Added On: Tuesday, January 08, 2008

Big Fat lies? Truth on losing weight

You’re feeling overfed and underexercised; it’s time to get back in shape. But of all the myths about losing weight, which ones work?


Men lose weight faster than women
Results from a 16-month study looking at exercising for weight loss, with men and women completing an identical amount of exercise, show that men, on average, lost 11.5lb (5.2kg) while women lost nothing. According to a Princeton University report, the theory is that it may be due to an evolutionary effect. “Nature seems protective of women’s role as childbearer and wants women to maintain adequate body fat for nourishing healthy babies. Hence, women are much more energy-efficient,” the researchers say
Verdict: true

Exercise makes you eat more
There is a belief that exercise is futile as a form of weight control because it increases hunger and you simply eat more. “This is a myth,” says an Aberdeen University report. “Studies have shown that, for most people doing moderate or intense exercise, there is no immediate or automatic increase in hunger and eating. This means that taking up exercise will cause an energy imbalance that leads to weight loss,’’ the researchers say.
Verdict: false

Drinking water helps you to lose weight
Drinking at least eight 0.25l glasses of cold water a day will help you to lose weight, according to a University of Minnesota report. Not only does water suppress appetite, by making the stomach feel fuller, it can lower your weight. “If you don’t drink enough, your body thinks it’s in danger and tries to hold on to all the water it can get. The water is stored between the cells and shows up as extra weight. Without water, your kidneys can’t do their job properly and your liver must pitch in to help. While drinking water is helping the kidneys, your liver can’t burn as much fat, so some of the fat that would normally be used as fuel gets stored in your body instead,’’ the researchers say.
Verdict: true

Running is bad for the knees
Not so, according to a 14-year study of 800 runners and nonrunners approaching old age. The Stanford University study showed that people who had been runners had 25 per cent less knee and other musculoskeletal pain than people who had led sedentary lives. “Our findings add to the evidence that morbidity associated with ageing can be reduced by participating in regular aerobic exercise,’’ the scientists say.
Verdict: false

Diets can’t do any harm
Losing weight at a rapid rate – more than 3lb a week after the first couple of weeks – may increase the risk of gallstones, and diets that provide fewer than 800 calories a day can lead to heart rhythm abnormalities, says the US National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases.
Verdict: false

Lemon juice dissolves fat
Although a good source of vitamin C, it won’t dissolve the fat in fatty foods, says the Food Standards Agency. “The best way to get rid of the fat on meat is to cut it off or choose leaner cuts,’’ the agency says.
Verdict: false

Skipping breakfast causes weight gain
People who miss breakfast are more likely to put on weight, according to a number of researchers. A study at Wageningen University, in Holland, looking at lifestyle differences and weight trends in more than 35,000 Dutch adolescents, showed that those who skipped breakfast were 2.2 times more likely to be overweight. “The most important risk factor for overweight and obesity was skipping breakfast,’’ say the researchers. A study at Harvard Medical School of 6,000 men found that those who ate breakfast reduced the risk of putting on weight by a quarter.
Verdict: true

Low fat means low calories
A common misconception is that low-fat and fat-free foods are also low in calories. According to the US National Institutes of Health, many processed low-fat or fat-free foods have as many as, or in some cases, more calories than full-fat food because they have more sugar and other high-calorie compounds added to improve flavour and texture, which can deteriorate when fat is removed. So, if you’re trying to lose weight, remember to check the calorie content of even low-fat foods.
Verdict: false

Starchy food is fattening
Many foods high in starch – such as bread, rice, and pasta – are themselves low in fat and calories. “They become high in fat and calories when eaten in large portion sizes or when covered with high-fat toppings,” says the US National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases.
Verdict: false

Fat-burning foods
Claims that celery and some other foods can “burn” calories are unfounded, according to the US National Institutes of Health. “No foods can burn fat. Some foods with caffeine may speed up your metabolism for a short time, but they do not cause weight loss,’’ it says.
Verdict: false

Exercise causes acne
Claims that exercise and sweat can cause a form of acne are unfounded. The claims date back 30 years to research which suggested that sportsmen had particular patterns of body acne that might be linked to a combination of the effects of sweat and the mechanical forces on the skin. But researchers at Stanford University School of Medicine have debunked the claims with results showing no link. “Exercise-induced sweat occlusion does not have a significant influence on acne,” they say.
Verdict: false

Protein promotes muscle growth
It’s a myth that a high-protein diet will promote muscle growth, according to researchers at Baylor University. “Many people feel athletes need a high-protein diet to support muscle growth, but researchers have repeatedly proved this to be false. Only strength training and exercise will lead to muscle changes,” they say.
Verdict: false

Lifting weights makes you bulky
Many women are put off weight-lifting as an exercise to lose weight because of concerns about bulking up. According to the US National Institutes of Health, lifting weights, push-ups and crunches regularly can help to lose weight. The institute says that exercising two to three days a week will not lead to bulking: “Only intense strength training, combined with a certain genetic background, can build very large muscles.’’
Verdict: false

No sweat, no weight loss
This is a myth, according to researchers in Baylor University, Texas. They say it is possible to burn a significant number of calories without breaking into a sweat. Dancing, for example, burns up 330 calories an hour, the same as weeding the garden, while walking gets rid of about 280 calories an hour.
Verdict: false

You’re risking a heart attack
It’s a popular belief that exercise can increase the risk of a heart attack. But research in the Canadian Medical Association Journal suggests that doing nothing is more risky. It shows that men who exercise strenuously for two hours and 20 minutes a week have a 40 per cent lower risk of heart problems. “Sudden cardiac death during or after exercise is extremely rare, and physicians should not stop patients from taking part in a regular exercise programme,’’ say the authors of the report in the journal.
Verdict: false

Don’t eat late at night
It’s a myth that late-night eating leads to weight gain, according to a study at Oregon University. No matter when you eat, the body will store those extra calories as fat. “We’ve all been told at one point in our lives that we should avoid eating meals late at night as it will lead to weight gain. However, our research in rhesus monkeys, which are considered an excellent model for studying primate obesity issues, shows that eating at night is no more likely to promote weight gain than eating during the day,” says Dr Judy Cameron.
Verdict: false

Slash-and-burn diets don’t work Cutting out too many calories too quickly can be disastrous, according to a University of California report. “Your metabolism slows down. Your body slows down to adapt to the lower calorie intake, so it can function with less fuel, and it actually begins holding on to every calorie you eat and storing it as fat. This is why people who diet, usually gain back their weight once they start eating normally again,’’ it says. When calories are cut too low, it is mostly water, rather than fat, that is lost, and the body starts breaking down its own muscle protein for fuel, slowing the metabolism even further.
Verdict: true

Fad diets work
The cabbage soup diet, the low-carbohydrate diet and the like all promise to fight fat and shrink stomachs. But, according to a US Food and Drug Administration report, they are not recommended for losing weight. “Fad diets usually overemphasise one particular food or type of food, contradicting the guidelines for good nutrition. They may work at first because they cut calories, but they rarely have a permanent effect,’’ it says.
Verdict: false

Nuts make you fat
Some weight-loss plans restrict nut consumption, but research at the Loma Linda University, in California, shows that eating 20g to 56g of walnuts every day for six months did not result in weight gain, although the nuts added 133 calories to daily intake. “It is a myth that you should not eat nuts if you want to lose weight. In small amounts, nuts can be part of a healthy weight-loss program. Nuts are good sources of protein, fibre, and minerals.”
Verdict: false


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