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”How or why a person gains weight is very complicated, but it clearly is not just calories in and calories out,” said Fred Turek, neurobiology and physiology professor at the Weinberg College of Arts and Sciences and director of the Centre for Sleep and Circadian Biology.

The findings could have implications for developing strategies to combat obesity in humans, as the US and the world battle what has been called an “obesity epidemic”. More than 300 million adults worldwide are obese, including more than a third of American adults.

”One of our research interests is shift workers, who tend to be overweight,” said study co-author Deanna M. Arble, doctoral student in Turek’s lab.

”Their schedules force them to eat at times that conflict with their natural body rhythms. This was one piece of evidence that got us thinking—eating at the wrong time might be contributing to weight gain,” says Arble.

Simply modifying the time of feeding alone can greatly affect body weight, the researchers found, says a university statement.

Mice that were fed a high-fat diet during normal sleeping hours gained significantly more weight (a 48 percent increase) than mice eating the same type and amount of food during naturally wakeful hours (a 20 percent increase).

The study was published online Thursday by the journal Obesity.
Dairy Products

Five helpings of dairy products every day, instead of the three now recommended, can help keep heart disease and diabetes at bay.

New research has shown that a higher intake of dairy products on a reduced calorie diet can help fight obesity, besides cutting down risk of cardiovascular disease and diabetes.

As part of her doctoral research, Wendy Chan She Ping Delfos from Curtin’s School of Public Health (CSPH) compared three serves of dairy with five serves of dairy within a reduced calorie diet prescribed for obese participants over a 12-week weight loss trial.

Participants who consumed five daily dairy serves were found to have higher mean levels of weight loss; higher mean levels of fat mass loss; greater drop of systolic blood pressure; and greater total percentage abdominal fat loss, according to a CSPH release.

”Many people commonly believe that when trying to lose weight dairy products are key foods that they have to cut out of their diet as they are high in fat,” Chan Delfos said.

”Participants who had five serves of dairy and engaged in resistance exercise had similar health benefits to participants consuming five serves of dairy only,” she said.
Coconut Oil

A diet rich in coconut oil keeps fat away and also protects against insulin resistance, a new study shows.

The study also helps explain how people who incorporate medium chain fatty acids found in coconut oil into their diets can lose body fat.

Obesity and insulin resistance are major factors leading to the development of Type 2 diabetes. Insulin resistance is an impaired ability of cells to respond to insulin.

Nigel Turner and Jiming Ye from Sydney’s Garvan Institute of Medical Research compared fat metabolism and insulin resistance in mice fed coconut oil and lard based diets.

”The medium chain fatty acids like those found in coconut oil are interesting to us because they behave very differently to the fats normally found in our diets,” said study leader Turner.

”Unlike the long chain fatty acids contained in animal fats, medium chain fatty acids are small enough to enter mitochondria - the cells’ energy burning powerhouses - directly where they can then be converted to energy.”

”Unfortunately the downside to eating medium chain fatty acids is that they can lead to fat build up in the liver, an important fact to be taken into consideration by anyone considering using them as a weight loss therapy.”

Fat storage is determined by the balance between how much fat is taken in by cells and how much of this fat is burned for energy.

When people eat a high fat diet, their bodies attempt to compensate by increasing their capacity to oxidise fat, said a Garvan release.

”Obese humans usually eat 40-50 percent of their calories as fat. Our mice were fed 45 percent of their calories as fat,” Turner said.

There is no need to spend hours on a treadmill to become fit, as the key to a longer life could be as simple as taking a gentle stroll for just half an hour a day.

According to experts, a daily walk to the shops can cut the risk of early death by 20 percent.

”Our research confirms that it is not just exercising hard that is good for you. Even moderate, everyday activities like walking and cycling can have major health benefits,” James Woodcock of the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine said.

”Just walking to the shops or walking the children to school can lengthen your life - as well as bringing other benefits for well-being and the environment,” he added.

”It is a very important message to get across, that small amounts of light to moderate activity on a regular basis will have quite large benefits.”

The study, carried out by researchers at Cambridge University and the Karolinska Institute in Sweden and published in the International Journal of Epidemiology, said the maximum health benefits were found in people who hardly did any physical activity.

”Large benefits were found in people going from being a couch potato to doing some activity,” said Woodcock.

Diet and movement specialist Joanna Hall agreed with Woodcock and said: “This research is so encouraging because many people are under the impression that in order to incur health, fitness and weight loss benefits they need to exercise vigorously and this is simply not the case.”

”The main barriers for people being more physically active are lack of time and the perception that the amount of effort required will be large. This research shows these needn’t be a concern,” she added.

Fitness expert Kathryn Freeland said: “Anything is better than nothing - going for a walk or playing football with the kids. There is no need to join a gym.”
Protein Foods

Protein is an important nutrient that builds muscles and bones and gives you energy. Protein also helps with weight control because it helps you feel full and satisfied from your meals.

The healthiest proteins are the leanest. This means that they have the least fat and calories. The best animal protein choices are fish or shellfish, skinless chicken or turkey, low-fat or fat-free dairy (skim milk, low-fat cheese), and egg whites or egg substitute. Plant proteins, such as those from beans, nuts, legumes (lentils or soy foods such as tofu or soymilk) can be as healthy or healthier. If you eat red meats, choose the leanest cuts (loin and tenderloin).

High-fat proteins like many red meats, fried fish, and cheeses contain more calories and unhealthy fat. Try to eat these much less often.

If you already show signs of kidney damage, your health care provider will likely have you restrict protein intake and should teach you how to do so.
Keep fat to a minimum

Adult diets should be low in fat, especially saturated fat. Saturated fat, which is the predominant fat in animal products, is more easily deposited as fat tissue than unsaturated fats. Saturated fat can also be converted into cholesterol and cause blood cholesterol levels to rise.

Small amounts of polyunsaturated and mono-unsaturated fats may have some health benefits when they are part of a healthy diet. Polyunsaturated fats are generally thought to lower blood cholesterol levels. Polyunsaturated omega-3 fatty acids, which are found in fish, are thought to have an anti-clotting effect on blood and may lower blood pressure.
Portion Control

What is portion control?

Portion control is understanding how much a serving size is and how many calories  a serving contains. Portion control is important for weight management as the weight is defined by the total calorie intake. Healthy eating, using Aristotle s philosophy, is the desirable middle between the extremes of excess and deficiency (over-eating and not eating enough), the "golden mean." Portion control is eating a healthy balance of amount and types, of varied foods.

Portion Control: Sizing Up Total Daily Portions

According to the USDA, current daily recommendations for a 2,000-calorie diet include:

5 1/2 ounces of lean meat or 1 1/4 cups cooked beans 2 1/2 cups of vegetables 2 cups of fruit 3 cups of low-fat or fat-free milk or the equivalent dairy products 3+ ounces of whole-grain products Keep in mind these are the total amounts of food from the major food groups eaten per day, not per meal, and plan accordingly. If you eat a small steak or a large chicken breast at a meal, you may have all the meat you need for the entire day. Also, a 2,000-calorie diet isn t appropriate for everyone; that may be too much for you. How many calories you need to consume per day depends on your existing weight, height, and how active you are. To find out how many calories per day you need, visit the USDA s food pyramid Web site to get a more personalized breakdown of portion sizes right for you.

Portion Control: Recognizing Portion Sizes

It s not practical to think that you can weigh every food you put on your plate. What you can do, however, is learn to recognize what key portion sizes look like, so help you know the right amount to serve yourself or eat at a restaurant.

Use the same size plates and bowls at each meal so that you can get use to what proper portion sizes look like on each dish. Develop visual cues by matching portion sizes to familiar items.
A three-ounce serving of meat is the size of a deck of cards or a bar of soap.A medium potato is about equal to a computer mouse.A half-cup of rice would just about fill a regular-sized cupcake wrapper.One ounce of cheese is about the size of four dice.Sandwich meat should be equivalent to the thickness of one standard slice of whole wheat bread. Vegetables should be twice the thickness of the meat. Eyeball food portions based on the amount of room they take up on a dinner plate. For example, on an 8- to 10-inch plate, half of the plate should be covered with vegetables, one-quarter with a starch like rice or a potato, and one-quarter with a protein. The plate should not be overflowing and you should see some of the plate between the servings. Portion Control When Eating Out
Controlling portion size when eating out can be a challenge because, in general, restaurant servings are considerably bigger than recommended portion sizes.

"Depending on the fat and water content of different foods, you could eat twice as much as you think or half as much [when eating out]. Also, it depends on the size of the plate, how much cheese is hidden inside the dish and so on," says Susan B. Roberts, PhD, professor in the nutrition and psychiatry departments at Tufts University in Boston and author of The Instinct Diet (Workman). "Even people with a PhD in nutrition like me can t really guess from looking at a plate of food we didn t cook how many calories it has in it!"

However, there are ways to manage portion size when eating out. Lona Sandon, RD, assistant professor in the Department of Clinical Nutrition at the University of Texas Southwestern Medical Center in Dallas offers these tips:

Choose from the children s menu, if the restaurant lets you. "Just because it says 12 and under does not mean you cannot order from it," says Sandon. Have an appetizer or salad for your entrée. Order a la carte from the side items on the menu rather than a main dish. Request lunch portion sizes at dinner, since lunch portions are generally smaller. Ask to have a to-go box brought with your meal and before you start eating, put half of what is on your plate in the box to take home for another meal. This is particularly good to do with deli sandwiches, which are almost always twice the size a person needs, says Sandon. With careful portion control you can have your cake and eat it, too. Just be sure to do it in moderation!
How to Keep Weight at Bay
Eating at Right Time 

Eating less and exercising more to keep obesity at bay might not be enough. Now there is new evidence to show that eating at the right time is also a must for weight loss.

A Northwestern University study has found that eating at irregular times, especially when the body wants to sleep, influences weight gain.