Tuesday, January 17, 2012

Of diets and detox

Weighty Nutrition Truths 
Talk about taking one for the team!

While millions of Americans try to eat less to weigh less, a group of 25 healthy volunteers at the Pennington Biomedical Research Center in Baton Rouge agreed to pig out in the name of science by consuming nearly 1000 extra calories a day. Their mission was to help weight control researchers figure out if weight gain varies from person to person when they over-eat and how much is stored as body fat.

Did they all gain weight? Yes, they each packed on nearly eight pounds of body fat. But, the total number of pounds gained – as measured on a scale - was dependant on the percentage of protein in their meals. The group eating less protein gained less weight.

As reported in this month’s Journal of the American Medical Association eating a low protein diet (5% of calories from protein) causes the body to lose more lean body tissue compared to a normal (15% of calories from protein) or a high-protein diet (26% of calories from protein). The low-protein group gained half as much total weight as the other groups but it was due to muscle loss not because they stored less fat. In fact, Dr. George Bray, the study leader, reports that the low-protein group stored more than 90 percent of the extra calories as body fat. So, the numbers on the scale aren’t a good guide to tell you where the pounds are going.

More Protein?

Based on these new findings, there’s more reason to pay attention to protein. That doesn’t mean you have to mainline meats or protein powders. The USDA’s My Plate guidance to eat 6 to 8 ounces of protein foods a day is what’s recommended to protect your muscles. Unfortunately, research studies such as this one from Bray often get misinterpreted and misunderstood. Some may conclude eating more protein will help you lose weight; others might think limiting protein aids weight loss. Neither assumption is true. What is true is that over eating regardless of the food source leads to fat storage. No protein miracle cures, sorry.

Understanding Studies

“We get information in snippets about a study,” says Atlanata resident Robert Davis, PhD, author of Coffee is Good for You: the Truth about Diet and Nutrition Claims. “What is the whole picture? To look at a puzzle we must put all of the pieces together.” Davis’ new book debunks popular myths and points to what’s proven. He says nutrition scientists are closer to the truth now more than ever but many people are still misled by unfounded food fads such as “detox” diets. “Your body does not need to be detoxed,” says Davis referring to severely restrictive juice cleanses and regimens often including laxatives and herbal supplements. “Repeated and prolonged detox dieting can potentially lead to vitamin and mineral deficiencies, muscle breakdown and blood sugar problems.” If a “detox” plan leads to weight loss he says it’s because you’re cutting back on calories. The book includes a valuable explanation of the types of research used to study health from preliminary test tube studies to gold standard randomized clinical trials – the kind used by Bray in his weight gain research.

1 comment:

FamilySpice said...

Great post! I always try to include a protein source in every meal I make for my family. Now if only chocolate were a protein source.... : )