Author: Winston Craig, MPH, PhD, RD.
One in every 5 persons in North America is obese, that is, more that 20% above ideal body weight. Excess body weight is a major public health problem today. Furthermore, we are seeing an increasing number of children and adolescents who are over-weight.
In today’s sedentary society it is very easy to overeat. Hence, many of the diseases in the U.S. result from an excess of food rather than from nutrient deficiencies. And what are the health risks of overeating and being overweight? Carrying excess body weight increases one’s chances of heart disease, high blood pressure, diabetes, arthritis, and cancer.
For many it is not easy to lose weight and keep it off. In fact, over 90% of all diets fail in the long term. So then, why do 60 million Americans annually go on a diet? And why do Americans annually spend over $35 billion on diet programs and products? The weight-loss industry has a high sales pitch and makes all sorts of promises to their clientele.
One thing is for sure. It took many months and years to add the excess weight and we should not believe that it can be lost overnight or during a few short weeks. Weight loss is safe when it occurs slowly and steadily, at a rate of no more than 1 to 2 pounds a week. Success comes when changes are made in eating patterns and regular exercise becomes a part of one’s daily routine. A lifestyle change that ensures weight loss will also guarantee maintenance of ideal body weight.
For some, weight loss may simply mean eating less fatty foods, or reducing their intake of sweets and other high calorie foods along with an exercise program. For others, it may involve improving their eating habits, such as avoiding snacks, not taking second helpings, choosing smaller portions and eating more slowly.
Choosing foods that are low in fat is important. Fats have more than twice the calories that carbohydrates have on an equal weight basis. Furthermore, the body is more effective at converting excess dietary fat to body fat than in converting excess carbohydrate to body fat. Only 3% of the energy of fat is used to make to storage fat, while 25% of the energy of carbohydrates is used to form body fat.
Most people can lose weight. But keeping it off is something else. It is estimated that as many as 85% of dieters put their weight back on within 2 years after the weight loss. Now research shows that losing weight and regaining it in a yo-yo fashion can be hazardous to one’s health. Data from the Framingham Heart Study revealed that adults whose weight rose and fell over many years had a 30-90% increased incidence of heart disease and premature death compared to people whose weight remained stable.
On February 7, 1992 an FDA ruling prohibited the sale of 111 substances used by diet programs as weight-loss aids or appetite suppressants. This contraband list includes alfalfa, caffeine, yeast, alcohol, guar and xanthum gums.