pepper heart myself.)
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For the Love of Food

by | Aug 30, 2013
For The Love of Food

For The Love of Food

Welcome to Friday’s For The Love of Food, Summer Tomato’s weekly link roundup.

This week read about the many environmental factors in obesity, the miserable lives of supermodels, and why posting food pics on Facebook doesn’t make you an ass.

Want to see all my favorite links? (There’s lots more). Be sure to follow me on on Delicious. I also share links on Twitter @summertomato,  Google+ and the Summer Tomato Facebook page. I’m very active on all these sites and would love to connect with you. (And yes, I took that pepper heart pic myself).

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For The Love Of Food

by | Mar 4, 2011

For The Love of Food

Welcome to Friday’s For The Love of Food, Summer Tomato’s weekly link roundup.

Just FYI next Tuesday March 8, at 6pm PST, I’ll be participating in a live chat hosted by Monica Reinagel, the Nutrition Diva.

I’ll be joining Monica, Ben Greenfield of BenGreenfieldFitness.com, and Gloria Tsang of Healthcastle.com to discuss the pros and cons of breakfast. I’ll be broadcasting the event here at Summer Tomato. For more info check out Nutrition Over Easy.

This week around the web people are learning to love fat again, disrupted sleep cycles can mess with your metabolism and how your thoughts can influence your habits.

I read many more wonderful articles than I post here each week. If you’d like to see more or just don’t want to wait until Friday, be sure to follow me on Twitter (@summertomato) or the Summer Tomato Facebook fan page. For a complete list of my favorite stories check out my links on Digg. I’m very active on all these sites and would love to connect with you.

Links of the week

What inspired you this week?

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Obesity and Reduced Sleep: Will Sleeping Less Make Me Fat?

by | Mar 29, 2010

Many studies have been published associating lack of sleep with increased body weight, but I have never read through the literature myself to explore the connection.

This week fellow scientist Matthew Constantin of Best Weight Loss Triumph gives us a thorough review of the science of sleep and weight gain.

Matthew Constantin, PhD, is a biologist and postdoctoral research scientist at Saint Louis University. Twice awarded research grants from the American Heart Association for his studies on cardiovascular disease, Matthew also has a keen interest in the related field of obesity treatment and enjoys explaining the latest scientific research on weight loss in a way that is easy for everyone to understand.

His website contains reviews of some of the so-called best rated weight loss programs and offers a savings coupon for Medifast, a clinically studied weight loss intervention.

Obesity and Reduced Sleep: Will Sleeping Less Make Me Fat?

By Matthew Constantin, PhD

We have long known that too little sleep causes fatigue and a slowing of neurocognitive functions, resulting in a variety of symptoms like slowed reaction time and difficulty concentrating. Recent research, however, has discovered a new result of reduced sleep: metabolic effects that include an increased risk of obesity [1].

Western society has seen a rapid rise in overweight and obesity in recent decades. Accompanying this widespread weight gain has been a significant and rapid decrease in the amount of time the average person spends sleeping.

While young adults were sleeping close to 9 hours each night at the beginning of the 20th century [2], this had decreased to less than 8 hours by the late 1960s [3]. The trend is continuing into the 21st century. As of 2005, 16% of American adults were getting less than 6 hours of sleep at night, up from 12% in 1998.

Sleep and Obesity: A Subjective Study

Science has linked self-reported sleep habits and obesity for a number of years, but the precise relationship between the two has been difficult to establish. Because obesity is a risk factor for a number of diseases that can negatively impact sleep, such as sleep apnea, asthma, depression, and arthritis, it is hard to know whether reduced sleep leads to obesity or obesity leads to reduced sleep.

To shed some light on this question, data collected from 1986 to 2002 in the Nurses’ Health Study (NHS) was analyzed [4]. Women in this study were asked to report their sleep habits and body weight every two years.

The results of the study suggest that women who self-report receiving less sleep are more likely to gain weight and are at an increased risk for obesity in middle-age. In 1986, when the first round of data was collected, it was found that women who reported sleeping 7 hours in a 24 hour period weighed 2.6 kg less than those who slept 5 or fewer hours, and 1.3 kg less than those who slept 6 hours.

This pattern continued over the following 16 years, with women who reported getting 5 or fewer hours of sleep weighing the most every time weight data was collected and those getting 7-8 hours of sleep weighing the least. In 2002, those in the 6-hour group had gained 7.2kg (15.8lb) and those in the 5-hour or less group gained 9kg (19.8lb), while those in the 7-hour group had gained only 4.8 (10.6lb) kg.

Other prospective studies have found similar results among both adults and children, but there are a couple of caveats. Because the information in the studies is self-reported, it is subject to inaccurate estimates by the reports. Many people overestimate sleep time when self-reporting. It is also unknown whether shorter sleepers are heavier because of an increase in fat or an increase in lean muscle—a distinction which makes a significant difference for health repercussions.

Sleep and Obesity: An Objective Study

In response to the limitations of subjective studies on sleep and obesity, two groups of adults aged 65+ (one of men and one of women) took part in an objective study that also looked at sleep duration and weight. Rather than relying on self-reported data, participants’ sleep patterns were assessed through the use of wrist actigraphy, which determines if a person is asleep or awake by measuring wrist movement.

This objective measurement of sleep duration confirmed the results of the subjective study, finding that reduced sleep was associated with an increased Body Mass Index (BMI) among both men and women. When compared with those getting 7-8 hours of sleep per night, average BMI of those who slept less than 5 hours was higher by 2.5 units in men and by 1.8 units in women. Moreover, men getting 5 or fewer hours of sleep were 3.7 times more likely to be obese, while women were 2.3 time more likely.

Increased weight doesn’t necessarily mean an increase in fat and its related health problems—more muscle also means more weight, but is generally associated with improved health. The objective study looked at this question and found that the increase in weight associated with reduced sleep was a result of increased fat rather than muscle. Overall percent body fat in those sleeping less than 5 hours was 1.7% greater than those getting 7-8 hours, and percent body fat in the trunk 1.9% greater.

Why Could Reduced Sleep Make You Fat?

Research has clearly shown that reduced sleep is associated with greater weight, but why does reduced sleep make a person fat?

One strong hypothesis is that less sleep leads to increased or altered food intake. Animals studies have found that sleep deprivation leads to elevated levels of hunger [5], with particular increases for high-fat and high-carbohydrate foods. This increased hunger with sleep deprivation may be a result of the corresponding change in hormones that regulate hunger, with gherlin levels found to increase and leptin levels to decrease.

Alternatively, rather than a change in feelings of hunger, increased food intake could be the result of increased eating even in the absence of hunger. Reduced impulse control and trouble delaying gratification are known consequences of sleep deprivation.

It’s also possible that simply being awake more often will lead to increased eating when food is readily available, especially if time awake is spent in sedentary activities that encourage snacking.

As S.R. Patel mentions in his 2009 review paper titled “Reduced sleep as an obesity risk factor”, there are several other possibilities that have been proposed. One is that the feelings of fatigue that are associated with sleep deprivation may result in a disinclination to exercise. Another is that reduced sleep results in a reduction in involuntary activities such as fidgeting, which are known to have effects on weight regulation [6].

Finally, acute sleep deprivation has been found to result in a drop in core body temperature, meaning your body needs to spend less energy in order to maintain thermoregulation with the surrounding air. This change in thermogenesis (the process of heat production) may encourage the storing of fat, although a recent study found no effect of sleep deprivation on resting metabolic rate.

Conclusions

Current evidence clearly shows that short sleep is associated with obesity, but a causal relationship remains unclear. Does a reduction in sleep lead to weight gain, or is there some other reason for the association? We don’t yet know for sure. But as modern society sets aside less and less time for sleep and becomes increasingly prone to obesity, it is a possibility that must be considered.

With so few effective ways to prevent and treat obesity, wouldn’t it be wonderful if simply sleeping a bit more could keep us both thinner and healthier?

References

1. Patel, S.R. Short sleep and obesity. International Association for the Study of Obesity. Obesity Reviews 10 (Suppl. 2), 61–68.

2. Terman L, Hocking A. The sleep of school children, its distribution according to age, and its relationship to physical and mental efficiency. J Educ Psychol 1913; 4: 269–282.

3. Tune GS. Sleep and wakefulness in normal human adults. Br Med J 1968; 2: 269–271.

4. Patel SR, Malhotra A, White DP, Gottlieb DJ, Hu FB. Association between reduced sleep and weight gain in women. Am J Epidemiol 2006; 164: 947–954.

5. Spiegel K, Tasali E, Penev P, Van Cauter E. Sleep curtailment in healthy young men is associated with decreased leptin levels, elevated ghrelin levels, and increased hunger and appetite. Ann Intern Med 2004; 141: 846–850.

6. Levine JA, Eberhardt NL, Jensen MD. Role of nonexercise activity thermogenesis in resistance to fat gain in humans. Science 1999; 283: 212–214.
Matthew Constantin

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Body Fat Is Healthy Now? Fat Chance

by | Jun 29, 2009
1 lb Fat

1 lb Fat

Last week the New York Times and many other reputable news sources reported on a Canadian study that claims people with a normal body mass index (BMI) had a slightly increased risk of dying over a 12-year period than those with a BMI in the overweight range (25-29).

The use of the phrase “overweight was protective” landed this article just a hair’s width from being labeled Summer Tomato’s B.S. of the week on Friday. An observational study cannot determine cause and effect, as implied by the word “protective.” This study does not prove that extra body weight protects against all cause mortality, and saying so is irresponsible.

Studies (and reporting) like this have instigated wide-spread confusion about health and body weight. First people are told they are too heavy and should lose weight for health, then in the same breath they are told a little extra weight might not be so bad.

What is the average person supposed to believe? How should we act?

If you want to understand the facts it important to know exactly what the data does and does not say. Indeed, some studies (including one on Japanese men reported in the same issue of Obesity) have reported lower or equal risk of mortality for people with an overweight BMI compared to people of normal BMI (18.5-24). However, this is not the whole story.

First, the alleged benefit of being overweight has only been found in older individuals and does not apply to healthy, young people. Second, although it appears in some cases that overall mortality may be reduced, disease incidence is notably higher in overweight individuals compared to people of normal weight.

bmi-and-chd

To point, a study in the most recent issue of Obesity (same journal, 2 weeks later) examines the relationship of BMI with many measures of cardiovascular disease in healthy, athletic men. In this study, those on the lowest end of BMI in the normal range (18.5-22.5) had a much lower risk of dying from or developing cardiovascular disease than normal weight men with a slightly higher BMI (22.5-25).

Men with the lowest healthy BMIs also had lower risk of hypertension, lower cholesterol and half the risk of diabetes. While the length of this study was only 7.7 years (compared to the 12 years reported in the Times story), there were more than double the number of participants (28,776 vs. 11,834).

(Why did this story not make the news? My guess is that it makes for a less compelling storyline and people would rather not hear it.)

Mortality is certainly an important measure in any study, but it is arguably not the most relevant endpoint. Disease and excess body weight can severely impact quality of life, particularly for older individuals (as illustrated by another study in the latest issue of Obesity). While I cannot speak for everyone, it seems probable that quality of life is equally if not more important than longevity alone. Thus it is questionable how much stock to put into studies that ignore these other factors.

It is also critical to remember that BMI is a measure that was designed to describe people at a population level, not as individuals. While large cohort studies can tell us useful things about relative risk, they are not directly applicable to individual people.

The inconsistency of the data related to BMI and mortality may in fact be an indication of its inadequacy as a general measurement. Remember that BMI represents a ratio between height and weight, making it possible to compare people of various body sizes. Normalizing for height may, however, be deceptive.

Decades of data on caloric restriction consistently show that smaller body size (irrespective of body fat levels and, possibly, BMI) is associated with longer life and decreased risk of nearly all diseases. This is true in all animals from yeast, to worms and flies, to mice and monkeys. While humans are certainly different from all these model organisms, there is tremendous evolutionary precedent indicating smaller body size as the best for health.

The principle of parsimony tells us the simplest hypothesis–that smaller body size is beneficial–is probably correct. Substantial evidence must be accumulated before this hypothesis can be rejected, and I have yet to see that data.

Furthermore, while the research on the risk of overweight may be slightly ambiguous, the data on obesity is not. It is painfully clear that the dangers of obesity are profound and on par with those of smoking cigarettes. Overweight is a necessary step to becoming obese, and according to the National Population Health Survey nearly a quarter of Canadians who were overweight in 1994/1995 were obese by 2002/2003. Since overweight is still a substantial risk factor for becoming obese, misleading public health messages about the benefits of body fat are especially dangerous.

As a consumer of information, the most important thing you can do is be skeptical of what you read. Just because something is printed in the New York Times does not make it true. In fact, many of our most trusted sources of health information do not base their recommendations on rigorous scientific thinking, which is probably the reason for the health disaster we are currently facing.

Thanks to Jan from Quest for Health for sparking this discussion.

What does your gut tell you about the relationship between health and body fat?

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