No, pasta will not make you fat. At least, that’s what some Italian researchers say. HealthDay reports on research conducted at IRCCS Neuromed in Pozzilli, Italy, which analyzed results of two large studies involving more than 23,000 Italians. Instead of adding pounds, pasta–ok moderate consumption of pasta– was linked to a lower likelihood of obesity. The moderate part, however, appears to be crucial. The study authors also found that “The obese population was older and at lower socioeconomic status, had higher waist and hip circumferences and waist-to-hip ratio, and consumed more pasta than normal or overweight participants.”
It could be true: researchers at Northwestern University have learned that insulin was unable to quickly bring glucose levels back to a normal level following a meal with bright light exposure in the evening. Yes, that does matter, because the body’s inability to adequately move glucose out of the bloodstream, can, over time, help put the pounds on. A Northwestern new release reports that previous research by Northwestern scientists showed that people who received the majority of their bright light in the morning weighed less than those who were exposed to most of their bright light after 12 p.m. Mouse studies also have shown that mice kept in constant light have altered glucose metabolism and gain weight compared to control mice. In this case, the researchers set out to examine the effects of three hours of morning or evening blue-enriched light exposure compared to dim light on hunger, metabolic function and physiological arousal. To do that, they subjected 19 healthy adults to three hours of blue-enriched light exposure starting either 0.5 hours after waking (morning group) or 10.5 hours after waking (evening group). The morning group ate breakfast in the light; the evening group ate dinner in the light. Ready? The envelope please…the study showed that blue-enriched light exposure acutely altered metabolic function in both the morning and the evening compared to dim light. While morning and evening blue-enriched light exposure both resulted in higher insulin resistance, evening blue-enriched light led to higher peak glucose. The bottom line: the researchers are convinced that our bodies have a harder time compensating for the increase in glucose in the evening.
When it comes to looking good, or not good, women are the harshest judges of overweight people, both male and female. That makes them a bit more open-minded than men, who judge overweight women negatively, but give overweight men a pass. We know this because researchers at the University of Surrey analyzed the scores that male and female interviewers gave for the attractiveness of interviewees of both genders. A University of Surrey news release reports that the study of how BMI affects perceptions of beauty showed that female interviewers would judge both men and women with higher BMIs as less attractive, whereas men would judge their fellow gender much less harshly. Read more here.
Want to know the first step toward losing weight? Relax. Stress, it turns out, actually helps your body retain fat. A University of Florida news release reports that researchers at that school have discovered that chronic stress stimulates the production of betatrophin, a protein that can inhibit an enzyme involved in fat metabolism. “Betatrophin reduces the body’s ability to break down fat, underscoring a link between chronic stress and weight gain,” says Li-Jun Yang, M.D., a professor and lead investigator in the UF College of Medicine’s department of pathology, immunology and laboratory medicine. The Florida study, which used mice, not people, found that mouse models under metabolic stress produced significantly more betatrophin, and their normal fat-burning processes slowed down markedly. Yes, researchers have yet to test betatrophin’s effect on fat metabolism in humans, but the new findings explain how reducing stress can be beneficial. They say that short-term mild stress can help people perform better and get through difficult situations, but long-term stress can be trouble. “Stress causes you to accumulate more fat, or at least slows down fat metabolism,” says Yang. “This is yet another reason why it’s best to resolve stressful situations and to pursue a balanced life.”
It’s not just a late-night television ad: you really can burn calories while you sleep. Actually, you already do burn calories while you sleep, but you can burn more of them if the bacteria in your gut is healthy. That finding comes from researchers at the University of Iowa, were a study has shown that drug-induced changes to the gut microbiome can cause obesity, mainly by reducing the resting metabolic rate—the rate at which calories are burned while sleeping or resting. In other words, microbes in our guts are responsible for calories burned while we sleep. An earlier study by the same researchers indicated that weight gain was correlated with a significant shift in the composition of gut microbiomes. When the researchers measured calorie burn (they calculated energy intake, oxygen consumption and carbon dioxide output, and heat production), they learned that there was no change in aerobic (oxygen-dependent) resting metabolic rate for mice fed risperidone (an antipsychotic drug that causes significant weight gain in patients and shifts in the microbe) compared to control mice, but there was a significant decrease in non-aerobic resting metabolic rate sufficient to account for the animals’ weight gain. How significant? “It’s about a 16 percent change in resting metabolic rate, which is enormous,” says Justin Grobe, assistant professor of pharmacology. “It would be 29 pounds of fat gained every year for an average human.” Or, as another investigator puts it: It’s the equivalent of eating one additional cheeseburger every single day.
Why do people who are in touch with their feelings have less belly fat that others? Researchers don’t really know, but they are fairly certain that people with a high awareness of their present thoughts and feelings — “dispositional mindfulness” — have about a pound less belly fat on average. A Brown University news release reports that researchers at the school looked at how 394 people scored on the six-point Mindfulness Attention Awareness Scale (MAAS), in which they rated their agreement with 15 prompts, such as “I find it difficult to stay focused on what’s happening in the present” and “I could be experiencing some emotion and not be conscious of it until some time later.” The researchers also measured each person’s belly and hip fat, measured body mass index, and collected data about health, lifestyle, and demographics. One possible reason that mindful people has less fat, researchers suggest, is that people are evolutionarily predisposed to stock up on calories when they are available and to rest when they get the chance. Mindfulness, which other studies have shown can help people overcome cravings and eat a healthier diet, may be the cognitive tool people need to overcome their instincts. It may also help people override an aversion to initiating exercise (research suggests that people feel great after working out but often feel ambivalent about getting started).
Contrary to popular dieting dogma, the best way to lose body is to restrict dietary fat, not carbs. How do they know that? Because researchers at the National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases monitored every morsel of food eaten by 19 people for two two-week periods. Science Daily reports that during the first period, 30 percent of baseline calories were cut through carb restriction alone, while fat intake remained the same. During the second period the conditions were reversed. Each day, the researchers measured how much fat each participant ate and burned and used this information to calculate the rate of body fat loss. Ready? The envelope please….The researchers found that body fat lost with dietary fat restriction was greater compared with carbohydrate restriction, even though more fat was burned with the low-carb diet. Wait, there’s more, and it’s complicated. The researchers point out that over prolonged periods the model predicted that the body acts to minimize body fat differences between diets that are equal in calories but varying widely in their ratio of carbohydrate to fat.
OK, this sounds like some kind of conspiracy of french fries, but researchers at the University of Georgia are convinced that it’s true: A high fat changes bacteria in our gut, and the new bacteria sends information to our brain that can impair our ability to know when we are full. The bottom line: We eat more, when eating french fries, than we would if we were eating a less fatty food, like cantaloupe. A University of Georgia news release reports that researchers at the school liken the microscopic phenomenon to the way a sudden shift in temperature might impact the people who live in the affected area: Some people will be fine. Others will become ill. Krzysztof Czaja, an associate professor of neuroanatomy in the University of Georgia College of Veterinary Medicine and a coauthor of the study, says the bacterial changes can damage gut-brain neural connections, resulting in inflammation and leading to miscommunication between the gut and the brain. Czaja plans to do more research to determine if the change is permanent. The researcher’s advice? When it comes to diet, people should “think systemically. All of the components and receptors in the body are interconnected and should work in harmony. There is not a single receptor responsible for huge physiological outcomes.” Czaja points out that throughout the history of mankind until just a few decades ago, the human body was used to foods derived from natural and whole sources, rather than artificial and highly processed. “We should be aware that on a high-fat (and high-carbohydrate) diet, balance in the intestinal microbiota and gut-brain communication—which was developing over thousands and thousands of years in humans and animals—has been interrupted by the introduction of modified foods,” he says. “This leads to the confused brain and inappropriate satiety feedback and results in obesity.”
Writing in the New York Times, Jane Brody tells us something remarkable about nuts: the more you eat, the less likely you are to die at any given age, especially of cancer or heart disease. How does she know that? Brody cites a series of large studies, including the Nurses’ Health Study of 76,464 women and the Health Professionals Follow-Up Study of 42,498 men, sufficient evidence for most readers, but perhaps not for Brody herself, who points out that these studies involved well-off and well-educated people, who are likely to live longer no matter what they eat. But wait, there’s more: a new study of more than 200,000 men and women in the Southern United States and Shanghai, found that the more nuts people consumed, the lower their death rates from all causes and especially from heart disease and stroke. And more: contrary to what many believe, nuts do not make you fat. Brody points out that people in studies that included nuts in a weight-loss regimen lost more weight and ended up with a smaller waist and less body fat than participants who did not eat nuts.
Does drinking diet soda make us fat, or do fat people drink more diet soda than thinner people; that is the question. And the answer is……nobody knows. What researchers do know is that there is an association between the consumption of noncaloric sodas and a wider waist circumference. HealthDay reports that researchers studied the findings from a previous study of more than 700 white and Latino people, all of whom were 65 or older when they entered the study. After nine years, the researchers found, the waistlines of people who never drank diet sodas increased by 0.8 inches; occasional diet soda drinkers’ abdominal girth grew by 1.8 inches; and those who drank diet soda every day expanded their waistlines expanded by more than 3 inches. Impressive.