Monthly Archives: January 2011

Is the Atkins Diet Safe?

Atkins Diet and Weight Loss

The low-carbohydrate high-protein Atkins diet is not safe and should not be recommended for weight loss, state researchers in this week’s issue of The Lancet.

In a Case Report Klaus-Dieter Lessnau (New York School of Medicine, New York, NY, USA) and colleagues describe a life-threatening complication of the Atkins diet in a 40-year-old obese woman. The patient, who had strictly followed the Atkins diet, was admitted to hospital for a condition called ketoacidosis. The condition occurs when dangerously high levels of acids called ketones build up in the blood. Ketones are produced in the liver during starvation. A low carbohydrate diet such as Atkins can lead to ketone production, state the authors.

Professor Lessnau concludes: “Our patient had an underlying ketosis caused by the Atkins diet and developed severe ketoacidosis, possibly when her oral intake was compromised from mild pancreatitis or gastroenteritis. This problem may become more recognised because this diet is becoming increasingly popular worldwide.”

In an accompanying Comment Lyn Steffen (University of Minnesota School of Public Health, Minneapolis, MN, USA) states: “Low-carbohydrate diets for weight management are far from healthy, given their association with ketosis, constipation or diarrhoea, halitosis, headache, and general fatigue to name a few side-effects… As researchers and clinicians, our most important criterion should be indisputable safety, and low-carbohydrate diets currently fall short of this benchmark. Professional dietetic associations in the US, Australia, and Europe, emphasize eating healthy foods and being physically active.


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On-The-Job Weight Loss: Worksite Programs Work

Employer-sponsored programs for weight loss are at least partially effective at helping workers take off extra pounds, according to a new review of recent studies.

“For people who participate in them, worksite-based programs do tend to result in weight loss,” said co-author Michael Benedict, M.D. Intensity matters, he found. “The programs that incorporated face-to-face contact more than once a month appeared to be more effective than other programs.”

Since most employed adults spend nearly one-half of their waking hours at work, such programs could have enormous potential in making a dent in the obesity epidemic, according to Benedict, a researcher at the Institute for the Study of Health, Division of General Internal Medicine at the University of Cincinnati College of Medicine.

The systematic review appears in the July-August issue of the American Journal of Health Promotion.

Benedict and colleague David Arterburn, M.D., looked at 11 studies published since 1994. Most involved education and counseling to improve diet and increase physical activity and lasted anywhere from two months to 18 months. Forty-six percent of the studies involved low-intensity interventions, 18 percent were moderate intensity and 36 percent were high intensity.

In studies that compared the two groups, participants lost an average of 2.2 pounds to almost 14 pounds, while non-participants ranged from a loss of 1.5 pounds to a gain of 1.1 pounds.

However, it was hard to draw conclusions about weight-loss maintenance, Benedict said. “People who participate in these programs can lose weight but we aren’t really sure what happens after that.”

So far, few data exist to show how much money employers could save if they incorporate worksite weight-loss programs. “Employers want to know that what they’re doing will have a positive return on investment,” Benedict said.

Studies have shown that other worksite health interventions — such as those aimed at smoking cessation and blood pressure reduction — benefit employers financially, usually within only two to three years, Benedict said. “Worksites have a tremendous potential to have a public health impact, but more research is needed.”

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Develop a Plan for Lifelong Health, Not Just Short Term Weight Loss

Weight Loss Program

Amid the daily barrage of fad diets and weight loss books, it can be easy to lose sight of the big picture: achieving overall good health.

Too often, people adopt the latest diet, which may work for a while, but then they hit weight loss plateaus and ultimately end the diet in frustration.

By putting more emphasis on your health, experts agree that you can raise your overall self esteem, resulting in healthy eating, weight loss and improved health.

It is the official position of the American Dietic Association that if food is consumed in moderation with appropriate portion size and combined with regular physical activity, all foods can fit into a healthful diet.

If you have gone from one diet to the next throughout your life, it’s time to get back to basics and focus on your overall health.

Determining Healthy Weight for Children

Body mass index, or BMI, is commonly used to measure a person’s healthy weight. Does BMI apply to children as well as adults?

Pediatric specialists say the best guide for determining a healthy weight for children is to use growth charts, which provide a range for normal weight and indicate when a child might be over- or underweight for their height. Discuss your child’s growth with your pediatrician to clarify any concerns you may have.

Healthy weight is important to children’s growth, development and overall happiness. Kids who learn to enjoy a variety of foods and get regular physical activity enjoy childhood and develop a healthful lifestyle.

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A Better Diet Through Online Shopping?

Better Diet Through Internet

We all know that people should eat less saturated fat, but it can be hard to achieve changes in behaviour. Rachel Huxley and colleagues from the George Institute for International Health in Sydney, Australia, wanted to find out whether dietary advice delivered through an internet shopping system could help people make healthier food choices. They conducted a randomized trial, offering participants using an internet shopping system the chance to receive either general dietary advice (the trial’s control) or tailored advice which prompted shoppers to replace items with alternatives lower in saturated fat.

Participants receiving tailored advice on diet bought foods containing less saturated fat, on average, than the participants only getting general advice.

Low-cost technologies delivered through the internet have the potential to motivate users to change their behaviour and follow a better diet. Rachel Huxley, from The George Institute of International Health and one of the authors of the study, says: “The great thing about this result is that it represents a simple, low cost step that food retailers could make now. We will be contacting each of the major Internet shopping operators in Australia to find out their interest in working with us to turn this research into reality. We hope that by publishing the article in an open access journal like PLoS the results will reach the maximum possible number of people, worldwide.”

The results are published in PLoS Clinical Trials, an open-access journal that aims to increase the reporting of clinical trials. Steve Nissen, from the Cleveland Clinic, Ohio, USA, and a member of the editorial board of PLoS Clinical Trials, says: “I applaud the commitment of PLoS Clinical Trials to provide open access to randomized clinical trial reports so that investigators throughout the world can freely examine the results of these studies.”

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How Diet Affects The Immune System

Diet and Metabolism

“This study may help explain the link between dietary fat consumption and inflammation and could be one of the critical links between metabolism and immune responses,” says senior author Professor Charles Mackay, Director of Sydney’s Garvan Institute’s Immunology Program.

Our intake of fats (fatty acids) has changed dramatically over the last thirty years. At the same time there has been an increase in inflammatory diseases in the western world ” especially asthma, atherosclerosis, and autoimmune diseases such as rheumatoid arthritis. “We have shown that a subset of white blood cells, called dendritic cells, which initiate immune responses, rely on the fatty acid binding molecule aP2 for their function. It is possible that different fatty acids or their total levels will affect aP2 function in dendritic cells, and hence affect immune responses,” explains Mackay.

Professor Mackay added: “What we want to do now is study whether it is the total levels of fats or the different types of fats that alter dendritic cell function, through their binding to aP2. We know that dietary changes can improve symptoms of rheumatoid arthritis and we believe that a ‘diet hypothesis’ may account for the dramatic changes in inflammatory diseases seen in the western world over the past 30 years -molecules such as aP2 may be one of the clues that will help explain this phenomenon.”

Over-activation of dendritic cells can trigger inflammatory diseases. This discovery reveals aP2 is key to that process. Fatty acid binding molecules, such as aP2, have already been identified as promising targets for the treatment of metabolic disorders such as type 2 diabetes and atherosclerosis. This new research suggests that medicines directed at aP2 would have great potential in inflammatory as well as metabolic diseases.

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