Food & Fitness After 50: Is There a Best Diet for Losing Weight?


Each week Obesity and Energetic Offerings arrives in my inbox. It is a weekly roundup of research from Indiana University School of Public Health and University of Alabama Birmingham Nutrition Obesity Research Center. One of my favorite features is called “Headline vs Study,” and a recent one on weight loss diets was intriguing.

The Headline: Study Reveals the Best Diet for Actually Losing Weight and Keeping It Off.

The Study: Exploratory, observational analysis: “Small differences in metabolic outcomes were apparent in participants following self-selected diets… However, results should be interpreted with caution given the exploratory nature of analyses.”

Being a nutrition nerd, I read the study titled “Intermittent fasting, Paleolithic, or Mediterranean diets in the real world: exploratory secondary analyses of a weight-loss trial that included choice of diet and exercise,” published in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition. Here are the key takeways:

  • Conducted in New Zealand and Australia, the current study was a secondary analysis of data from a study on support strategies for three different diets and two different modes of exercise to understand different monitoring strategies that might encourage adherence to diets and exercise.
  • About 250 individuals who were healthy and had a body mass index that classified them as having overweight were selected and screened for height, weight, blood pressure, and blood sugar.
  • Individuals could choose one of three diets: Mediterranean, Paleo, or Intermittent Fasting (IF) and one of two exercise plans (recommended national guideline for exercise or high intensity intermittent training (HIIT). All participants were given detailed guidelines for the chosen diet and exercise plan.
  • The IF plan was the most popular, with 54% of participants choosing it, followed by Mediterranean diet (27%) and Paleo (18%).
  • Only half of the participants who choose the IF or Mediterranean diet were still following it at 12 months and one-third of the Paleo dieters were following the plan.
  • Adherence to any diet rapidly declines over time.
  • No matter which diet was followed, outcomes for weight loss, blood pressure, or blood sugar were modest.
  • There is difficulty following diet in a free-living environment without intensive ongoing support.

And, this is why it pays read beyond the headline and to dig deeper to get the real story.

All of this made me think of a recent presentation from Ted Kyle, founder of ConscienHealth and LeeAnn Kindness, of Tivity Health (Nutrisystem is one of their products) on the heterogeneity of obesity. According to Kindness, “77% of adults are actively trying to improve their health and more than 120 million are actively trying to lose weight.” Over the past 12 months, consumers have tried over 18 different dietary patterns to improve their health or lose weight. Yet, as was shown in the study on the three diet patterns, it is hard to stick with the plan.

So, what is “best?” Ted Kyle reminds us that the responses to diets vary. Study data usually report outcomes as averages of aggregate data, and we all know what an average is…that means that some people will lose weight on a specific plan while some people gain weight. He showed data from a study called DIETFITS on low carb vs low fat diets…. some people lost weight on both plans, but some people gained weight on both plans. “The same is true for any diet, drug regimen, or surgical intervention and the bottom line is one size doesn’t fit all,” says Kyle.

That is why programs like Nutrisystem are recognizing that “sustainable weight management requires a personalized approach, considering age, gender, food preferences, and goals,” says Kindness.

When choosing a plan for lifelong health, find something that works for you and seek the advice of a health professional who can help guide your choice and stick with the plan.

For more information on healthy food and exercise choices, check out Food & Fitness After 50, available at Amazon and other booksellers.

Disclosure: I attended a conference that paid for my travel expenses and the session mentioned was one of many over four days of education. I was not asked to write this post and was not compensated for it.

Copyright © 2019 [Christine Rosenbloom]. All Rights Reserved.

Food & Fitness after 50: Beyond Google for Answers

We all do it. We use Google to search for information. That is fine when we are looking for a restaurant in a new town or curious about a historical figure after watching a Netflix movie, but when it comes to food and nutrition information it can lead to disinformation.

GoogleCase in point, I searched for citicoline (the subject of next week’s post on brain health, so stay tuned) and 796,000 results showed up. The first 3 results were sponsored posts or ads and many of us don’t pay attention to that distinction. Later in the list of results was a WebMD article but with no date on when the article was first published or recently reviewed, we don’t know how current it is. Then, while reading the article, an ad for another heavily advertised supplement, Prevagen, popped up. (For an interesting take on Prevagen, see this article from the Center for Science in the Public Interest titled “Prevagen: How Can This Memory Supplement Flunk Its One Trial and Still Be Advertised as Effective? “To read the article click here. So, my faith in Web MD as an unbiased source of information has waned!

Most of us don’t go beyond the first page of Google results so we’re stuck with advertisements and sponsored content. So, where can you go for good information without wading through all the scientific journals which can leave you even more confused?

When I am researching a nutrition or health topic, I start with Pub Med, a free search engine containing more than 30 million citations for medical literature from MEDLINE, life science journals, and online books. Most of the citations will allow you read the research abstract but only some of the citations include links to full-text articles. Lucky for me, I have access to my university library…one of my favorite perks of being an emeritus professor.

I also use the Natural Medicines Database to research dietary supplements, but a subscription is required to fully use the site. Again, I’m lucky because membership in a practice group of sports dietitians, includes access to the database as part of my membership fee.

So, today, I want to share some free websites that I use and think will help you gain a clearer picture of  nutrition and health information. These are good places to begin your search instead of simply “googling it.”

Your Aunt Sue raves about the Eco-Atkins Diet and you’re scratching your head wondering if you should try it. Check out the website from the U.S. News & World Report Best Diets for 2019. This website is more than a ranking of “best” diets….it gives you detailed information on every aspect of the diet. And, they review 41 different diets…. from the most popular to those you’ve never heard of (Eco-Atkins?). I rely on this site when someone asks me about the latest and greatest diet. With the new year upon us…. dieting questions are bound to come up. The site includes commercial weight loss programs, diets for diabetes and heart health, plant-based diets, and of course, weight loss.

OSSHave you seen the documentary “The Game Changers,” featuring amazing vegan athletes? Documentaries can be very convincing but often one-sided. That is when I turn to McGill University Office of Science and Society for their take on everything on the latest nutrition trends, fads, and crazes. Their mission is to “demystify science for the public, foster critical thinking, and separate sense from nonsense.” They do that with good humor, sharp wit, and an engaging website. I love the short videos from Dr. Joe Schwarz and team and their answers to curious questions such as “should you put collagen in your smoothie, or should you wash eggs before cracking them?”

Keeping up with obesity research is daunting, and it seems like every day there is a new study with headlines telling us which food or beverage causes obesity or which diet will reverse the global tide of overweight and obesity in children. So, I turn to ConscienHealth and read their short post every morning. Founder, Ted Kyle, describes it thus, “our guiding principle is to connect sound science with the needs of consumers to develop obesity solutions that allow people of all sizes to be the healthiest they can be.” The daily post is always thoughtful and balanced and recognizes that black and white thinking won’t help us tackle the health problems facing Americans.

cspiLastly, I’m often asked about biotechnology. The word sounds scary, but it is just a combination of biology and technology. We all love technology (where would we be without our hand-held computers, or as we call them, smart phones?) but when it comes to our food, we are leery of using the latest technology tools to improve agriculture to feed the world. Biotech is moving so fast that it is hard to keep up with what is currently happening and what is coming. I like following The Agricultural Biotechnology Project from The Center for Science in the Public Interest (CSPI). This non-profit organization is not tied to industry and offers a clear-headed take on GMOs, gene editing and other tools used in agriculture. Before you dismiss all biotechnology practices as “bad,” take a look at this website for answers to your questions.

I hope I’ve encouraged you to seek new sources for information on nutrition and food and health. So, in 2020, here’s to good health and good information!

For more tips on eating well, moving well, and being well, check out Food & Fitness After 50 available at Amazon and other booksellers.

Copyright © 2019 [Christine Rosenbloom]. All Rights Reserved.


Food & Fitness After 50: One Size Does Not Fit All

“It is good to be open-minded, but not so open-minded that your brain falls out.”

Health500I first heard that line at a lecture early in my career, from the late physician, Victor Herbert. Dr. Herbert was an internationally known hematologist and nutrition scientist who was outspoken about nutrition nonsense. His book, Nutrition Cultism: Facts and Fictions, was published in 1984, long before the current wave of nutrition and wellness mania had taken hold.

Don’t get me wrong, I’m thrilled that so many people are trying to eat healthfully and get fit. However, many people have taken it to an extreme and have turned food and fitness into a moral issue. To be clear, you are not a bad person if you ate ice cream last night and you are not necessarily a good person if you ate a kale salad. And, in this era of wellness, people are falling for crazy (and expense) stuff to enhance their wellness. I recently read about a rose quartz comb, selling for $160, claiming to clear away negative energy. (For a funny, scathing review of the rose quartz comb, see the SciBabe’s post. (Warning, explicit language alert, so if you are easily offended by rough language, you might want to skip it.)

Since writing Food & Fitness After 50, I’ve had many interesting and sometimes head-scratching conversations with people about nutrition. One person told me she was prepared not to believe anything in my book because she had her own “nutrition philosophy.” What ran through my mind was to tell her that nutrition was a science, not a philosophy, but I kept that thought to myself. It also made me wonder why someone with no training or formal education in nutrition science would say something like that to person who taught nutrition at a university for 30 years and has been a registered dietitian for more than 40 years? I think it gets to the point that people are taking great interest in health, which is a very good thing, but they think their path is not only the right path, but the only path.  And, to top it off there is a certain smugness to the way they inform you of their beliefs. It’s like the joke, “How do you know if someone is vegan? Don’t worry, they will tell you within the first 2 minutes of meeting them.”

Nutrition is a science, but it isn’t black and white. Like all science, it evolves as we learn more about the connection of food to health. There is no “best” diet, but there are a lot of “good” diets, and that is the point we make in our book. If you prefer vegetarianism or a Mediterranean-style diet, either can be right for you, but neither is “best.” Another consideration is your state of health. There is solid research to support the DASH eating plan for those with high blood pressure, for example.  There are national guidelines for treating obesity. A dietitian, who is trained in medical nutrition therapy, can help steer a person toward a plan that is tailored for their health. If you broke your leg chances are you wouldn’t Google “broken leg” and treat it with information you found on the Internet. But, when it comes to something as important as nutrition, people are willing to ask Google, talk to their neighbor, or listen to a celebrity and believe whatever they are told.

Sustainability is a hot issue for most people, but they may not think of sustainability when it comes to their diet. For a healthy eating plan to be successful it should be something you can sustain for a lifetime. When the book, Wheat Belly, was popular, I know people who followed the plan, shunning wheat as an evil food. (How do you know if someone was following the Wheat Belly diet? Don’t worry, they will tell you in the first 2 minutes). But, giving up wheat for life isn’t sustainable, and it isn’t necessary either.

One of my daily reads is ConscienHealth. It is a smart, thought-provoking blog that puts nutrition, specifically focused on obesity, into perspective. The latest post on the dangers of moral certitude summarizes the issue:

 “In the final analysis, a dose of humility might be best. Nobody has perfect dietary advice to offer. Nobody has cures for obesity. But plenty of smart people have good ideas to share. Moral certitude is not as persuasive as good science for deflecting weak ideas and weeding out the hucksters.”