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Artificial Sweeteners and Health Risks

An urgent need for definitive data on the health impact of artificial sweeteners exists.

A meta-analysis of 37 studies examining the impact of artificial sweeteners found they are not associated with reduced body mass index (BMI). More than 400,000 people over 12 years of age were studied. The long-term studies saw a modest increase in BMI, especially with increased artificial sweetener use. Higher risks for secondary outcomes were also observed for metabolic syndrome and type 2 diabetes with increased intake.

PositiveTip: Train your taste buds to enjoy less intensely sweet foods for the best outcomes.

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Sleep Deprivation Associated with Excess Weight

Short sleep duration linked to increased body mass index (weight)!

Increasing evidence demonstrates inadequate sleep may significantly influence obesity rates. Researchers with the Wisconsin Sleep Cohort Study found participants with short sleep (less than 8 hours per night) experienced changes in the appetite regulatory hormones. Leptin (tends to suppress appetite) levels were reduced and ghrelin (tends to increase appetite) levels were increased. Chronic sleep restriction combined with an abundance of food availability contributes to excess body weight.

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The Real Toll of Holiday Feasting

Weight gained over the holidays takes months to lose!

Researchers found it takes much longer to lose added holiday weight than to gain it! Studies done in three prosperous countries found Americans gained an average of 0.4% over the Christmas holidays, Germans 0.6%, and the Japanese 0.5%. Over Thanksgiving, Americans put on an additional 0.2%. Actually, Americans continue to gain weight until May, then get slimmer until late October--then start gaining again.

PositiveTip: The less you gain during the holidays the less you have to lose later!

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Cancer is a Weighty Matter

Twenty percent of cancers are related to excess body weight.

The World Health Organization's International Agency for Research on Cancer (IARC) has found growing evidence that losing weight may prevent obesity-related cancers. Those include postmenopausal breast, colorectal and esophageal cancers. The American Institute of Cancer Research estimates that if every American were at a healthy weight, 130,000 or more cases of cancer could be prevented.

PositiveTip: Intentional weight loss, when needed, can help lower cancer risk.

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Eat Less for a Better Life

Nonobese adults who ate less for 2 years lost weight and functioned better.

Researchers randomized 220 healthy, nonobese adults and assigned them to 2 years of 25% calorie restriction (CR) or the usual calorie intake (AL). The CR group received individual and group counseling. At 24 months the CR group had lost 7.6 kg (16.8 pounds) compared to the 0.4 kg (0.9 pounds) of the AL group. The CR group experienced significant improvement in mood, sleep quality, sexual drive, relationship satisfaction, and quality of life.

PositiveTip: Try eating less to enhance your quality of life and maybe extend your lifespan, too.

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Does Skipping Breakfast Make You Fatter?

Methodological limitations question the breakfast/healthy weight link.

Numerous studies have found links between eating breakfast and maintaining a healthy weight or skipping it and becoming overweight. But association is not causation. A U.K. study found breakfast seems to be a proxy for other factors like conscientious healthy eating and vigorous exercise. A very large study concluded the breakfast consumption theory was not consistently associated with differences in BMI or overweight--and the authors are consultants to Kellogg's!

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Obesity and Cancer Prevention

Excess body weight is estimated to cause 128,800 U.S. cancer cases yearly.

What is the most important thing you can do to prevent cancer other than not smoking? If you guessed being at a healthy weight, you are right. Take a look at this infographic from the American Institute of Cancer Research.

PositiveTip: Eat a healthy, wholesome, balanced diet and move more to help protect yourself from cancer.

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Water Availability Encourages Weight Loss

Forty percent of public school children are overweight or obese.

New York City schools may have discovered a remarkably simple, yet effective way of combating overweight--by increasing access to water at lunchtime! The availability of water seemed to lower chocolate milk consumption and sugar-sweetened beverages. This economical intervention significantly lowered the likelihood of boys being overweight by 0.9 percentage points and girls by 0.6, compared to schools without water availability at lunch.

PositiveTip: It could be argued that no fluids during meals is best, but certainly water is preferable to calorie-laden beverages.

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Just One Night of Sleep Deprivation?

Adequate sleep could be the unsung hero of obesity treatment.

When thinking about treating obesity, most of us think of diet and exercise. However, sleep loss increasingly appears to be an important factor. Dogs deprived of sleep for one night suffered a 33% drop in insulin sensitivity. The same 8 dogs had a 21% drop when fed a high-fat diet for 6 months. These results cannot be applied to humans--but poor sleep may yet be linked with overweight, obesity and type 2 diabetes.

PositiveTip: Remember, most adults need 8+ hours per night.

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Overweight Becoming the New Normal Among Teens

The gap between reality and perception about body weight has grown.

American teens don't seem to be getting the message that an increasing number of them are overweight or obese. Between 1988-1994 and 2007-2012 the likelihood of adolescents perceiving themselves as overweight declined. Only 21% of boys and 36% of girls perceived their weight correctly. This compares to 28% and 79%, respectively, in the earlier survey. Unfortunately, the new normal in society is being overweight.

PositiveTip: Choose your standard wisely when evaluating yourself!