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Anti Flat-Belly Foods

April 15, 2014 by  
Filed under Uncategorized

by Mommy MD Guide Ayala Laufer-Cahana, MD

Does the food we eat affect our body composition? Let’s start with the obvious: Caloric surplus makes you gain weight—too many calories in and too few out, and fat accumulates; reverse the equation, and weight is shed.

But here’s an intriguing question: Can the type of food we eat cause fat to accumulate preferentially in the belly? Do diet choices affect how much muscle we build? It’s an important matter, because belly fat isn’t just an aesthetic issue; fat around abdominal organs behaves like a big endocrine gland, affecting insulin resistance and heart health, while fat elsewhere has fewer health implications.

The fat you eat and the fat you store

A double-blind study published in Diabetes, led by Ulf Risérus from Uppsala University in Sweden, looked at what overeating saturated fat versus polyunsaturated fat* does to fat deposits.

Thirty-nine adults of normal weight gained weight on muffins for 7 weeks. They were assigned to eat 750 calories above their normal intake, in muffins made with either polyunsaturated fat (sunflower oil) or saturated fat (palm oil). The researchers chose a plant-based saturated fat (rather than butter, for example) in order to avoid confounding cholesterol effects, and because it’s a popular ingredient in the food industry. Except for the type of fat, the muffins had an identical nutrition profile (similar in sugar, protein, etc.).

As expected, 7 weeks of three extra muffins a day resulted in weight gain—both groups gained about 1.6 kg or 3.5 pounds.

But the extra fat, measured by MRI scans, was stored in different body locations. The saturated fat group stored twice the amount of fat in the abdomen and had significantly larger stores in the liver. The polyunsaturated fat group spread the extra weight in more favorable ways, and had a nearly three-fold increase in muscle mass. Bottom line, in this small study, saturated fat caused more weight to accumulate as fat, and that fat accumulated preferentially in the liver and around internal organs. While participants gained just as much weight on the polyunsaturated fat muffins, they gained more of it in lean, muscle tissue, and less in metabolically active abdominal fat.

Sugar belly

This new study connects saturated fats with preferential belly fat. It is a small study, of short duration, and I’d be curious to see if studies in other populations confirm saturated fat as a fat-belly food.

The food item many people associate with a bulging abdomen is beer, but the beer belly has little scientific support. Soda belly, on the other hand, might be for real.

A study from the University of California at Davis showed that drinking 25 percent of daily calories (which is quite a lot) in fructose for 10 weeks caused belly fat accumulation—and increased triglycerides, cholesterol, and insulin resistance. A recent study found that even moderate consumption of sugary drinks led to measurable undesirable effects after just 3 weeks: Belly fat accumulated, fasting glucose levels and inflammation markers rose, and the lipid profile changed when volunteers drank what amounted to just one can of soda a day.

Another study in the journal Obesity, following 800 people, found that drinking sugary drinks was associated with significantly more belly fat and wider waistlines.

A study in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition adds to that body of evidence with a 6-month study in which a small group of overweight people were assigned to drink cola, skim milk, diet cola, or water, while fat distribution and metabolic markers were monitored. The total caloric intake didn’t differ between the participants, and all the participants gained just about the same amount of weight (almost 3 pounds). On the other hand, the amount of fat in the liver, abdominal organs, and muscle increased significantly in the regular soda group, while it remained unchanged in the other study groups. Blood pressure and triglycerides also rose among the soda drinkers.

A calorie is a calorie when it comes to weight, but not when it comes to health, and these studies suggest that there are indeed foods that make you fat in all the wrong places.

*Most foods contain a combination of fats. Saturated fats are typically solid at room temperature, and include fats that come from animal sources: meat, dairy, and poultry and also from tropical oils such as palm and coconut. Unsaturated fats are liquid at room temperature, and include monounsaturated fats—olive oil and almonds are rich sources—and polyunsaturated fats, which are typical of soybean, corn, and safflower oil, fatty fish such as salmon, walnuts, and seeds such as flax, hemp, and sesame.

Current nutrition understanding is that total fat in the diet isn’t the issue; the type of fat and the total calories we consume is. Present-day recommendations include limiting saturated fats, eliminating trans fats, and choosing foods with monounsaturated and polyunsaturated fats.

Ayala Laufer-Cahana, MD, is a pediatrician, mother, artist, serious home cook, and founder of Herbal Water Inc., in Wynnewood, PA.

Battling the Bathing Suit Blues?

March 5, 2014 by  
Filed under J.Reich

By Jennifer Bright Reich

As I sit in my home office, wearing comfy sweats and slippers, the thought of putting on—worse yet, trying on—bathing suits terrifies me. I’ve tried to maintain my weight this winter, but the fitting-room mirror is likely to tell a different story.

Here are some terrific weight-loss tips that doctors who are also mothers use themselves. These women are so super busy that if a tip works for them, it’s bound to be good. I discovered these tips—and hundreds more—while interviewing for the new book The Mommy MD Guide to Losing Weight and Feeling Great.

“I recently created my own diet. I call it VEGLY. I eat as many servings of vegetables, eggs, grapefruit, lean meats or Lean Cuisines, and yogurt as I want. If I stick with that all day, I earn a treat: a glass of beer or wine or a small dessert. I’ve lost six pounds so far!” —Amy Baxter, MD, a mom of three, the CEO of Buzzy4Shots.com, and the director of emergency research, Scottish Rite, of Children’s Healthcare of Atlanta, in Georgia.

“After my son was born, I worked with a personal trainer. He gave me a simple piece of advice that has really helped: Don’t eat any carbs after 7 pm. I try not to eat at all after 7 pm, but if I do, I’ll have something high in protein, such as a piece of cheese or a hardboiled egg.” —Shilpa Amin-Shah, MD, a mom of two and an emergency physician and director of the recruiting team at Emergency Medical Associates in Livingston, NJ.

“I have a very long commute. Because of this, I ‘live’ in my truck several days a week, driving to and from some rather isolated areas in the Appalachian Mountains. Sometimes, after a hard day of working and driving, I’m almost tempted to pick up a slice of pizza and a bag of chips at a gas station on the way home. A trick I use to eat properly on the run is what I call my “cooler diet.” I put everything I want to eat for the day in a nice, roomy cooler. If it’s not in the cooler, I don’t get to eat it—no questions. So that means I don’t get to eat the chocolate that’s everywhere around me at work, or the yummy-looking cream-filled doughnuts that one of the nurses brings in from the doughnut shop for breakfast. I pack my cooler the night before work with lots and lots of whole and nutritious foods and beverages—apples, pears, oranges, and cut-up veggies with low-fat dip. A couple of bottles of water and some unsweetened tea. A container of yogurt, some string cheese, and a bag full of nutritious trail mix. A box of low-fat granola cereal. I pack as much food as I can fit into my cooler. The only rule I have is that the food I pack must contribute to my overall good health and support a healthy weight.” —Rallie McAllister, MD, MPH, a mom of three, a family physician, and the coauthor of The Mommy MD Guide to Pregnancy and Birth, in Lexington, Kentucky.

“Want to ‘lose’ 10 pounds in an instant? Sit up straight, pull your shoulders down and back, and arch your back to get ‘cheerleader butt.’ By pulling your shoulders down, your neck looks thinner, and with a C-curve in your lower back, your thighs and tummy look thinner. Voilà, you’ll look 10 pounds slimmer.” —Jennifer Hanes, DO, a mom of two, an emergency physician who’s board certified in integrative medicine, and the author of The Princess Plan: Shrink Your Waist, Expand Your Beauty, in Austin, TX.

About the author: Jennifer Bright Reich is a mom of two, cofounder of www.mommymdguides.com and coauthor of the Mommy MD Guides books, including The Mommy MD Guide to Losing Weight and Feeling Great.


The information on MommyMDGuides.com is not intended to replace the diagnosis, treatment, and services of a physician. Always consult your physician or child care expert if you have any questions concerning your family's health. For severe or life-threatening conditions, seek immediate medical attention.