Sunday, February 19, 2006

Want to maintain weight loss? Be vigilant.

Losing that extra weight is one thing. Keeping it off requires a lifetime of counting calories. That's the message from a more than two-decade study of monkeys.

The latest study with rhesus monkeys has shown that lifetime calorie restraint to prevent obesity is the most powerful way to reduce age-related health problems such as high blood pressure and high triglycerides and to prevent or delay the progression of insulin resistance toward diabetes. Monkeys whose food intake was maintained in amounts to assure a constant healthy body weight were not only healthier; on the average they lived longer than their counterparts who ate as much as they wanted. Monkeys fed 30 percent less over the long term extended their lifetimes to 30 years from an average of 23 years.

Genetic differences allow some primates to remain thin and others to grow fat when fed an identical diet over the years, the study found.

Other monkeys, when forced to slim down by as much as 25 percent, regained the weight they'd lost once caloric restrictions were lifted — regardless of whether they'd been on a diet for two months or two years.

Studies have shown that each person has an age-related “set point" for weight somehow regulated by physiology and genetics. This may help explain why more than 95 percent of dieters who shed 35 extra pounds or more eventually regain the weight. “Basically, while your weight may fluctuate throughout life, your body’s natural tendency is to return to its individually programmed body composition.”

What's the message?

“I highly recommend the bathroom scale model of weight loss. If you see your weight creeping up, then cut back on your portions,” study author Barbara Hansen, PhD, said.

I'm a big fan of Barbara Rolls' research at Penn State University. Out of the research, she developed the Volumetrics Plan.

Here is a sample menu of the low-energy-density plan.

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