Category Archives: Weight Loss


Intermittent Fasting – Lose Weight and Cheat Death?

Intermittent Fasting

Weight loss may be the reason you are reading this, but intermittent fasting advocates believe IF can offer health benefits beyond ripped abs.  Very low calorie diets (VLCs) have scientific support for extending life in animals and humans.  But have you ever seen the meals those folks eat?  Caloric restriction may the best way to live longer, but if you feel the way I do about food, you may not want to live longer if you have to eat like that.  You have probably heard people say, “You may not live longer, but it will sure feel like it.”  After all the quality of life needs to be considered in addition to quantity of years.

Intermittent fasting (IF) may be the answer.  There is evidence it has similar health benefits to caloric restriction, but still allows you to eat a lot some times, and many have an easier time adhering to this kind of diet.  Some biohackers do make it sound like a panacea.  If you have been in the blogosphere in the last few years, you have seen claims that intermittent fasting extends your life, prevents chronic disease, increases muscle mass, melts fat, improves concentration, and does your dishes (well it does decrease the number of dishes that you have to wash).  Let’s see how much that picture matches its current scientific status and what intermittent fasting protocols look like in practice. (Photo Credit © Pascu Gheorghe)

What is Intermittent fasting?

Intermittent fasting refers to a temporal pattern of eating and non-eating episodes.  Simply put, there are specific feeding windows, times during which you can eat, and fasting windows, times during which you do not eat- and yes, sleeping counts.  While some IF protocols specify how many calories you can have during a feeding window, most allow you to eat ad libitum, i.e., as much as you want during your feeding windows.  Yes, that is right, after fasting, you can eat as much as you want.  Many encourage you to eat high quality nutrient dense foods, but the amount is typically up to you.  Interestingly, and this surprised researchers, most people do not go crazy and make up for all of the calories they missed during the fast.  In addition in one study, it also appears that hunger levels decrease after two weeks and people get used to fasting, which makes compliance more likely.

If moving between fasting and feeding is what it is, what are the benefits?

What are the benefits of Intermittent Fasting?

If you are a rodent, this is definitely the way to go.  Similar to very low calorie diets, intermittent fasting extended the lives of some strains of mice, (effects varied by genetics and age at which IF was initiated).  Similarly, body weight significantly decreased as well, but the genetic strain of mouse and the age at which it received IF mattered for weight loss too- so not all mice lost weight and lived longer.  But IF has even more specific health benefits for mice than just weight loss and longer life expectancies.

Intermittent fasting appears to protect mice from developing certain cancers, e.g., lymphoma and liver cancer.  In one trial 33% of mice eating at regular times injected with a carcinogen developed cancer, while none of the mice on the intermittent fasting schedule developed cancer.  This is quite interesting, especially considering that the two groups ate roughly the same number of calories- just at different times.  So the timing was the critical component, not a reduction in calories.

Diabetes risk also appears to be diminished in animal studies and cardiovascular risk factors are reduced as well.  So if you want your hamster to live longer and look great, you know what to do.  But what about the rest of us?

Is Intermittent Fasting Healthy for Humans?

Intermittent fasting studies have been conducted in humans.  Both normal weight and obese populations have been studied, and studies have included men and women.  This is important because there have been some gender differences.  The majority of trials have lasted from two to 24 weeks and have involved a particular type of intermittent fasting called alternate day fasting (ADF).  ADF involves alternating a feed day with a day of fasting.  So basically you eat every other day.  That typically means there is a 36-hour fast.  On a feeding day (Monday) you may eat between 8:00 am and 8:00 pm, and then fast the entire next day (Tuesday) until 8:00 am two days later (Wednesday).  One study utilized an alternate day modified fasting (ADMF) protocol where the fast day allowed for one meal between the hours of 12 pm and 2 pm.  So the fasting window here would be shortened considerably.

Will Intermittent Fasting increase Life Expectancy?

In terms of living forever, we don’t have studies following subjects to the grave yet (for IF or extreme calorie restriction). But based on animal studies for calorie restriction, some advocates of the practice hope to live to be 120 years of age.  While some experts, believe 5% to be a more reasonable estimate of how much longer humans might live on caloric restriction.  ADF has shown to increase life expectancy in mice.  But I have not yet seen any computations extrapolating those findings to humans, but I am sure they are coming.  But there are plenty of findings for disease in humans.

Fasting is good for Heart Health

High-density Lipoproteins (HDL), the good cholesterol, was increased by intermittent fasting and triglycerides and Low-density lipoproteins (LDL) decreased in some studies.  Many physicians use these as predictors of cardiovascular disease.  So it appears that intermittent fasting may improve heart health.

Weight Loss from Intermittent Fasting

There is also evidence that overall fat oxidation is increased and the majority of people in studies lost significant weight in a short amount of time.  One study of normal weight men did not find weight loss, but the trial was only two weeks- and they were normal weight.  One trial of obese women that lasted 24 weeks had an overall weight loss of 7% of total body weight, a fat mass decrease of 13%, and a reduction of waist circumference of 6%.  Other studies had ranges of 4-9% weight loss from their initial weight.  Another important finding in one trial was that, unlike in caloric restriction (CR) diets where clients lose both fat and muscle, obese participants losing weight with intermittent fasting, lost fat while preserving muscle mass.  This may be one of the most important benefits of intermittent fasting and hopefully many other studies will replicate this finding in both obese and overweight populations.

Diabetes and Cancer Risk

Diabetes risk factors appear to significantly decrease for men, but it is less clear if there are benefits for women.  Some authors believe that conflicting studies don’t make it clear at this point, but longer trials will likely clarify what the effects might be- which will be positive if they are congruent with the animal studies.  While IF appears to protect mice from some forms of cancer, human studies have not yet been conducted.  Given that the majority of animal studies have found these effects, many scientists are hopeful that IF could be beneficial for humans regarding cancer, but further studies are certainly required to make those conclusions.

So, for humans – it does look like many people can expect intermittent fasting to result in weight loss (hopefully with preservation of muscle), reduced risks of heart disease, diabetes (if you are a male), and possible protection against carcinogens (the jury is still out, awaiting human trials).

Those are the benefits, what are the options?

As I mentioned earlier the majority of animal and human studies use the ADF version of intermittent fasting.  But, many health advocates recommend different IF protocols.  I will detail a few of the most popular.

IF Protocols

An infinite number of IF protocols could be implemented.  It is really as simple as picking specific feeding and fasting times.  What you think the optimal amount of time for a fast is balanced with the likelihood you can maintain that time should be what guides your plan selection.

Full Day Fast

Similar to the ADF protocol in the scientific studies, you have a full day of fasting, followed by a feeding day.  When there are only one or two fast days per week, this is often called Eat Stop Eat, a program promoted by Brad Pilon.  He does recommend eating normal amounts on the feeding days.

Alternate Day Fasting (ADF)

To recap, this is an entire day of eating as much as you want, followed by a day where you do not eat at all.  While ad libitum eating was allowed in the studies I cited, it is not typically recommended to overdo the amount or to eat unhealthy foods.  Instead listening to your hunger cues and eating healthy quality foods is your best bet.

Alternate day modified fasting (ADMF)

This is very similar to ADF, except you are allowed to eat one meal during the fast day.  The scientific trial that utilized this protocol specified the hours of 12 pm and 2 pm to be the feeding time.  It also specified the caloric amount of that meal to be 25% of baseline caloric needs, e.g., 500 calories.  The meals in that trial included an entrée, snack, and even a dessert, e.g., a cookie.

Intraday Fasting

This is a term I use to refer to protocols in which the fast and feeding windows occur on the same day.  In these protocols, the differences are simply how long each window is.  Some popular ones also recommend when to exercise, how much protein to consume, and whether you can have coffee, tea, creamers, butter, etc. during fasting windows.  I will list some of the most popular timings below.

Intraday Fasting-10

IF-10 refers to a 10-hour feeding window and a 14-hour fast.  This timing is promoted by Martin Berkhan in his Leangains program.  This ratio is what he recommends for women.

Intraday Fasting-8

IF-8 refers to an 8-hour feeding window and a 16-hour fast.  This timing is also promoted by Martin Berkhan in his Leangains program, but is recommended for men.

Intraday Fasting-4

IF-4 refers to a 4-hour feeding window and a 20-hour fast.  This timing is promoted in the Warrior Diet by Ori Hofmekler.

Those are the intermittent fasting protocols I have seen promoted the most in the blogosphere.  It is important to note that the scientific literature has not yet tested the majority of these.  ADF and ADMF have been evaluated the most.  There are countless anecdotes of those utilizing many IF protocols on the internet.  Many of those blogging about these report incredible weight loss stories with beneficial indicators in blood panels that result in physician’s amazement.  Based on the research findings, it seems very plausible that many of these reports are accurate.  While the mechanisms are still debatable (something I may tackle in a future blog) as to why or how intermittent fasting works, there are some pretty incredible findings in both animal and human studies in terms of health outcomes.  More studies need to be conducted.  And I would very much like to see not only a wider variety of human subjects used, but longer trials, and protocols other than ADF.

Thus far, I think the scientific findings are pretty remarkable and I am incredibly optimistic that future research may help determine precisely who can benefit from particular protocols the most.  But the research has demonstrated that IF can have significant impacts on various physiological indices without many side effects.  Not many medications have these kinds of effects without creating other health problems.

With that said, there are not many human trials yet, and they certainly have not tracked participants across years.  So it is unclear what the effects will be in the long-term.  My hope is that longer trials will result in an increase the intensity and number of health benefits.  But questions remain about potential adverse effects as well.  Some authors and professionals believe IF may be detrimental to women, diabetics, or those at risk for adrenal fatigue.  And I think given the lack of longer terms studies proceeding sensibly and cautiously makes sense.

I have educated a number of my patients about intermittent fasting.  I have always recommended that they speak to their physician before implementing any protocol.  I work to improve many lifestyle factors of my patients, but without question weight loss is a focus for many of my clients.  Intermittent fasting not my first tool when it comes to weight loss.  While IF may result in weight loss regardless of the types of food people eat, I make sure clients are making better food choices regarding macronutrients, micronutrients, and portions as well- and I typically emphasize food quality and quantity prior to IF protocols.  But, given the scientific support for weight loss and decreases in cardiovascular disease risk factors, I believe intermittent fasting is a promising strategy to consider as long as you are working closely with an informed medical professional that will closely monitor any potential adverse effects.

Overall it appears that for many people, IF could have enormous potential.  Fat loss, without losing muscle, reductions in heart disease risk, diabetes risk (at least for men), possibly protection against cancer and life extending benefits in animal studies, while being more palatable than caloric restriction make it an important strategy to consider.  It may not be right for everyone, but if more studies demonstrate it is safe in the long-term, I believe health care practitioners will be recommending it more frequently to help us lead long, lean lives.

Intermittent Fasting References

Freedland, S. J., Klink, J.C., Mavropoulos, J.C., Poulton, S.H., Demark-Wahnefried, W., Hursting, S.D., Cohen, P., Hwang, D., Johnson, T.L., & Freedland, S.J. Effect of intermittent fasting with or without caloric restriction on prostate cancer growth and survival in SCID mice. The Prostate, 1037-1043.
Howell, A. Effect Of Intermittent Versus Continuous Energy Restriction On Weight Loss And Breast Cancer Risk Biomarkers. Breast Cancer Research, P28.


Information provided on this site is provided for the general public.  It is made available with the understanding that the author and publisher are not providing any medical, psychological, health, or other personal professional service.  Any information provided should not be considered complete and does not cover all diseases, disorders, syndromes, ailments, physical or mental conditions or their treatment.  This information should never be used in place of calling or visiting a medical health professional, mental health professional, or other appropriate competent health professional, who should be consulted prior to making any changes based on suggestions from this site or any inferences drawn from material presented on this site.  Any information about drugs that appears on this site is general in nature.  It does not include all possible uses, precautions, side effects, or interactions, nor is it intended as medical advice.  Anyone reading this information who is considering medication or drug changes should consult with his or her medical doctor.  J. Ryan Fuller, Ph.D. is a New York State licensed clinical psychologist.  He is not a medical doctor.  Anyone considering changes based on information provided on this site or inferred from that information should consult with his or her medical doctor.  The operator(s) of this site specifically disclaim all responsibility for any liability, loss or risk, personal or otherwise, which is incurred as a consequence, directly or indirectly, of the use and application of any of the material on this site.
Katie Couric

Katie Couric asks Dr. J. Ryan Fuller about Bad Habits that could be Good for you

Katie Couric asks Dr. J. Ryan Fuller about bad habits that could be good for you.  Dark chocolate, wine, cocktails, coffee, procrastination, and napping are included. It turns out that many things we have been told impair our health may be beneficial. But the amount of the food or beverage may matter, or the outcome of particular behaviors, e.g., procrastination. The interview of Dr. J. Ryan Fuller by Katie Couric explains further why some bad habits can be good for you.


Dark Chocolate

Dark Chocolate- Hype or Health Benefits?

Dark Chocolate and Heart Disease

Chocolate grabs our attention in a headline with heart disease in a way that apples and apricots just don’t.   The juxtaposition of the words “dark chocolate” and “disease prevention” may be startling and attractive because we associate chocolate with special occasions or falling off the diet wagon, not making our cardiologists happy.   Marketers have touted chocolate as beneficial, but for many of us, this sounds too good to be true.

Does research support chocolate’s salubrious effects?

Research has demonstrated that eating or drinking chocolate products is associated with lower blood pressure and a decreased risk of mortality from heart disease.  In fact, scientists in the Netherlands found regular intake of chocolate was associated with a 45-50% lower risk of all-cause mortality.  Well then, is the research conclusive we should all be eating more chocolate? Research studies on chocolate are typically conducted in one of two ways.  There are short-term experimental trials where participants consume chocolate and measures of health related indices (e.g., blood pressure) are taken a short time later. Large epidemiological studies have also been done, which include data on how much chocolate people eat.  These are conducted over longer periods and assess chocolate consumption and rates of disease. Researchers then use statistical methods to tease out confounding variables like smoking, body weight, physical activity, and other types of food consumption.  These studies are much more common in the scientific literature studying chocolate’s role in health.

In one short-term experiment, researchers somehow managed to find participants in Connecticut who were willing to drink cocoa or eat chocolate bars in the name of science.  It turns out that significant blood pressure decreases were found in this sample soon after consuming chocolate products high in cocoa.  Congruent with this trial are epidemiological studies that indicate higher chocolate consumption is associated with lower rates of death from heart disease. So in short true experiments we have a great deal of control.  Researchers know exactly what participants are putting in their mouths and they know the precise changes in physiology.  But in those studies we don’t know the rates at which disease develops over the years or what else participants are doing over that time.  In large observational studies participants report what they eat, but we can’t be as confident what they remember eating over the years is accurate.  We do know the rates of disease that are correlated with what they said they ate, but there are many other variables that get thrown into the mix that could confuse the findings. To be really confident that chocolate consumption is related to cardiovascular health, we would need participants to be randomly assigned to different levels of chocolate consumption, to stick to that level for years, and see what happens.  Now imagine trying to get some chocolate lover out there to go without chocolate for years if they are in the study?  Or imagine anyone you know who is constantly dieting agreeing to participate, when he/she might be thrown into the high chocolate group.  This presents quite a dilemma for science.  But even with these research challenges, the data still point to benefits from cocoa.  How could that be?

What is in chocolate?

Chocolate is made from cocoa beans.  Cocoa beans contain flavonoids, specifically flavanols.  Flavanols have antioxidant and anti-inflammatory properties.  These characteristics appear to be what gives some chocolate products their healthy effects. While chocolate bars and drinking cocoa both yielded decreases in blood pressure in the aforementioned study, all chocolate products are not created equal.

Dark Chocolate, Milk Chocolate, or White Chocolate?

Cocoa beans are processed in order to produce cocoa solids and cocoa butter.  Chocolate bars will typically contain both of these, but in various ratios. Dark chocolate contains a higher percentage of solids.  Flavanols reside in the solids.  That is the reason dark chocolate and cocoa powder are likely better choices than milk chocolate or white chocolate, if heart health is the goal.  Milk chocolate has a lower percentage of solids than dark chocolate, and white chocolate does not contain any solids.  That is the reason dark chocolate gets the healthy reputation.  But it is important to note that dark chocolate contains cocoa butter and can contain many other ingredients, so it can have high levels of sugar and fat.

Is milk chocolate bad?

Unless you have an allergy or a medical condition that prohibits eating milk chocolate, one bar is unlikely to be detrimental.  In fact, if a physician has given you the go ahead, and you really enjoy milk chocolate, it could even benefit your mental health since frequent pleasurable experiences help reduce depressive symptoms.  But like any food, these treats need to be seen in the context of one’s medical profile and overall caloric and nutrient intake. Chocolate is an energy dense food (i.e., highly caloric) and it is easy to imagine how an occasional treat could grow into a regular staple.  When working with patients to change lifestyle habits like nutritional intake, I am always sure they are doing so within parameters set by their physician. My approach to chocolate is somewhat similar to that of alcohol.  If the patient hasn’t included it as part of his/her diet up until that point, I don’t typically recommend he/she start, since flavanols can be found in other products (e.g., some fruits and green tea).  While chocolate and alcohol can be difficult for some to moderate, I don’t anticipate too many clients struggling to resist or gaining weight from apricot and green tea binges.  So initiating a chocolate habit probably isn’t necessary for the health benefits. But for those already eating chocolate, I want to make sure the amount and frequency fit within his/her nutrition plan and that eating chocolate doesn’t occur in response to stress or negative emotions. Once that is the case, experimenting with higher levels of cocoa (and lower levels of fat and sugar) may be worth the effort.  For those eating milk chocolate, that could mean trying dark chocolate every other time.  For those already eating dark chocolate, exploring higher percentages of many commercially available bars could lead to leaving your old “sweet spot” and discovering an appreciation for a more bitter chocolate bar rich in flavanols. If chocolate bars aren’t your thing, unsweetened cocoa could be a way of getting those flavanols in your system.  Chocolate nibs, the inside of the cocoa bean, have also become widely available.  Some are covered in sweeter chocolate, so be sure to look at the ingredients to match the food to your nutrition plan.  For chocolate consumers, gradually exploring products with higher flavanol content could improve your health, and might even be fun.  But chocolate products often contain high levels of calories and saturated fat, so be sure your physician approves your plan.

Katie Couric interviews Dr. J. Ryan Fuller about dark chocolate, alcohol, procrastination, sleeping late, coffee, and other “bad habits.”

Dr. J. Ryan Fuller asked by Katie Couric about dark chocolate and other bad habits that might be good for you.

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Information provided on this site is provided for the general public.  It is made available with the understanding that the author and publisher are not providing any medical, psychological, health, or other personal professional service.  Any information provided should not be considered complete and does not cover all diseases, disorders, syndromes, ailments, physical or mental conditions or their treatment.  This information should never be used in place of calling or visiting a medical health professional, mental health professional, or other appropriate competent health professional, who should be consulted prior to making any changes based on suggestions from this site or any inferences drawn from material presented on this site.  Any information about drugs that appears on this site is general in nature.  It does not include all possible uses, precautions, side effects, or interactions, nor is it intended as medical advice.  Anyone reading this information who is considering medication or drug changes should consult with his or her medical doctor.  J. Ryan Fuller, Ph.D. is a New York State licensed clinical psychologist.  He is not a medical doctor.  Anyone considering changes based on information provided on this site or inferred from that information should consult with his or her medical doctor.  The operator(s) of this site specifically disclaim all responsibility for any liability, loss or risk, personal or otherwise, which is incurred as a consequence, directly or indirectly, of the use and application of any of the material on this site.
holiday stress

Stress Management for Dealing with Family and Holiday Eating

Dr. Ryan Fuller on how planning ahead can help you avoid stressful situations.

Download the Predict, Plan, and Prepare worksheet.  This simple stress management technique is called the 3 P’s.  It is simple, but easy to forget, so having this worksheet as a concrete reminder may help you to reduce your stress levels around family, holiday stress, or any circumstance.  Using it regularly may really help prevent your stress from becoming overwhelming. More information about holiday stress and potential stress, eating challenges and other stress brought on by travel.

Freshman Orientation Should It Prepare You for College or For Life Itself

New Fitness Program for Coker College Freshmen

A college in South Carolina is trying to initiate some positive changes in the lives of its students while chipping away at our nation’s growing obesity problem. The current president of Coker College is passionate about fitness and healthy living, having been 100 pounds heavier when he, himself, was in college than he is now. So he wants to make sure, starting with this year’s freshman class, that the students at Coker are offered programs in “fiscal and physical fitness.” The institution’s curriculum therefore will now include a ‘healthy’ serving of fitness.

Main Components of the Program

Entering freshmen, first of all, will be required to take a physical fitness test. Also, students are ensured that in the cafeterias and/or dining halls, there will be wholesome, nutritious food options at each meal. Finally, a full program of carefully selected intramural and other activities has been put in place, including many unique choices, such as yoga, Zumba, and tubing—definitely not limiting students’ options to team sports and competitive pursuits. Students may even choose discussions with a dietitian. And, starting with this class, at least four of these activities (over the course of their college experience) are mandatory. The good news is that students may take part in as many of these as they want.

Smart Move?

Now, on the one hand, the program represents a wise move on the part of the administration, reflecting compassion and concern for every student admitted to the college. Many of us would have appreciated the care that went into planning this program and would have liked the opportunity to attend free fitness classes of various types and individual dietary planning. It is actually somewhat of a return to university requirements of several decades ago when four semesters of active physical education courses were requisite for graduation. But it seems Coker College is choosing to make the whole experience a little more fun. Mandatory weigh-ins and even optional weigh stations on campus were considered but nixed in light of potential problems of eating disorders, known to be pronounced in the college-age population.  Program officials are making the focus of the program health and fitness—not weight, size, or appearance.

On the other hand, taking this step—be it in the right direction or not—is sure to anger or at least frustrate some freshman and is likely to keep a few prospective students from applying to or enrolling at Coker. How do you feel about Coker’s approach to improving student fitness levels? If a college you were considering implemented such a program, what kind of influence, if any, would it have on your decision? Is this sort of thing going to extend the college student’s time on campus? If so, would it mean extra hours or extra semesters?

A Similar Program

One university (a historically black institution) tried a program with similar goals in 2009 and received much criticism from different fronts for targeting African-Americans and even for “racial abuse.” The faculty planners made some programmatic adjustments (namely removing the requirement for graduation) but stuck to their guns on mandatory health risk appraisals. They are reporting positive results.

Do you think it is the responsibility of a college/university to include some sort of fitness assessment when students enroll? And, if so, how much do you believe colleges can add to a student’s already burgeoning schedule in terms of required PE courses or physical activities? Or . . . should they just mind their own business when it comes to student health and fitness?

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Hatha Yoga

Hatha Yoga- A Pain Management Tool for Fibromyalgia

How are your cortisol levels? If you are a yoga enthusiast (especially hatha yoga), you probably have at least above-average levels of the hormone cortisol surging through your body.

The purpose of a study just published in the Journal of Pain Research was to examine what effects, if any, the practice of yoga had on cortisol levels and, consequently, on such characteristics/symptoms of fibromyalgia as pain, fatigue, anxiety, muscle stiffness, depression, disordered sleep, and stomach problems. At least one benefit—decreased muscle stiffness—of yoga is a “no-brainer.” Some of the other findings, however, were quite remarkable.

Participants were females with fibromyalgia, who engaged in two hatha yoga sessions a week for eight weeks. They responded to questionnaires and provided the researchers with saliva samples, which were analyzed for cortisol.

Their cortisol levels did in fact rise, following this program. And here are some of the positive changes observed, which the York University researchers believe to be related to high levels of cortisol, in this case stemming from practicing yoga: Increases in mindfulness, ability to detach from the psychological experience of pain, and acceptance of their condition; decreases in feelings of helplessness, and tendency to “go off the deep end.”  All of these changes appear to be extremely helpful in pain management and to relieve stress.

If you have fibromyalgia or other condition that includes chronic pain, has yoga ever helped you to cope with psychological or physical problems, including pain? Would you try (or stick to) a program like this as an approach to treating pain, fatigue, and stress sensitivity?


How Meat Consumption May Affect You

Did you know that the United States consumes 60 percent more meat than European countries do? Even though meat can be a good source of vitamins and proteins, it is our overconsumption that is problematic, according to a recent report by the Environmental Working Group. A good amount of this meat is processed or red meat.

The National Cancer Institute claims in a 2009 report that those persons consuming the most red meat were more likely to die of cancer and heart disease (20% and 27% more likely, respectively) compared to those who ate the least amount. However, it must be kept in mind that this effect is possibly due, in part at least, to saturated fat in the cuts, nitrates added to the meat, or chemicals produced from cooking meat at higher temperatures.

Some researchers caution that this link between consumption of red meat and processed meat and rates of cancer and heart disease is not really clear. However, there does seem to be a consistent association with colon cancer.

Do you think that these meat products are good for the nation’s health? How has having access to plenty of meat products benefitted Americans’ health? Is the environment being impacted by this meat consumption? How about the ozone layer or the rain forests of the world?

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Baby Bottle

Bottles-Toting Toddlers: Are They Prone to Obesity?

Bottle-Toting Toddlers: Are They Prone to Obesity?

by New York Behavioral Health Staff Member

A study just reported in the Journal of Pediatrics suggests that children who are still drinking from a baby bottle at age 2 and beyond are more likely to be overweight at 5 years of age and in adulthood than those who “give up” the bottle by one year.

Reactions to these results (in the popular press) are slightly mixed, with the majority of readers pointing to later consumption of fast foods, junk food, etc. as the chief influence on obesity. Here are some findings of the study, however, funded by the U.S Dept. of Agriculture.  Of the children who still sipped from a bottle at age two, nearly 30% could be considered obese by the age of 5½, while only 16% of those drinking out of cups (going into their third year) were obese by that age.

Dissenters should take note that the study did, in fact, control for mother’s weight, birth weight of the baby, and feeding practices. Even so, the researchers caution that the findings do not prove that prolonged bottle use causes obesity; there may be other important factors influencing both. But it’s still something for young parents to consider in providing nutrition and comfort to their little ones.


How Overweight Are Americans?

Obesity is America’s Weight Problem

America is “fatter” than Canada. Obesity is America’s Weight Problem. Not a startling fact for us to ‘digest,’ since various studies have produced similar reports. However, this is the first time that the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention in Atlanta has compared US obesity rates with those of another country. Plus, some of the other studies used self-report surveys for their information, where everyone underestimates or purposely minimizes how much he weighs . . . or even telephone interviews wherein the interviewee cannot be seen. The CDC looked at Body Mass Index (BMI) at different heights for the subjects.

The new CDC figures put the obesity rate for the US at 34%, and 24% for Canada—a disparity of 10 percentage points. Now you may be thinking the difference in racial demographics accounts for much of this, since some minority groups tend to have higher rates of obesity than whites. But you would be wrong. When the CDC researchers separately analyzed the data for white people, there was still a 33% to 26% difference between the US and Canadian rate, respectively. There are a few questions raised here. It is not surprising that whites in the US are very obese (a drop of only one percentage point when minority groups are pulled out). But why did the obesity rate for Canada increase (from 24% to 26%) when data on whites were analyzed independently?

Another surprise came from the childhood obesity rates in the 2 countries: 15.5% in the US and 12% in Canada. Not only were they half that of the adult rates, but there was no significant difference found between the countries.

The major questions created by the CDC results are three.

  1. What are we doing being childhood and adulthood that impacts so impressively on our tendency toward obesity and, in consequence, the health and longevity of our people?
  2. And what are we doing differently from the people across our northern border? Could the cold temperatures have something to do with it?
  3. Finally, since the even worse news is that it obesity appears to be rising in all nations worldwide, what can we do about it?

For full article:


Yoga: Mental Health Benefits

Yoga- Health Benefits Says Science

Has yoga gone mainstream in America? Well, it’s certainly not for just celebrities anymore. More and more people in this country are discovering the health benefits of a regular yoga practice. A list rattled off by Sat Bir Singh Khalsa of Harvard Medical School and the Division of Sleep Medicine at Brigham and Women’s Hospital in Boston of problems with which yoga has been found (by research) to help seems endless (anxiety, depression, weight loss/management, sleep, back and neck pain, digestion, blood pressure, etc.). Sounds somewhat like a cure-all, doesn’t it? Experts in the art, however, are very careful not to make claims like that, but research has shown that yoga can boost the immune system, reduce stress, and help you handle all sorts of stress and pain more effectively, even those associated with cancer, improving quality of life. That benefit alone (stress relief) would seem to make yoga a positive goal on everyone’s list.

The US National Institutes of Health tells us that the proper practice of yoga features a combination of posture, breathing, body awareness, relaxation, and meditation. And it’s important for novices to find a good instructor who puts the right balance of emphasis on these three: posture, breathing, and meditation. Want a healthier body? Add yoga to your life.


Weight Loss Breakfast Helps-Challenged

Weight Loss Mantra or Myth?

You should “. . . eat breakfast like a king, lunch like a prince, and dinner like a pauper.” Right? A new study out of Munich is making us take another look at the breakfast question. Granted the importance of the first meal of the day, if we want to lose weight—should we eat a big breakfast? Or a skimpy one? Or should we skip it altogether?

Traditional thought says that a big breakfast gets us set for the rest of the day and we tend not to eat as much at the other meals. Not so, say the German researchers’ findings. Subjects in the study, whether of normal weight or obese, seemed to eat the same amount for lunch and dinner, regardless of the size of their breakfast. Asked to vary the amount of food they had for breakfast from no food at all to a large amount, they then kept track in a journal of everything they ate. The only difference noted was that a mid-morning snack was more likely skipped if the person ate a large breakfast. Bottom line: the common advice of experts still stands when you’re trying to lose weight: decrease the number of calories you take in, increase your physical activity, and work for a better balance in these two. (Of course, eating more healthful foods can’t hurt.)

Read the news article


Science, Sobriety, and Satisfaction

Science: A Social Role

Recently I was pointed to Dr. Brene Brown. Dr. Brown is a social worker and research scientist in the areas of shame and empathy.

The description of her research conclusions interested me from a theoretical and clinical perspective. I hope to touch on the implications of those perspectives in the future. For now, I just want to use one disturbing sentence she said as a jumping off point:

“We are the most in debt, obese, addicted, and medicated adult cohort in U.S. history.”

Surprising to you? Maybe not- we see daily news stories on the obesity epidemic, drug abuse, and credit card debt in this country, and many other countries aren’t doing much better.

But, how about this question- Why are we out drinking Mad Men and worse at handling our finances than earlier American cohorts who didn’t have commercial microbrews, pocket calculators, much less Excel, or Quicken?

Any theories?

•Undefended borders letting drugs in from Mexico?

•Insufficient labels on cigarettes & alcohol making them look like healthy choices?

•Better tasting beer too good to pass up?

•No corn syrup tax making sodas an affordable staple?

•Complicated credit card finance charges confusing us?

•Starbucks on every corner drawing us back for daily Fraps?

•Savvy SEM subliminally making us buy stuff?

Maybe – my plan for this blog is to glance at the research and ask those practitioners and scientists who claim to have the answers to see if we can begin to ask and answer some important questions.

Can we find ways to fund the right research, integrate interdisciplinary knowledge, inform policy, disseminate research to clinicians, promote educational curricula, and provide concrete practical strategies to individuals to make future Americans the least addicted, violent, obese, and most satisfied in history?

I really don’t know if we can. But in an age where grandparents are Tweeting and five year-olds are driving traffic to their websites to increase their e-commerce profits, I’m hoping scientists can put a few points on the board in this important game.

Can you imagine the first generation of young adults who are more physically active than their parents, who make informed conscious choices about alcohol and food, and most importantly who are chasing their dreams instead of running from their nightmares?

Can science play a larger role?