My Plantcentric Journey

Posts tagged ‘diet’

New Study: Multivitamins for Men Lowered Cancer Risk But Failed to Prevent Heart Problems

A new study yields that multivitamins for men lowered their cancer risk, but failed to prevent heart problems. It’s important to remember no vitamin can make up for not exercising and not eating well!!

Dr. Suzanne Steinbaum

Huckabee Regains Weight Why is it so Hard to Maintain Weight Loss? Is it a Food Addiction?

by Barbara Berkeley, MD

AUGUST 30, 2012

More on Weight and Politics


This post written last year is getting an enormous number of hits from online searches during the Republican Convention.   I thought I’d recycle it here for other readers.  It seems like a great many people are paying close attention to the weight sagas of our politicians.  The struggles of men like Huckabee and Christie  should be more than just tabloid fodder because they illustrate the extreme difficulty of weight control in the modern environment….even for closely observed public figures.

Huckabee: Eating His Words, Unfortunately Pancakes Too

by Barbara Berkeley, MD


Ah, the addictive power of modern food.  Never underestimate it.

On a recent trip to New York I happened to be flipping through the channels on my in-flight TV when I ran across Mike Huckabee doing an interview on Fox News.  I was surprised to see that he had gained his weight back.  The former governor of Arkansas and presidential candidate had staked quite a bit on the success of his 100 pound reduction in 2003.   He ran marathons, wrote a book about diet and made obesity and healthy living a central issue in his political portfolio.  He was appointed to expert panels and interviewed endlessly about his success.  Yet even this very public and seemingly committed person could not avoid regain right in front of our eyes.  In other words, he did an Oprah.

Huckabee thin
Huckabee’s weight loss was motivated by a doctor who told the Governor that he would likely die in less than 10 years if he remained obese.  To his credit, Huckabee took this message seriously, lost the weight and became a flag bearer for the healthy living movement.  What could have caused him to put it all back on?

Huckabee-fatI have worked with enough maintainers over the years to know that even long term, successful POWs(previously overweight persons) fear that they are just one wrong spoonful from total regain. Huckabee’s weight saga and the many other cautionary tales that play out in the public arena validate this concern.

Did anything that Huckabee said during his lean years foreshadow his return to obesity?  I believe he left some clues.

1. In an interview with CNN’s Sanjay Gupta , Mr. Huckabee said this about his weight loss:

“I had to learn that it was a change of lifestyle. And my goal wasn’t to lose weight. And that’s why this time I was successful, as opposed to previous times in my life. And I would lose weight, but then gain it back and add some to it.”

Whether it’s Huckabee speaking or someone else,  there is rarely a discussion about weight loss that doesn’t include the words “change of lifestyle”.  For me, this phrase is a red flag, a shorthand for nothing.  Governor Huckabee’s words sound very reasonable because they restate the conventional wisdom.  But conventiona wisdom can often be just that: conventional.  Few realize that it is crucial to delve into the details of “lifestyle change”.  The assumption is that it means fewer calories and more exercise.  But truly successful maintainers would tell you that a maintenance life is something quite different.  It is a well-reasoned, controlled existence that is structured around a healthy avoidance of specific trigger foods.  It involves a specifically designed and executed eating style, a reliance on supported environments, specific and consistent exercise routines, and the maintenance of extreme vigilance.  This is because modern food is addictive, and it takes several layers of planning to oppose it.

2. In 2010, when Huckabee’s weight regain was already apparent, he wrote an opinion piece for Fox called, In Praise of McDonald’s.  It was written after efforts by the Center for Science in the Public Interest to eliminate toys from Happy Meals.  Here are some exerpts:

“Blaming the packaging of a toy for overeating and under-exercising of kids makes silly what ought to be a serious issue: Obesity is a serious problem that has stunning health consequences and staggering economic consequences. But it hasn’t been caused by toys and won’t be resolved by getting rid of toys.

When a person is overfed and then under-exercised so that more calories are consumed than used, there will be weight gain. A 3-year-old probably isn’t counting calories, but parents can. The 3-year-old probably isn’t measuring activity levels and aerobic activity, but parents should.

Unless you take your kids to McDonald’s and drop them off to be parented, it’s stupid to blame McDonald’s because they put a toy in a Happy Meal. When I was a kid, there was a prize in the Cracker Jack box, but I really can’t blame my own weight challenges throughout my life to overdosing on Cracker Jack because I was digging for the prize. A person would have to be addicted to crack, not Cracker Jack, to blame the toys in the box for eating too much stuff in the box.

What makes my Happy Meal happy is that as a corporation, McDonald’s didn’t cave to the pin-headed pressure to political correctness, but pushed back to the loons on the left who seem to forget that Americans not only have personal freedom, but personal responsibility.”

This also sounds logical.  Parents should protect kids.  Toys don’t cause obesity.  But it reflects a crucial misperception of the larger problem.  Toys in Happy Meals are just one of the many marketing ploys used to lure buyers to an addictive drug: modern, processed food.  And the practice is a particularly heinous example as it plays on the vulnerabilities of kids.  It also sets up an unneccessary situation which pits the child’s desires against those of a concerned parent.

The misperception is in play when we shift the argument to personal responsibility.  If we believe that a lack of personal fortitude causes obesity,  we can hoist Huckabee on his own petard.  He talked the talk, led the charge, and failed.  By his reasoning, he must be weak…just like all those parents who give in to the Happy Meal.  I don’t believe that.

Karen Tumulty, who  interviewed Huckabee in February for the Washingotn Post observed this scene:

“Huckabee was tucking into a breakfast of eggs and butter-slathered pancakes at a trendy New York hotel overlooking Times Square. His much-discussed diet – he famously lost more than 100 pounds after a diabetes diagnosis in 2003 and wrote a book about eating right – is apparently on hiatus.”

What are we to make of a man who has been told he has a possible death sentence if he’s over-fat,who writes books about the importance of avoiding obesity,  who stakes a political career on advocacy for better habits and then goes ahead and chows down in front of a reporter for a major newspaper?  Unlike Huckabee, I wouldn’t call him irresponsible.  I’d say he’s acting like someone with an addiction.  An addiction that has re-established itself.

What else but a powerful, powerful urge could motivate someone to behave in a way that makes him look foolish?  To betray an entire belief system once espoused?  To perhaps give rivals a powerful wedge against future political ambitions?

The key to successful, permanent maintenance lies in a healthy respect for the damaging effects of the food that got you fat.  To avoid being overwhelmed again, each maintainer needs to build many walls of defense.  Otherwise, and sadly, he might easily find himself eating more than his words.

Is Belly Fat the Worst Kind of Fat?

by Emily Milam

While excess belly fat may allow for a more impressive splash when flopping into the pool, it also packs some not so stellar abilities, like leading to higher cholesterol levels and increased risks for cardiovascular disease[1][2]. What’s more, belly fat — also known as visceral fat, abdominal fat, or central adiposity — can lead to type 2 diabetes, a disease that causes blood sugar levels to rise dangerously high[3]. The good news? Some types of midsection weight are less worrisome than others.

Tubby Tummies — Why It Matters


Photo by Jess Ivy

So why aren’t jelly bellies and thunder thighs equally bad? Of course, excess fat anywhereon the body can contribute to cardiovascular disease and diabetes, but not all fat is created equal: Geography matters[4].

Abdominal fat is stored in two different ways. First, there is subcutaneous fat (the pinchable stuff!), which sits between the skin and the abdominal wall. This fat is more of a holding tank for extra calories, and is less of a health threat since it does not directly surround organs and the blood vessels that keep them healthy[5]Visceral fat, however, sits deeper in the stomach and blankets the abdominal organs[6]. Now, everyone has some amount of visceral fat, but concerns surface when this inner fat exceeds normal levels. In some cases, the fat can invade the organs themselves (a common occurrence in the liver)[7]The organ-swaddling visceral fat negatively affects organ function and integrity by increasing inflammation, clogging blood supplies (which prevents nutrient and oxygen delivery to organs), and eventually causing insulin resistance. Insulin resistance, a pre-cursor to diabetes, is a condition by which the body’s muscle, fat, and liver no longer respond properly to circulating insulin supplies[8]. This means that insulin — a hormone made in the pancreas that tells glucose to enter the body’s cells to fulfill their energy needs — can’t do its job. The result? The body’s cells starve while the excess glucose accumulates in the blood, ultimately damaging organs and vessels throughout the body. What’s more, visceral fat cells also produces hormones that regulate weight and appetite, sometimes leading to further weight gain or increased feelings of hunger[9].

Getting Waisted — The Answer/Debate

They say America is a melting pot, but let’s think of it as a fruit basket. Different body shapes are associated with each gender and type of fat[10]Pear-shaped women have more padding around the butt and thighs (hence, apple bottom jeans — not be confused with apple shape!). These areas harbor mostly subcutaneous fat. Apple-shaped men and women, or those with fat around the middle, have more visceral fat (the dangerous kind). Banana-shaped are relatively thin throughout, or have a more equal distribution of fat. And we can’t forget beer bellies! Beer guzzlers beware — tummies full of Budweiser also count as dangerous visceral fat[11][12].

While calculating body mass index (BMI) is a helpful tool to assess the overall health of an individual’s weight, determining a waist-to-hip ratio with a measuring tape is a better method to pinpoint belly fat[13]Calculate waist-to-hip ratio by dividing the waist’s circumference at its narrowest point (use the belly button as a guide) by the hips’ circumference at their widest points (near the top of the bony protrusions). Ratios of 0.8 and below are healthy, and those above 0.8 suggest an increased risk for heart disease and diabetes. Some studies have found waist circumference to be a better determinant and to better express the amount of belly fat present[14]. Measure waist circumference at the spot right above the hip bones right afer breathing out. Risk for developing obesity-related health problems (like cardiovascular disease) increases in women with waists larger than 35 inches and in men with a circumference large than 40 inches.

Ready to battle the bulge? Thankfully, visceral fat typically surrenders to diet and exercise. Trim the fat with the four pillars of a healthy middle: exercise, diet, sleep, and stress management. While core exercises such as the plank and crunches will firm up abs, they won’t blast the belly fat that lies underneath. Instead, try moderate or vigorous intensity aerobic activity — recent research suggests that sprinting is the best way to lose the love handles[15][16][17]. Complement aerobics with diets low in saturated fat, cholesterol, and carbohydrates (beer lovers, beware), and considerprotein-rich meals and low-fat snacks[18]. And don’t forget to manage life stressors and catch plenty of Zzzs — increased cortisol levels (the stress hormone) and lack of sleep are both tied to abdominal weight gain[19][20].

The Takeaway

Belly (aka visceral) fat can be more harmful than other types in terms of leading to bigger health issues. The good news? It also surrenders more easily to improved fitness and diet than other types!

This article was read and approved by Greatist experts Sherry Pagoto and Lisa Moskovitz

What do you think about the debate between BMI or waist circumference being the better determinant of health risks? Join the conversation in the comments section below! 

Works Cited

  1. Visceral fat positively correlates with cholesterol synthesis in dyslipidaemic patients. Lupattelli, G., Pirro, M., Mannarino, M. et al. Internal Medicine, Angiology and Atherosclerosis, Department of Clinical and Experimental Medicine, University of Perugia, Italy. European Journal of Clinical Investigation, 2012 Feb;42(2):164-70. []
  2. Cardiovascular disease under the influence of excess visceral fat. Despres, J. Québec Heart Institute, Québec, QC, Canada. Critical Pathways in Cardiology, 2007 Jun;6(2):51-9. []
  3. Insulin resistance and body fat distribution. Yamashita, S., Nakamura, T., Shimomura, I., et al. Second Department of Internal Medicine, Osaka University Medical School, Japan. Diabetes Care, 1996 Mar;19(3):287-91. []
  4. Abdominal visceral and subcutaneous adipose tissue compartments: association with metabolic risk factors in the Framingham Heart Study. Fox, C., Massaro, J., Hoffman, U., et al. National Heart, Lung and Blood Institute’s Framingham Heart Study, Framingham, Mass, USA. Circulation,  2007 Jul 3;116(1):39-48. []
  5. Beneficial effects of subcutaneous fat transplantation on metabolism. Tran, T., Yamamoto, Y., Gesta, S. et al. Joslin Diabetes Center and Harvard Medical School, Boston, MA. Cell Metabolism, 2008 May;7(5):410-20. []
  6. Metabolic obesity: the paradox between visceral and subcutaneous fat. Hamdy, O., Porramatikul, S., Al-Ozairi, E. Joslin Diabetes Center, Harvard Medical School, Boston, MA, USA. Current Diabetes Review, 2006 Nov;2(4):367-73. []
  7. Obesity, Visceral Fat, and NAFLD: Querying the Role of Adipokines in the Progression of Nonalcoholic Fatty Liver Disease. Mirza, M. SpR Surgery, Ninewells Hospital, Dundee, UK. ISRN Gastroenterology, 2011;2011:592404. []
  8. Brown fat lipoatrophy and increased visceral adiposity through a concerted adipocytokines overexpression induces vascular insulin resistance and dysfunction. Gomez-Hernandez, A., Otero, Y., de las Heras, N., et al. Biochemistry and Molecular Biology Department, School of Pharmacy, Complutense University of Madrid, Madrid, Spain. Endocrinology, 2012 Mar;153(3):1242-55. []
  9. Adipose tissue as an endocrine organ. Galic, S., Oakhill, J., and Steinberg, G. St. Vincent’s Institute of Medical Research and Department of Medicine, University of Melbourne, Melbourne, Victoria, Australia. Molecular and Cellular Endocrinology, 2010 Mar 25;316(2):129-39. []
  10. A weight shape index for assessing risk of disease in 44,820 women. Rimm, A., Hartz, A., and Fischer, M. Department of Medicine, Medical College of Wisconsin, Milwaukee. Journal of Clinical Epidemiology, 1988;41(5):459-65. []
  11. The association of lifetime alcohol use with measures of abdominal and general adiposity in a large-scale European cohort. Bergmann, M., Schutze, M., Steffen, A., et al. Department of Epidemiology, German Institute of Human Nutrition Potsdam-Rehbrücke, Nuthetal, Germany. European Journal of Clinical Nutrition, 2011 Oct;65(10):1079-87. []
  12. Relationship of abdominal obesity with alcohol consumption at population scale. Scroder, H., Morales-Molina, J., Bermejo, S., et al. Lipids and Cardiovascular Epidemiology Research Unit, Institut Municipal d’Investigació Mèdica, Barcelona, Spain. European Journal of Nutrition, 2007 Oct;46(7):369-76. []
  13. Body mass index, waist circumference and waist:hip ratio as predictors of cardiovascular risk–a review of the literature. Huxley, R., Mendis, S., Zhelezyakov, E., et al. Renal and Metabolic Division, The George Institute for International Health, The University of Sydney, Sydney, Australia. European Journal of Clinical Nutrition, 2010 Jan;64(1):16-22. []
  14. Waist circumference in children and adolescents correlate with metabolic syndrome and fat deposits in young adults. Spolidoro, JV, Pitrez Filho, ML, Vargas LT, et al. Medical School of the Pontifficia Universidade Catolica do RS, Moinhos de Vento Hospital, Porto Alegre, Brazil. Clinical Nutrition, 2012 Jul 28. []
  15. A systematic review and meta-analysis of the effect of aerobic vs. resistance exercise training on visceral fat. Ismail, I., Keating, S., Baker, M., et al. Discipline of Exercise and Sport Science, University of Sydney, Sydney, New South Wales, Australia. Obesity Reviews, 2012 Jan;13(1):68-91. []
  16. Effects of aerobic vs. resistance training on visceral and liver fat stores, liver enzymes, and insulin resistance by HOMA in overweight adults from STRRIDE AT/RT. Slentz, C., Bateman, L., Willis, L., et al. Div. of Cardiology, Dept. of Medicine, Duke Univ. Medical Center, Durham, NC, USA. American Journal of Physiology: Endocrinology and Metabolism, 2011 Nov;301(5):E1033-9. []
  17. The effect of high-intensity intermittent exercise on body composition of overweight young males. Heydari, M., Freund, J., Boutcher, S.H. School of Medical Sciences, Faculty of Medicine, University of New South Wales, Sydney, Australia. Journal of Obesity, 2012;2012:480467. []
  18. Relationship between bread consumption, body weight, and abdominal fat distribution: evidence from epidemiological studies. Bautista-Castano, I. and Serra-Marjem, L. Department of Clinical Sciences, University of Las Palmas de Gran Canaria, Las Palmas de Gran Canaria, Spain. Nutrition Reviews, 2012 Apr;70(4):218-33. []
  19. Stress-induced cortisol response and fat distribution in women. Moyer, A., Rodin, J., Grilo, C., et al. Department of Psychology, Yale University, New Haven, CT, USA. Obesity Research, 1994 May;2(3):255-62. []
  20. Obesity and metabolic syndrome: Association with chronodisruption, sleep deprivation, and melatonin suppression. Reiter, R., Tan, D., Korkmaz, A., et al. Department of Cellular and Structural Biology, UT Health Science Center , San Antonio, Texas USA. Annals of Medicine, 2011 Jun 13. []

Michelle Pfeiffer on Piers Morgan Tonight: Why I Became Vegan

Check out Piers Morgan tonight at 9 pm est on CNN when Dr. Sanjay Gupta interviews Michelle Pfeiffer.  After having what she thought was a healthy diet, she discovered she had high cholesterol.

Michelle Pfeiffer admits in a new interview that vanity played a part in her decision to adopt a vegan lifestyle, but she adds that more than anything it was because of a desire to live a healthier life.

The 54-year-old actress tells Dr. Sanjay Gupta on Monday’s edition of “Piers Morgan Tonight” that watching his documentary, “The Last Heart Attack,” gave her plenty of food for thought.

“I was finishing up working on, I think it was ‘Dark Shadows,'” she says. “And I was watching CNN, and ‘The Last Heart Attack’ came on.”

As she was watching the documentary, which explores preventative measures for heart disease, it was former President Bill Clinton’s story that really hit home.

Pfeiffer, who considers herself to also be a “foodie,” watched Clinton and said, “OK, Bill Clinton loves food, so there must be something to [veganism] that’s making him stick to it. And also, he’s smart, so he’s not going to do something unless he really thinks there’s some science behind it.”

After reading the book “Prevent and Reverse Heart Disease,” which advocates for a plant-based, oil-free diet, Pfeiffer says her mind was made up.

“I just felt like…there was science behind it,” she says. “And, you know, it was sort of irrefutable. … I couldn’t not listen to it. My father died from cancer, and the older you get, there’s a lot of disease around you. And you see people struggling with chronic disease. You see people dying with terminal illnesses. And if in any way …. this is true, then you kind of have to listen to it.”

As someone who loves carbs, Pfeiffer says she’s enjoying the vegan diet, and has her husband of 19 years, David E. Kelley, trying to make the switch.

The older she gets, Pfeiffer says of her views on diet, the more her focus and intent is geared toward living a longer life.

“Vanity is right under there,” she admits, “but I have to say that it’s a close second with wanting to live long.”

Watch the full interview with Michelle Pfeiffer when she stops by “Piers Morgan Tonight” at 9 p.m. ET.

Watch Piers Morgan Tonight weeknights 9 p.m. ET. For the latest from Piers Morganclick here.

Just Dropping a Few Pounds Can Reduce Risk of Getting Breast Cancer

Want to lose weight for summer but can’t find the motivation to start making healthier choices?  How about reducing your Breast Cancer Risk?

CLEVELAND – Need a reason to drop a few pounds? A new study finds that even a moderate decrease in weight could help reduce breast cancer risks.

Researchers at Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research Center in Seattle compiled date from sedentary post-menopausal women who were overweight or obese.

They found even a five percent, weight loss can reduce the levels of circulating estrogens. Those hormones are linked with an increased breast cancer risk.

Researchers said a healthy diet is also key and that it’s never too late to make lifestyle changes.

The study is published in the Journal of Clinical Oncology.

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