Healthy Diet, Healthy Living, Healthy Weight

Posted on January 4, 2012  Comments (8)

Living and eating healthily is tricky but not entirely confusing. The whole area of eating healthy food and what is a healthy weight is one where the scientific inquiry process and the complexity of scientific research on what is healthy for us is clear. Scientists study various issues and learn things but creating simple rules has proven difficult. Different studies seem to show benefits of contradictory advice, advice once seen as wise is now seen as wrong…

This is an area I am far from knowledgable about. Still I try to pay some attention as I like being healthy. Being sick is the quickest way to appreciate how great it is to be healthy. From various things I have skimmed it seems there is more evidence from several studies about how difficult it is to lose weight. Our bodies seem to work against our efforts.

And this, it seems to me, makes the problem of increasing childhood and teen obesity even more important to deal with as soon as issues arise.

It seems to me the most important thing to take from this, is the importance of maintaining a healthy weight: since you can’t just easily make up for a bad year of weight gain. I am not sure why I haven’t seen this note in most of what I have read – I suspect it is our reluctance to make value judgements about what is healthy. The problem I see with that is, the best advice we have is confusing enough without people with more knowledge being reluctant to state their best advice given the current knowledge. That doesn’t mean the suggestions are right, but at least they are educated guesses.

I try to eat relatively healthily. Which for me means taking steps to increase the amount of vegetables I eat (especially greens and some fiber) and decrease the amount of sweets and heavily processed food I eat (I still eat way too much heavily processed food). And I try to exercise as it seems to have many benefits including helping make up for some weaknesses in your diet (like eating too many calories and too many “empty calories). In my opinion (which on this topic may well not be worth much) eating a bit more stuff that really isn’t so good for you and exercising more is an easier tradeoff than trying to eat perfectly and do the minimum amount of exercise needed to stay healthy.

I also eat yogurt – I like it and the beneficial benefits of some bacteria seems likely. I heard recently something that surprised me which is that the beneficial bacteria remain for close to 2 weeks. I figured they would be gone in a couple days. I only heard that from one source (I can’t remember now but some seemingly knowledgable source – scientist researching the area), so it might not be accurate but it was interesting.

Here is an example of one of these health studies. They find that a low protein diet resulted in a loss of “lean weight” (muscle…) and more fat than a comparable diet with more protein. The same weight with a higher percentage of fat is not a good thing for human health. Thus the message is that a lower protein diet has this risk that must be considered (and therefor higher protein diets may well be wise). Of course things get much more complicated than that when we actually try to live by a diet.

Effect of Dietary Protein Content on Weight Gain, Energy Expenditure, and Body Composition During Overeating

After consuming a weight-stabilizing diet for 13 to 25 days, participants were randomized to diets containing 5% of energy from protein (low protein), 15% (normal protein), or 25% (high protein), which they were overfed during the last 8 weeks of their 10- to 12-week stay in the inpatient metabolic unit. Compared with energy intake during the weight stabilization period, the protein diets provided approximately 40% more energy intake, which corresponds to 954 kcal/d (95% CI, 884-1022 kcal/d).

Overeating produced significantly less weight gain in the low protein diet group (3.16 kg; 95% CI, 1.88-4.44 kg) compared with the normal protein diet group (6.05 kg; 95% CI, 4.84-7.26 kg) or the high protein diet group (6.51 kg; 95% CI, 5.23-7.79 kg) (P = .002). Body fat increased similarly in all 3 protein diet groups and represented 50% to more than 90% of the excess stored calories. Resting energy expenditure, total energy expenditure, and body protein did not increase during overfeeding with the low protein diet. In contrast, resting energy expenditure (normal protein diet: 160 kcal/d [95% CI, 102-218 kcal/d]; high protein diet: 227 kcal/d [95% CI, 165-289 kcal/d]) and body protein (lean body mass) (normal protein diet: 2.87 kg [95% CI, 2.11-3.62 kg]; high protein diet: 3.18 kg [95% CI, 2.37-3.98 kg]) increased significantly with the normal and high protein diets.

Conclusions Among persons living in a controlled setting, calories alone account for the increase in fat; protein affected energy expenditure and storage of lean body mass, but not body fat storage.

So if I understand the abstract (the paper is released in a closed science [anti-scientific method, scientific literacy] format unfortunately) calories affect the increase in fat gain and protein affects energy expenditure and lean body mass gains. This is another of the benefits of exercise, as I understand it: you will burn calories while working and the muscle mass you build actually burns more calories at rest than your fat stores. So you not only get a benefit while exercising you get a benefit while doing nothing.

Related: $500 Million to Reduce Childhood Obesity in USA (Robert Wood Johnson Foundation, 2007)Study Shows Weight Loss From Calorie Reduction Not Low Fat or Low Carb (2009)Food Rules: An Eater’s Manual

Things like exactly what is a healthy weight I think are debatable. And for different people the answer is different. But there is a strong correlation above a certain weight (especially when much of it is fat) that health risks increase. And exactly how much exercise is needed is not an answered question. But it is pretty clear there are significant health benefits to more exercise (even very simple things like walking) that most of those in the rich world (USA, Germany, Canada, England…) get. And it makes perfect evolutionary sense to me that we would have issues based on the rapid decline in exercise from what we evolved to expect (so when the evidence points to issues in this area I am very quick to accept the conclusions as likely useful information).

If what you want to do is find an excuse to not follow the best advice we have for healthy living the areas of uncertainty give you lots of room to hide. But that is not going to give you the best chance to be healthy. So if you want to be healthy there are sensible steps you can talk and taking care not to get too overweight, exercise sensibly and increase the percentage of vegetables in your total food intake (than you probably have now – I would be surprised if 5% of the Curious Cat Science and Engineering Blog readers have a good percentage of vegetables to total food intake) are steps almost certain to help.

8 Responses to “Healthy Diet, Healthy Living, Healthy Weight”

  1. The Beneficial Phytochemicals in Vegetables Help Us Lead Healthy Lives » Curious Cat Science Blog
    January 28th, 2012 @ 12:44 pm

    Eat a wide variety of vegetables, to get the benefits each offers. Cruciferous vegetables have cancer preventing benefits and enhancing the immune system. Vegetables in this category include broccoli and cauliflower…

  2. marylou
    January 29th, 2012 @ 5:14 am

    what a terrible myth it is those wannabe experts spread that if you want to lose weight, you have to eat high protein diet because it “burns fat”. 🙁

  3. Staphylococcal Food Poisoning » Curious Cat Science Blog
    March 4th, 2012 @ 11:30 pm

    Staphylococcal food poisoning is a gastrointestinal illness. It is caused by eating foods contaminated with toxins produced by Staphylococcus aureus…

  4. Science Continues to Explore Causes of Weight Gain » Curious Cat Science and Engineering Blog
    March 12th, 2012 @ 3:07 am

    […] Healthy Diet, Healthy Living, Healthy Weight – Study Shows Weight Loss From Calorie Reduction Not Low Fat or Low Carb – Study Finds […]

  5. Modeling Weight Loss Over the Long Term » Curious Cat Science Blog
    May 17th, 2012 @ 8:06 am

    The team found that people’s bodies adapt slowly to changes in dietary intake. They also found heavier people can expect greater weight change with the same change in diet, though reaching a stable body weight will take them longer than people with less fat…

  6. Better Health Through: Exercise, Not Smoking, Low Weight, Healthy Diet and Low Alcohol Intake » Curious Cat Science Blog
    December 14th, 2013 @ 8:30 pm

    The people who consistently followed four or five of these behaviors exp
    experienced a 60 per cent decline in dementia and cognitive decline – with exercise being the strongest mitigating factor – as well as 70 per cent fewer instances of diabetes, heart disease and stroke…

  7. More Muscle Mass Appears Linked to Longer Life » Curious Cat Health and Science Blog
    March 15th, 2014 @ 11:50 pm

    “Our study indicates that clinicians need to be focusing on ways to improve body composition, rather than on BMI alone, when counseling older adults on preventative health behaviors.”

  8. Benefits of a Mediterranean Diet May Include Reduced Risk of Cognitive Impairment As We Age » Curious Cat Science and Engineering Blog
    May 8th, 2021 @ 3:28 pm

    […] I have been taking this into account in my eating. I try to eat much more green leafy vegetable (though more is from my very low levels before). I try to reduce the amount of meat and increase the amount of fish and nuts. I try to eat enough fiber and I eat yogurt. I try to eat more fruits and vegetables in general. I try to reduce the amount of processed foods and sugar. My diet is far from great but it is much better than is was 20 years ago. I have probably been focused on doing better for over 10 years (post from 9 years ago: Healthy Diet, Healthy Living, Healthy Weight). […]

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