Losing weight is not the issue; keeping it off is where the work is. The 21st century has witnessed an exponential increase in the incidence of obesity in the world. The problem has skyrocketed fuelled by sedentary lifestyles and prevalence of junk food. The health of an individual suffers detrimental effects as the pounds pile on. Warnings from doctors have forced many into weight loss programmes. The social setting is also not kind on overweight people. The media has portrayed thin as the current acceptable standard of body size. This adds to the pressure to lose weight so as to conform to the social expectations.
Long term success of weight loss programs is dismal
The market is flooded with programmes that offer individuals weight loss options. Many people enroll with zeal and are highly motivated to lose the extra pounds. However, a crucial aspect of the whole weight loss programme is often overlooked. It takes effort and knowledge to keep the weight off. Long term success rates of weight loss maintenance have been dismal. A survey conducted between 1996 and 2006 revealed that only one in six obese adults was able to maintain weight loss of at least 10% at one year.
The long term outcome of majority of these weight loss options is usually poor. This could be attributed to waning motivation that occurs as one gets used to the routines of weight loss. Regimes employed for weight loss are generally demanding and restrictive. It takes discipline and dedication to remain loyal to the weight loss regime. The body is wired in such a way that it can sense changes and make compensatory corrections so as to maintain a balanced physiological state. These compensatory measures may contribute to the weight regain. The body adapts to weight loss by decreasing energy expenditure and increasing the sensation of hunger. This enforces the weight regain.
When it comes to weight loss, the diet dispute never ends. Science provides a reprieve through various researches conducted in the field. A calorie is a calorie regardless of the type of diet one has subscribed to. Maintaining and decreasing energy intake should be the central approach in treating obesity. Recent research findings show that dietary adherence and weight loss are directly related.
Understanding glycemic index
The glycemic index is a term that refers to how fast blood sugar levels rise after consumption of a particular type of food. The basic macronutrients contained in food are carbohydrates, proteins and fats. A research centre in Boston ventured out to determine the decrease in energy expenditure that is typical after weight loss and how it is influenced by different diets. Parameters such as weight gain, changes in cholesterol levels and hormonal changes were also measured. The study involved putting the participants on 3 different diets. The participants would rotate on a 4 week cycle from one diet to another and the fore mentioned parameters would be measured.
A research on the three types of diets
The diets all delivered an equal number of calories but contained different levels of the macronutrients.
- The first diet referred to as the low fat diet has traditionally been recommended for maintenance of weight loss and preventing heart disease. The fat content is restricted to 10%, proteins form 20% while carbohydrates form the bulk of the diet at 60%. Once consumed, the diet had a high glycemic load because of its high carbohydrate content.
- The second diet is referred to as the low glycemic index diet. It contained 40% carbohydrate, 40% fats and 20% protein. By replacing the nature of carbohydrates in the diet, it delivered a low glycemic index after consumption. This was achieved by alternating common starchy food with fruits and vegetables that offer a low glycemic index.
- The third diet is the very low carbohydrate diet. As the name suggests, it limits the ingestion of carbohydrates. It consists of 10% carbohydrate, 60 % fat and 30% protein. The last diet has been modeled after the famous Atkins diet.
Results of the study: disapproval of conventional thinking
The results of the study were striking and disapproved conventional thinking. The participants on the first diet had the worst outcome in terms of energy expenditure. Their energy expenditure levels dipped tremendously and this contributed to weight regain. The good cholesterol levels in the blood dropped with an unfortunate increase in the triglycerides.
The very low carbohydrate diet had minimal interference to energy expenditure. The participants were able to continue burning calories. They spent 300 more calories per day compared to those on the low fat diet. This is good news but there is a catch. When the glucose load to the body is low, the body’s hormonal system responds by increasing cortisol which drives carbohydrate synthesis in the liver. The downside of cortisol release is that it promotes deposition of fat tissue in the body.
Participants on the second diet had average results. They were able to burn 150 more calories compared to those on low fat diet. It also had an advantage over the very low carbohydrate diet in that it had no adverse effects on blood cholesterol and did not stimulate cortisol release. In a nutshell, the second diet, which is a balanced diet that is comprised of fruits and vegetables offers the best option in terms of maintaining weight loss.
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