Posts Tagged ‘Diet plans and weight loss aids’

Health benefits of mushrooms

August 22, 2008

A Johns Hopkins researcher reports that substituting mushrooms for meat may be an effective way to lower calorie intake and increase nutritional value. The study, by researcher Lawrence Cheskin, MD, was funded by the Mushroom Council.  I’ll bet you didn’t know there was a mushroom council; I didn’t.

Here is a summary of the study provided by Medical News Today:

Study Shows The Power Of Energy Density In Mushrooms

8/18/08

Preliminary research, led by Dr. Lawrence Cheskin, MD, Director of John Hopkins Weight Management Center, suggests increasing intake of low-energy density foods, specifically mushrooms, in place of high-energy-density foods, like lean ground beef, is a strategy for preventing or treating obesity. This is good news for the more than one-third of U.S. adults age 20 and older who are obese, according to the Center for Disease Control. Obesity is a risk factor for cardiovascular disease, certain types of cancer, and type 2 diabetes.

In the study led by Dr. Cheskin, and funded by the Mushroom Council, study participants were randomly chosen to receive either beef or mushroom lunch entrées over four days – lasagna, napoleon, sloppy Joe and chili. Subjects then switched entrées to consume the other ingredient (mushroom or beef) the following week.1

Energy (calorie) intakes were significantly higher during meat meals than mushroom meals, a difference that averaged 420 more calories and 30 more fat grams per day over the four-day test period. Subjects’ ratings for palatability (meal appeal), appetite, satiation (after meal fullness) and satiety (general fullness) did not differ between groups.

“The most intriguing finding was that subjects seemed to accept mushrooms as a palatable and suitable culinary substitute for meat,” said Dr. Cheskin. “They didn’t compensate for the lower calorie mushroom meal by eating more food later in the day.”

The preliminary findings of Cheskin’s team follow findings from other initial data that suggested if men substituted a 4-ounce Portabella mushroom for a 4-ounce grilled hamburger every time they ate a grilled hamburger over the course of a year, and didn’t change anything else, they could save more than 18,000 calories and nearly 3,000 grams of fat.3 That’s the equivalent of 5.3 pounds or 30 sticks of butter. More research is needed to further understand mushrooms’ role in weight management as a low-energy density food.

More Health Benefits of Mushrooms

In addition, mushrooms4 may be nature’s hidden treasure for vitamin D, a nutrient many Americans do not get enough of for the required daily intake.5-7 Mushrooms are the only fresh vegetable or fruit with 4 percent of the daily value of Vitamin D per serving4 and preliminary research suggests that a standard serving of mushrooms can provide up to 100 percent of the daily value of vitamin D after just five minutes of contact with sunlight.8,9

A serving of four-five white button mushrooms has 20 calories and no fat, saturated fat or cholesterol but is nutrient-rich. In fact, mushrooms are also the leading source of the antioxidant selenium in the fruit and vegetable category and a good source of the B vitamins riboflavin, niacin and pantothenic acid, which help break down proteins, fats and carbohydrates. Toss in a handful of delicious, nutrient-dense mushrooms into your favorite dish.

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Rethinking Thin

June 12, 2008

Gina Kolata, author of the book Rethinking Thin, has a point of view: it is almost impossible to lose significant amounts of weight and keep it off. I respect her work, but take issue with her pessimistic tone. Here is a review of her book I placed on Amazon.com:

Most books on diet and weight control, and there are hundreds, fall into one of two categories: research-based but narrowly focused and selective in order to promote a specific point of view; or completely opinion-based and hyping some fad or promoting a product (which may be the book itself). Rethinking Thin falls into the first category.

Author Gina Kolata, a New York Times science reporter, contends that being “overweight” has been oversold as a health problem. She correctly criticizes the hugely profitable “diet industry” for capitalizing on people’s belief that they can and should try to change what they weigh. Her major argument is that people have little control over their weight and that, like height, it is mostly biologically determined through a poorly understood interaction of heredity and environment.

I agree with Kolata that being overweight is not necessarily a medical problem and also agree with her criticism of dieting, but I disagree with her emphasis on how little effect our behavioral choices have on the outcome. For example, she writes, “It must be that free will, when it comes to eating, is an illusion.” She throws out the baby “willpower” with the bathwater of self-blame and shame. The problem, as I see it, is not with willpower but with the misuse of it in trying to comply with worthless diet plans and attempting to achieve unrealistic goals.

For some people there is a major genetic and/or biochemical component to their difficulty in maintaining the weight they desire. Ongoing research concerning the roles of leptin, ghrelin, insulin, and many other hormones in regulating body weight and hunger demonstrates that some obese individuals (perhaps as many as 5% or more) may have genetic mutations affecting their ability to control their appetite. Related lines of research indicate there are biological forces that make it difficult for most people to lose weight once it has been gained. Such evidence suggests that once fat tissue accumulates, a system of overlapping neurological and hormonal mechanisms works to prevent it from diminishing. Even so, most of us do have a significant degree of control over our eating and activity level, and this means we have some control over what we weigh.

Here are some relevant lines of research that Kolata essentially ignores:

  • The important role of “non-exercise activity thermogenesis” (NEAT) in determining what we weigh;
  • The thousands of success stories of people who have lost significant weight (and kept it off) through conscious control of eating and activity (this may be a small percentage of the overweight population, but a significant group);
  • The proven role of social networks and support systems in affecting our weight and lifestyle choices;
  • Exciting research (using sophisticated neuro-imaging) which shows how and where the “conscious” brain exerts influence on our eating and impulse control (including the role of “won’t power”);
  • Extensive research on consumer behavior when it comes to food choice, portion control, and automatic or impulsive eating behavior;
  • Research on stages of self-change and willpower fatigue (and ways to increase self-control and overcome learned helplessness).

Kolata concludes her book with this statement, which is a bit pessimistic in tone, but also offers realistic hope for people who are interested in taking action toward improving their health: “The lesson is, once again, that no matter what the diet and no matter how hard they try, most people will not be able to lose a lot of weight and keep it off. They can lose a lot of weight and keep it off briefly, they can lose some weight and keep it off for a longer time, they can learn to control their eating, and they can learn the joy of regular exercise. Those who do best tend to be those who learn to gauge portions and calories and to keep their houses as free as possible of food they cannot resist. The effort, the lifelong effort, can be rewarding – people say they feel much better for it. But true thinness is likely to elude them.”

Please let me know what you think; are you an optimist or pessimist where weight management is concerned?