Finding the answers to weight loss

How many researchers does it take to help 2,100 men and women with diabetes lose eight per cent of their body weight? The answer: 355, plus one John Foreyt, PhD., director of the nutrition research clinic at Baylor College of Medicine in Houston. Foreyt is one of the 356 researchers behind the most comprehensive study to date on lifestyle changes and weight loss, called AHEAD (Action for Health in Diabetes).

Don't expect to ever hear "lose 30 pounds in 30 days" from Foreyt. His friendly southern drawl matches his philosophy on weight loss — slow, steady and supportive — and he has the proof to back it up. The participants of the AHEAD study were men and women with type 2 diabetes randomly assigned to an intensive lifestyle intervention (ILI) or a control group, Diabetes Support and Education (DSE).

During the first year, the ILI group received diet and physical activity counseling in 42 group and individual sessions, compared with three educational sessions for DSEs. The ILI's physical activity goal was greater than 175 minutes/week of moderately intense activity, achieved gradually. At the end of the year, ILI participants lost 8.6 per cent of initial weight, compared to only 0.7 per cent for DSE.

Did you catch that? During the first year: 42 group and individual sessions, and 175 minutes a week of moderately intensive activity. These are cold hard facts that opportunistic weight-loss companies hate to hear. Foreyt says successful weight loss needs constant support and slow progress — 1, 2 or even 1/2 pound(s) per week. Anything more is not sustainable, he warns. Learn more about Foreyt's take on weight loss and behavior modification research on Wednesday, 10 March, 11:45 am.

Bob Green weighs in on weight loss
BG: The first thing is to be honest with ourselves. The weight-management industry has too often been plagued by products that don't work or that overly hype their benefits. It's no surprise government agencies are sceptical. Many of their concerns are legitimate and justified. I applaud efforts to rid our industry of bloated claims.

But even in the best-case scenarios, manufacturers and retailers too often focus on the 'flavour of the month,' a new ingredient that, in most cases, does not have substantial scientific backing. If our industry is to build real credibility and staying power, ingredients suppliers, manufacturers and retailers must work together to do three things: 1. focus on tried-and-true ingredients; 2. educate consumers about thermogenesis, a scientifically proven method of weight loss; and 3. break the myth that there could be a magic bullet for weight loss.

FI: There is an increasing consumer trend away from simply what the bathroom scale reads to an emphasis in maintaining muscle mass while losing fat. From a health perspective, this has implications for ageing, too. Is this a positive step forward?

BG: The focus on muscle retention — and not just weight loss — makes sense for long-term weight management. Doctors have known for years that the scale is not the be-all and end-all when it comes to fitness. In fact, lean muscle weighs more than fat, but it also burns more calories and looks better. Plus, maintaining healthy weight and muscle tone positively impact the health issues associated with overweight / obesity — including cardiovascular disease, diabetes, arthritis, cancer, etc. It all goes back to a healthy lifestyle approach to weight management.

In fact, our industry would do well to focus on the health ramifications of weight management — not just the cosmetic ones. For previous generations, age 50 was the beginning of the end. Today's 50-plus crowd likely has two or three more decades of active life. It's a huge market opportunity that can only have benefits for consumers and manufacturers alike.


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