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Menopause Corner
Menopause Corner

Wendy Hoffman blogs about menopause and women's health—particularly focusing on how diet and nutrition can positively affect a woman's life around the age of menopause.

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A New Evaluation of Diets with Lasting Weight Loss in Mind

There’s ongoing debate in scientific journals, women’s magazines and around kitchen tables over which diet is healthiest, or offers the best weight loss results. But a new research study, published just this week, looked at the impact that certain diets have on lasting weight loss. That is, what diet regimen makes it more likely that someone can keep the weight off once they reach their ideal goal?

We’ve read about high-profile celebrities (Oprah, for example) who have re-gained significant weight after months, or even years, of dieting. Is it because they are less motivated to be disciplined about their food consumption?

Researchers at Boston Children’s Hospital say it’s a matter of biology. After weight loss, the rate at which people burn calories decreases, reflecting slower metabolism. That accounts for this discouraging statistic: only one in six overweight people will maintain even 10 percent of their weight loss long-term.

All Calories Are Not Created Equal

These researchers concluded that a diet that reduces the surge in blood sugar after a meal - either a low-glycemic index or very low carbohydrate- may be the best bet for those trying to achieve lasting weight loss. Better even than a low-fat diet, which is recommended by the U.S. government and the Heart Association.

“A low-glycemic load diet is more effective than conventional approaches at burning calories (and keeping energy expenditure) at a higher rate after weight loss said David Ludwig, MD,  a co-author of the study and director of the Optimal Weight for Life Clinic at Boston Children’s Hospital. “We’ve found that, contrary to nutritional dogma, all calories are not created equal.” 

What’s the difference between these diets? And how did they measure up in this latest study?

A low fat diet reduces dietary fat and emphasizes whole grain products and a variety of fruits and vegetables.  The researchers said that this type of diet caused the greatest decrease in energy expenditure, an unhealthy lipid pattern, and insulin resistance.

A low-carbohydrate diet (i.e. Atkins), calls for 10 percent of daily calories from carbs, 60 percent from fat and 30 percent from protein. This diet increased participants’ cortisol levels, which can lead to insulin resistance and cardiovascular disease. It also raised C-reactive protein levels, which may also increase risk of cardiovascular disease.

A low glycemic index diet is made up of minimally processed grains, vegetables, healthy fats, legumes and fruits. These types of carbohydrates digest slowly, helping to keep blood sugar and hormones stable after the meal. This diet, researchers explained, had similar metabolic benefits to the very low-carb diet without negative effects of stress and inflammation.

In addition to these benefits, the co-authors of the study noted that the low-glycemic index diet is easier to stick with on a day-to-day basis, since it doesn’t eliminate entire classes of food. That makes it both easier to follow and more sustainable.

Want to know more about the glycemic index and how foods are rated?

Click here to reach the “official website for the glycemic index.” It offers a good overview of what it is and how foods are measured, along with recipe and meal plans, and a searchable database so you can look up your favorite foods and see how they rank.

Wendy Hoffman writes about women’s health at www.menopausetheblog.com.

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About the Author

Wendy writes about women's health in midlife.