Attaining and maintaining an optimal weight is a challenge for many people. As a registered dietitian nutritionist, my responsibility is to stay current with the latest research and translate the science into practical solutions for my patients. These are some of the recent studies that explain the link between a healthy weight and the quality of foods, portion distortion, and finally, the importance of getting a good night’s sleep.
In this first study, the question was whether a “high-quality” diet with a 25% reduction in calories (foods are primarily minimally refined and derived from plants such as starches, fruits, and vegetables along with fish and olive oil), would result in identical weight loss with a “low-quality diet” with a 25% reduction in calories (foods were refined carbohydrates and dominant in protein/meat, a Western-style plan) or their usual diet without change. The results as reported in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition were 18 lb. loss in the high-quality group, a 14 lb. loss in the low-quality group, and no loss in the usual group.
Conclusion: Eat a high-quality diet that includes foods such as fruits, vegetables, whole grains, and lean protein.
The second study looked at the problem with growing portions. When the researchers compared the original to the current portion sizes of “ultra-processed packaged and fast foods”, portions have “ballooned up to 5 times larger” than their original sizes. The result is that the larger portion sizes are viewed as the new normal, acceptable, and expected. The quantities people eat continue to increase, contributing to the rise in obesity.
Conclusion: Be mindful when you are eating, paying attention to your body’s hunger and fullness cues.
The third study recently published examines the relationship between sleep and weight. Researchers found that those individuals who slept 7-9 hours have a lower energy intake than those sleeping 6½ hours. Previous studies have shown additional factors contributing to either more weight gain or less loss for those with insufficient sleep. Differences include hormones and disturbance of the body’s circadian rhythm, our biological clock.
Conclusion: If you are not sleeping 7-9 hours a night, start to increase by half an hour a day.
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Sophie Schutte, Diederik Esser, Els Siebelink, Charlotte J R Michielsen, Monique Daanje, Juri C Matualatupauw, Hendriek C Boshuizen, Marco Mensink, Lydia A Afman, The Wageningen Belly Fat Study team, Diverging metabolic effects of 2 energy-restricted diets differing in nutrient quality: a 12-week randomized controlled trial in subjects with abdominal obesity, The American Journal of Clinical Nutrition, 2022;, nqac025, https://doi.org/10.1093/ajcn/nqac025
Young LR, Nestle M. Portion Sizes of Ultra-Processed Foods in the United States, 2002 to 2021. Am J Public Health. 2021 Dec;111(12):2223-2226. doi: 10.2105/AJPH.2021.306513. PMID: 34878877; PMCID: PMC8667835.
Tasali E, Wroblewski K, Kahn E, Kilkus J, Schoeller DA. Effect of Sleep Extension on Objectively Assessed Energy Intake Among Adults With Overweight in Real-life Settings: A Randomized Clinical Trial. JAMA Intern Med. 2022 Apr 1;182(4):365-374. doi: 10.1001/jamainternmed.2021.8098. PMID: 35129580; PMCID: PMC8822469.