Heart health and physical activity

New research, appearing in the European Heart Journal, suggests that lack of physical activity can drastically increase the risk of a heart attack in the long-term, even if there are no symptoms at present.
running and heart fitness
Exercise that raises the heart rate, such as running, may cut heart attack risk by half, suggests a new study.

Cardiorespiratory fitness describes the body’s ability to deliver oxygen to the muscles when we are engaged in physical activity. Specifically, the term refers to “the efficiency of the heart, lungs and vascular system.”

A significant body of research has linked cardiorespiratory fitness with a variety of positive health outcomes, ranging from preventing cardiovascular disease and all-cause mortality to staving off diabetes and improving insulin resistance.

However, most of these previous studies have relied on the participants’ self-reported levels of fitness.

New research uses more precise methods of measuring cardiorespiratory fitness and highlights another one of its benefits.

Higher fitness levels can halve the risk of heart attack, the new study finds. Conversely, suggest the researchers, poor fitness levels can raise future risk even in the absence of warning symptoms in the present.

Bjarne Nes, from the Norwegian University of Science and Technology’s Cardiac Exercise Research Group in Trondheim, is the corresponding and last author of the study.

Studying fitness levels and heart attack risk

Nes and his colleagues analyzed the cardiorespiratory fitness of more than 4,500 people who took part in an extensive health survey called HUNT3.

None of the participants had a history of cardiovascular disease, lung disease, cancer, or high blood pressure at the start of the study.

Just over 50 percent of the participants were women, and more than 80 percent of all of them were at “low risk” of developing cardiovascular disease over a 10-year period.

The scientists used a “gold-standard method” — or maximum oxygen uptake — to directly measure the participants’ fitness levels.

Maximum oxygen uptake refers to the maximum amount of oxygen the body can absorb during exercise. According to Nes, it is “the most precise measure of fitness.”

High fitness halves the risk of heart attack

By the end of the study, 147 of the participants had heart attacks or had developed angina pectoris — two conditions caused by blocked or narrowed coronary arteries.

The analysis by the researchers revealed a correlation between declining cardiovascular risk and increased fitness levels.

“Even among people who seem to be healthy, the top 25 percent of the most fit individuals actually have only half as high a risk as the least fit 25 percent,” reports Nes.

Furthermore, even a small improvement in cardiorespiratory fitness saw significant benefits for heart health. Namely, each fitness increase of 3.5 points correlated with a 15 percent lower risk of heart attack or angina.

“We found a strong link between higher fitness levels and a lower risk of heart attack and angina pectoris over the 9 years following the measurements that were taken,” says Nes.

“We know that patients with low oxygen uptake are at increased risk of premature death and cardiovascular disease,” he continues.

Our study shows that poorer fitness is an independent risk factor for coronary artery disease, even among healthy women and men who are relatively fit.”

Bjarne Nes

‘Use training as preventive medicine’

Dr. Jon Magne Letnes, the study’s first author, also further comments on the findings. “Our results should encourage people to use training as preventive medicine,” Dr. Letnes says.

“A few months of regular exercise that gets you out of breath can be an effective strategy for reducing the risk of cardiovascular disease.”

Dr. Letnes explains that cardiorespiratory fitness offers insights into so much more than just endurance to exercise.

“Fitness isn’t just a measure of how much you’ve trained in your life, but it also tells you what kind of genes you have,” he says.

“Other factors like obesity may also affect fitness. So we measure a lot of the body’s functions, and from other studies, we know that both genes and physical activity play a role in how your heart and blood vessels function,” Dr. Letnes explains.

The study’s first author thinks doctors should consider fitness measurements when evaluating heart disease risk.

“Although it may be inconvenient and difficult to measure oxygen uptake at the doctor’s office, some simple and relatively accurate calculators exist that can provide a good estimate of fitness and disease risk,” he advises.

Yoga for Children

kids doing yogaYoga isn’t just for moms and dads! The practice of yoga can help center your child, leading them to maintain healthy bodies, improve their school life and help with speech development. Best of all, yoga provides the perfect opportunity to bond emotionally and spiritually with your child.

Your child might feel overwhelmed on a daily basis. Many children today are suffering from a lack of connection to their bodies, to their environment, and to themselves. Our information-saturated, hectic, and stimulus-rich culture pulls kids in many directions, splitting their attention. For many children, it has become too much for their young, developing minds to absorb and process.

More and more American children from all walks of life are overweight, have stress and anger issues, and have attention and learning problems. There is a real separation of mind and body—your child’s attention might be pulled outward toward the ever-increasing distractions of the external world. Overworked parents and overscheduled children often face isolation from their families and their communities. Rather than sitting down to dinner together, it is now quite common for children and parents to communicate mainly via text messaging and e-mail. Does any of this sound familiar?

As mindful parents and adults, we must give our children every tool possible to assist them in counteracting a culture and environment that is potentially hazardous to their health and well-being. Through the use of yoga tools, stories, and play, we can provide children with opportunities to grow physically, mentally, emotionally, and spiritually, helping them connect with themselves and others with compassion, understanding, and clarity.

Healthy Bodies with yoga

In 2012, the CDC reported that childhood obesity had more than tripled in the past thirty years. Children are simply spending more time indoors and less time moving. Even if your child is active, she can still benefit from yoga-based movement. With regular practice, her muscles, bones, and joints will lengthen and strengthen as her overall flexibility is improved. In addition, all of your child’s major bodily systems are supported by movement and improved circulation, including the digestive, endocrine, immune, and respiratory systems. Yoga strengthens your child’s entire body!
Here are some recognized benefits that yoga can provide for your child’s body:

  • Assists neuromuscular development
  • Promotes the development of the vestibular system
  • Increases circulation, uptake of oxygen, and functioning of hormones
  • Encourages motor development on both sides of the body
  • Increases balance, coordination, and overall body awareness
  • Develops core strength, essential for posture and alignment
  • Reduces the risk of injury; improves performance in sports

Improving School Life

Anti-bullying, health and wellness, and character education are all popular topics in American education today. As standardized testing has become more common, so has performance anxiety and stress in students (and teachers). It is not surprising to note that across the world, yoga and mindfulness education are increasingly being incorporated into the classroom day to help address these concerns, and with great results.

Yoga, by nature, supports and maximizes the learning process. Students experience improved concentration and creative thinking, and due to improvement in executive functions, they are better able to prioritize and organize. By doing yoga with your child, you will help him build better relationships with other students by promoting a sense of connectedness. If your child is athletic, a yoga lifestyle will help him maximize his performance by improving his focus, strengthening his muscles, improving his flexibility, and fostering team cooperation. If your child experiences social anxiety, yoga can help instill a greater sense of self-knowing, self-worth, and confidence.

Here’s how yoga can benefit your child’s life at school. Yoga:

  • Brings students into the present moment, ready for learning
  • Encourages community and connectedness in the classroom
  • Helps create a feeling of confidence instead of competitiveness
  • Eases anxiety before test taking
  • Enhances focus, concentration, comprehension, and memory
  • Supports social and emotional learning

Yoga for Speech Development

While yoga is becoming wildly popular with kids everywhere, one significant benefit often overlooked by parents and educators is the aspect of speech development. “Yoga,” “yogurt,” or “woga” classes can help advance a young child’s speech development through slow, repetitive verbal instructions, songs, and the imitation of simple sounds found in nature.

Children with speech delays are often more physical in nature, especially boys. A movement class like yoga can pair physical motion with repetitive sounds, which will likely catch their attention more so than a simple, quiet conversation. For example, a preschooler who has not yet mastered sounding out letters like S and Z might enjoy slithering like a snake, not only attempting to “hiss” but also watching your mouth as you hiss and lower yourself to the ground in Cobra Pose. After repeating this pose in subsequent sessions, he will immediately recognize the word and sound that go along with the pose and hopefully gain the confidence to try to say it himself.

Mindfulness as a weight loss strategy

Mindfulness ‘has huge potential’ as a weight loss strategy. As the holiday season draws to a close, many may be struggling with the extra weight we put on during extensive, food-filled celebrations with family and friends. Can mindfulness techniques come to our aid in getting rid of those extra pounds?
mindfulness
New evidence confirms that eating mindfully can help with maintaining a healthy weight.

According to anecdotal evidence and some existing research, mindfulness techniques can help a person maintain or improve their physical and mental well-being.

For example, these techniques can reduce symptoms of anxiety and enhance cognitive functioning, and it may even improve a person’s immune response.

The principle is very simple: One has to be fully present in the moment, focusing attention on external stimuli and their effects on the body and mind, learning to concomitantly acknowledge and dismiss unnecessary thoughts.

Thus, learning mindfulness techniques can help us tone down the effects of stress and regain more enjoyment in present experiences.  Recently, researchers have suggested that it can also aid people in their weight loss efforts.

A new study from the University Hospitals Coventry and Warwickshire National Health Services Trust in the United Kingdom — in collaboration with other clinical and research institutions — confirms these and similar findings.

“This research is significant, as we have shown that problematic eating behavior can be improved with mindfulness application,” says the study’s first author, Petra Hanson, a research fellow and doctoral student at the Warwickshire Institute for the Study of Diabetes Endocrinology and Metabolism at University Hospitals Coventry and Warwickshire.

Hanson and the team report their findings in The Journal of Clinical Endocrinology & Metabolism, which is an Endocrine Society publication.

‘Enabling appropriate lifestyle decisions’

The research team worked with 53 individuals participating in a dedicated weight management program at University Hospitals Coventry and Warwickshire National Health Services Trust.

Of the participants, 33 took part in at least three of four training sessions, which taught them to practice mindfulness while eating.

Over the next 6 months, the participants who had attended three or four mindfulness sessions lost, on average, 3 kilograms (about 6.6 pounds), while those who had only attended one or two mindfulness sessions lost an average of 0.9 kilograms (around 2 pounds).

Moreover, when compared with a control group of 20 participants who attended the same weight management program but no mindfulness sessions, the individuals who had received complete mindfulness training shed an average of 2.85 kilograms (almost 6.3 pounds) more.

“Surveys of the participants indicate [that] mindfulness training can help this population improve their relationship with food,” explains Hanson. Mindfulness, she explains, can help people change and manage their eating behaviors with more ease.

“Individuals who completed the course said they were better able to plan meals in advance and felt more confident in self-management of weight loss moving forward,” says Hanson, adding, “Similar courses can be held in a primary care setting or even developed into digital tools.”

She expresses hope that “[t]his approach can be scaled up to reach a wider population.”

“Mindfulness has huge potential as a strategy for achieving and maintaining good health and well-being,” comments senior author Dr. Thomas Barber, from the Warwickshire Institute for the Study of Diabetes Endocrinology and Metabolism.

The researcher notes that many pressing chronic diseases are linked, to some extent, with lifestyle behaviors and concludes:

[The] focus should be on enabling the populace to make appropriate lifestyle decisions and empowering subsequent salutary behavior change. In the context of obesity and eating-related behaviors, we have demonstrated that mindfulness techniques can do just that.”

Dr. Thomas Barber

Sense of smell and obesity

A new study has found a link between sense of smell and obesity.  A recent review of this study concludes that people with obesity have a reduced ability to detect and discriminate smell compared with those who are not obese.
Woman using sense of smell while cooking
A recent review highlights a possible link between obesity and olfaction.

Obesity is a medical condition characterized by an excessive amount of body fat.

It is a global issue that affects millions of people worldwide, and it is a risk factor for diabetes and heart disease.

Doctors or nutritionists can identify obesity using the body mass index (BMI). The BMI is a diagnostic tool that assesses if a person is an appropriate weight for their age, sex, and height.

According to the World Health Organization (WHO), global obesity has nearly tripled since 1975.

In 2016, almost 2 billion adults were overweight, of which 650 million were obese. In the same year, 41 million children under 5 years old were overweight or obese.

In 2013, the American Medical Association (AMA) recognized obesity as a disease. The decision changed the way the medical community related to this complex issue. The ruling challenged the widespread idea that obesity is the direct consequence of eating too much and not doing enough physical activity. The AMA argued that “some people do not have complete control of their weight.”

Surprising link between weight and smell

The relationship between the sense of smell and body weight was a relatively unknown area of scientific study and knowledge, up until now. Researchers from the University of Otago in New Zealand recently discovered a surprising link between obesity and the ability to smell. The team published its findings in Obesity Reviews.

The study involved researchers from Otago’s Departments of Food Science, Anatomy, and Mathematics/Statistics. The scientists gathered scientific papers regarding the link between body weight and sense of smell. They also collected information of nearly 1,500 individuals from “empirical and clinical worldwide studies.”

“After compiling our evidence, we found there is, in fact, a strong link between a person’s body weight and their smell ability — the better a person can smell, the more likely the person is to be slim, or vice versa,” says Dr. Mei Peng, lead author of the study, from the University of Otago’s Department of Food Science.

Dr. Peng added that smell plays a critical role when it comes to eating behavior because it affects the way we identify and choose between different flavors. A poor sense of smell may result in people making unhealthful food choices, which can increase their risk of obesity.

For example, they might choose, or be more attracted to, saltier and tastier foods such as bacon and maple syrup instead of blander foods, such as low-fat cereal with less sugar.”

Dr. Mei Peng

Weight loss surgery could improve the sense of smell

The researchers found that people who were closer to obesity had a reduced ability to smell and identify odors. Based on these findings, the researchers hypothesized that obesity alters a person’s metabolism, which affects communication pathways between the gut and brain.

To re-establish the pathway between the gut and brain, researchers considered the effects of two surgical obesity treatments. They looked at stomach removal and gastric bypass (a surgical procedure which involves dividing the stomach into two pouches and rearranging the small intestine to connect to both).

The findings showed that stomach removal could improve the sense of smell, while other obesity surgeries do not have the same effect.

“Cutting the stomach could change nerves in the stomach that affect the gut-brain pathway, so smell changes could be the key to the difference between the two surgeries — essentially, the smaller size of the stomach might not be the factor that leads to weight loss, it is more likely due to the gut-brain pathway being reset,” Dr. Peng concludes.

Dr. Peng hopes that these findings will increase awareness around the critical relationship between eating habits and senses. This groundbreaking study could deepen our knowledge of the role that “reward-factor smell has in various body-shape groups.”

Butt exercises to reduce fat

This post reviews the best ways to lose butt fat. Losing fat from the butt is a common fitness goal. There are many ways a person can achieve this.

There are three major muscles in the butt. These are the gluteus maximus, the gluteus minimus, and the gluteus medius.

Glulteus muscles which make up the buttWhile it is not possible to spot-reduce fat loss in one particular area, cutting down on overall body fat while toning the butt muscles can lead to leaner, better-defined buttocks.

This article details exercises that help people lose fat throughout the body while adding shape to the butt and thigh muscles. We also list other methods that can help people achieve their desired body shape.

Exercises to reduce butt fat

Try the following exercises to lose fat from the butt and to tone the muscles in the thighs and glutes:

1. Running

running works the buttRunning is an excellent exercise for full-body weight loss. Running tones the leg and butt muscles, which gives the thighs and buttocks a more defined shape.

This aerobic activity also improves heart and lung function, and it strengthens the lower body. Also, aside from supportive shoes, it requires no special equipment.

Running is better than walking for fat loss, as it burns more calories. A 2012 study found that over 1,600 meters, people of average fitness burned 372.54 calories while walking and 471.03 calories while running.

However, the study authors conclude that even if a person is unable to take up running, walking is also a very good option for burning calories and fat compared with resting.

2. High-intensity interval training

treadmill for butt

Busy people who want to lose butt fat can take up high-intensity interval training (HIIT). According to a worldwide survey of fitness trends for 2018, HIIT is the most popular fitness trend globally.

HIIT involves putting maximum effort into one specific activity for a short period. This is followed by a longer period at a slower pace. HIIT sessions are intense workouts, so they tend to be shorter in duration than moderate-intensity activities.

For example, after a warmup period, HIIT may involve the following:

  • running on a treadmill at 7 miles per hour (mph) for 1 minute
  • running for 2 minutes at 5 mph
  • repeating this pattern for 15 minutes or so before cooling down

Research from 2011 suggests that HIIT may be more effective at reducing body fat than other types of exercise.

Another study reports that HIIT is a good strategy for controlling obesity because of its time-efficiency.

3. Step-climbing

stair climbing great for butt
Climbing steps is an easy way to tone the glutes while also keeping the heart and lungs healthy.

Step-climbing boosts strength and muscle tone in the butt and upper legs. There are various ways to work these muscles:

  • using stepping machines at a gym
  • walking up flights of stairs
  • hiking uphill
  • using a climbing or bouldering wall

Step-climbing can provide other health benefits, too. One small study from 2005 on 15 women found that climbing flights of stairs up to five times per day had a measurable impact on oxygen uptake and reduced low-density lipoprotein, or “bad,” cholesterol.

In this study, the women began by climbing a flight of 199 stairs once each day in week 1, then gradually increasing climbs to five times each day by week 7. They made no other dietary or lifestyle changes while taking part in this study.

4. Squats

squats are perfect workout for buttSquats are a major part of many exercise plans. This is likely due to their ability to work several muscles in the butt, legs, and abdomen at the same time.

One 2009 study, which appeared in the Journal of Orthopaedic and Sports Physical Therapy, examined the effects of various exercises on the gluteus maximus and gluteus medius.

The scientists found that single-leg squats were a good option for activating both the gluteus maximus and the gluteus medius.

To perform a single-leg squat:

  • Extend the arms in front of the body.
  • Stand on the left leg and extend the right leg straight in front, as high as possible.
  • Slowly lower the butt as close as possible to the floor while keeping the leg elevated. The back should be straight and the left knee in line with the left foot.
  • Return to the starting position. Repeat several times before switching to the right leg.

If it is not possible to perform one-leg squats, regular squats are also effective. To do these:

  • Extend the arms in front of the body. Keep the feet shoulder-width apart.
  • Slowly lower the butt as close as possible to the floor, without losing balance. The back should be straight, and the knees should not travel out in front of the toes.
  • Return to the starting position. Repeat several times.
  • To increase the intensity, hold weights in the hands while squatting.

Another variation is the split-squat, during which a person performs squats with their legs apart. A small-scale 2017 study found that split-squats had the highest impact on the gluteus maximus, compared with deadlifts and good-mornings.

5. Lunges

lunges for butt

Lunges are another lower-body strength exercise that activates and tones the gluteus maximus. Variations include sideways, forward, and transverse lunges.

The basic forward lunge also works the thighs and calves. To perform a lunge:

  • Stand with the feet hip-distance apart.
  • Take a large step forward with the left leg.
  • Slowly lower the body, bending both knees to 90 degrees. Do not allow the right knee to touch the ground or the left knee to travel past the toes of the left foot.
  • Return to the standing position. Repeat several times.

6. One-leg deadlift

One-leg deadlift with weight great for butt

Deadlifts work the lower body, improve balance, and strengthen the abdominal muscles and lower back. Doing one-leg deadlifts also activates the gluteus muscles.

Follow these instructions to do a one-leg deadlift:

  • Stand on one leg with the hands by the sides.
  • Stretch the other leg out behind. Keep the back flat and the shoulders back.
  • Lean forward from the hips until there is a stretch in the hamstrings. Do not let the chest drop below the hips.
  • Return to the starting position. Repeat several times, then switch sides.

If this is too intense, lightly rest the non-supporting leg on the floor. To increase the exercise intensity, use hand-held weights.

7. Side-lying hip abduction

Side-lying hip abductions work the butt

Side-lying hip abduction exercises are effective for strengthening the gluteus medius muscle. To do this exercise:

  • Begin by lying on one side and supporting the head with the arm or hand. Keep the knees straight and feet together.
  • Slowly raise the top leg as high as possible without turning the pelvis backward or forward.
  • Lower the leg slowly to return to the starting position. Repeat several times on each side.

Use ankle weights to increase the intensity of this exercise.

8. Lateral band walk

Strengthen and stabilize the hips and knees with a lateral band walk, which also works the gluteus medius muscle. This exercise is a useful warmup activity before running, jumping, and other activities.

To do the lateral band walk:

  • Take a resistance band and place it under the balls of the feet. Ensure that the band stays flat against the shoes.
  • Stretch the legs to shoulder-width apart. Distribute the weight evenly over both feet.
  • Bending the knees slightly to achieve a semi-squat position, squeeze the glutes and core muscles.
  • With one foot, take a small step of around 3 inches to the side. Move t

Tiny implants may boost weight loss

As obesity rates soar, tiny implants which modify digestive processes appear to be the new trend in controlling or reversing obesity. The hunt for innovative interventions using tiny implants is more pressing than ever. According to a recent paper, a tiny, battery-free implant could offer fresh hope.
tiny implants
Researchers Guang Yao (left) and Xudong Wang (right) hold the small implantable device.
Image credit: Sam Million-Weaver

Obesity is a growing concern; today, experts class well over one-third of people in the United States as obese.

Globally, an estimated 4 million people died of conditions related to a high body mass index (BMI) in 2015 alone.

These worrying trends mean scientists are focused on understanding the causes, risk factors, and implications of obesity.

The reason why obesity develops in certain people and not others is multifaceted, involving genetic, hormonal, and psychological factors, among others.

The direct cause of excess weight, however, is the ingestion of more calories than the body uses. Some scientists are trying to find ways to trick the brain into consuming less food.

New tiny implants technology

Recently, researchers from the University of Wisconsin-Madison tested a groundbreaking, high-tech solution.

The scientists designed a small, implantable device that they hope will reduce hunger pangs and help people lose weight.

The device, which is less than 1 centimeter across, can be implanted using a minimally invasive technique.

Consisting of a flexible nanogenerator, it sends small pulses of electricity through the vagus nerve, which passes messages between the stomach and the brain.

This mild stimulation convinces the brain that the stomach is full and reduces feelings of hunger.

Importantly, the device does not need a battery or charging. Instead, it gets its power from the churning motion of the stomach during peristalsis.

Because the movement of the stomach provides the device with its power, it only works when the arrival of food causes the stomach to move; this means that the device is only active at the precise time its signals will be effective.

“The pulses correlate with the stomach’s motions, enhancing a natural response to help control food intake,” explains author Xudong Wang, who is a professor of materials science and engineering.

To test the device, the researchers used a rat model, and they have published their findings in the journal Nature Communications. The results have encouraged the authors, as they explain:

We successfully demonstrated this strategy on rats and achieved 38 percent weight loss in as short as 15 days without further rebound, exceeding all current electrical stimulation approaches.”

No obvious safety issues

Importantly, the implant stayed in the correct position throughout the 12-week trial. Furthermore, there were no measurable negative impacts on the rats’ kidney or liver functions and no signs of infection.

The researchers carried out postmortem examinations on most of the animals’ vital organs and found no adverse effects.

When they compared the tiny implants with other weight-loss devices, it had several benefits. Gastric bypass surgery, for instance, permanently reduces the capacity of the stomach, whereas, the new implant is fully reversible, and the implant procedure is much less invasive.

This is not the only implant that stimulates the vagus nerve to reduce hunger pangs. There is a competitor that goes by the name of Maestro, which the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has approved. However, Maestro requires ongoing maintenance and up to 3 hours of charging each week.

The new tiny implants have no battery or wiring, as Wang explains, “It’s automatically responsive to our body function, producing stimulation when needed. Our body knows best.”

Also, Maestro uses high-frequency jolts to completely shut down the vagus nerve, rather than the intermittent pulsing of the new technology. Because the newer implant only works when it needs to, the body is less likely to overcompensate, which, in the case of Maestro, can slowly reduce how effective it is over time.

Of course, there is a long path between here and use in humans, but the authors are keen to continue their investigations. Next, they plan to trial the device in larger animals.

Military diet alternative

The military diet requires people to follow a low-calorie diet for 3 days and then return to regular eating for 4 days. Across the first 3 days, the diet restricts daily calorie intake to 1,400, 1,200, and 1,100 calories.

The diet is high in protein and low in fat, carbohydrate, and calories. It also includes specific food combinations to try to boost metabolism and burn fat. Despite its name, this diet does not relate to how people in the military eat.

Information about the military diet suggests that people could lose up to 10 pounds (lb) in 1 week and as many as 30 lbs in 1 month if they continue to follow the diet.

In this article, we take a look at whether this diet works, its potential problems and benefits, and what to eat to follow the plan.

Is the military diet effective?

Woman with a shopping list for the military diet
The military diet is high in protein and low in fat.

A review article in The American Journal of Clinical Nutrition examines very-low-calorie diets (VLCDs) and suggests that they can be effective in helping people lose weight in the short term.

A VLCD allows a maximum of 800 calories per day. People with obesity may need to adopt a VLCD to achieve rapid weight loss before bariatric surgery.

Low-calorie diets are those that allow fewer than 1,000 calories per day.

It is impossible to predict how much weight an individual will lose on a restrictive 1-week diet as everyone is different.

However, people often experience rapid weight gain after stopping one of these short-term diets unless they have put a plan in place to maintain the weight loss.

Meal plan and shopping list

Below is a 3-day meal plan that features on a website supporting the military diet. There is also a comprehensive shopping list for people looking to follow this diet.

People can drink water throughout the day, as well as 1–2 cups of black coffee or tea.

Day 1

Breakfast

  • half a grapefruit
  • one slice of toast
  • 2 tablespoons (tbsp) of peanut butter, ideally a salt-free and sugar-free brand
  • 1 cup of caffeinated coffee or tea

Lunch

  • half a cup of tuna
  • one slice of toast
  • 1 cup of caffeinated coffee or tea

Dinner

  • 3 ounces of any meat
  • 1 cup of green beans
  • half a banana
  • one small apple
  • 1 cup of vanilla ice cream

Day 2

Breakfast

  • one egg
  • one slice of toast
  • half a banana

Lunch

  • one hard-boiled egg
  • 1 cup of cottage cheese
  • five saltine crackers

Dinner

  • two hot dogs without the buns
  • 1 cup of broccoli
  • half a cup of carrots
  • half a banana
  • half a cup of vanilla ice cream

Day 3

Breakfast

  • five saltine crackers
  • one slice of cheddar cheese
  • one small apple

Lunch

  • one hard-boiled egg
  • one slice of toast

Dinner

  • 1 cup of tuna
  • half a banana
  • 1 cup of vanilla ice cream

Vegetarian meal plan

A vegetarian and vegan meal plan is also available:

Day 1

Breakfast

  • half a grapefruit
  • one slice of toast
  • 2 tbsp peanut butter
  • 1 cup of caffeinated coffee or tea

Lunch

  • half an avocado
  • 2 tbsp hummus
  • one slice of whole-wheat toast
  • 1 cup of caffeinated coffee or tea

Dinner

  • tofu (up to 300 calories)
  • 1 cup of green beans
  • half a banana
  • one small apple
  • 1 cup of vanilla ice cream (vegans can use dairy-free ice cream)

Day 2

Breakfast

  • half a cup of baked beans
  • one slice of whole-wheat toast
  • half a banana

Lunch

  • 1 cup of unsweetened soy, hemp, or almond milk
  • half an avocado
  • 2 tbsp hummus
  • five saltine crackers

Dinner

  • two veggie hot dogs without the buns
  • 1 cup of broccoli
  • half a cup of carrots
  • half a banana
  • half a cup of vanilla ice cream (can be dairy-free)

Day 3

Breakfast

  • one slice of cheddar cheese (for vegans, about 15–20 almonds)
  • five saltine crackers or half a cup of couscous or quinoa
  • one small apple

Lunch

  • half an avocado
  • 1 tbsp hummus
  • one slice of whole-wheat bread

Dinner

  • half a cup of canned chickpeas
  • half a banana
  • 1 cup of vanilla ice cream (or dairy-free ice cream)

Shopping list

Peanut butter in a jar and whole wheat bread
The military diet shopping list should include peanut butter and whole-wheat bread.

The following list contains the items of food that people will need to buy for the first 3 days of a week on the military diet:

  • caffeinated coffee or tea
  • one grapefruit
  • two bananas
  • two apples
  • whole-wheat bread
  • peanut butter
  • eggs
  • three cans of tuna
  • hot dogs
  • a small piece of meat
  • green beans (fresh, frozen, or canned)
  • small head of broccoli
  • carrots
  • saltine crackers
  • cottage cheese
  • a small amount of cheddar cheese
  • vanilla ice cream

Disadvantages

Following a 3-day military diet plan can cause several potential problems.

Some of the issues below relate specifically to the suggested meal plans.

Limited nutrient intake

The poor variety on the diet days means that people will struggle to eat enough fiber, vitamins, and minerals. These nutrients are essential for good health, energy production, detoxification, and efficient metabolism.

High in added salt, sugar, and saturated fat

Between the saltine crackers, peanut butter, bread, hot dogs, and cheese, the diet is quite high in processed foods that contain salt.

People should check nutrition labels to make sure that they are not eating more sodium than the recommended 2,300 milligrams a day limit. Where possible, it is best to buy food brands that are low in sodium or contain no added salt.

The hot dogs that the diet recommends eating consist of processed meat. They contain high levels of saturated fat and sodium.

Each day’s meal plan also includes vanilla ice cream, which can be high in added sugar. People could substitute the ice cream for 300 calories of healthful fruit, vegetables, or whole grains, which the plan currently lacks.

A diet that emphasizes high-calorie, dense foods may not feel very satisfying because portion sizes must remain small to keep meals within the daily calorie budget. This approach may not be sustainable.

Calories too low to exercise?

Senior man tired from running
Some people may find exercise challenging on diet days.

Eating fewer than 1,400 calories on diet days may make it challenging to do exercise, especially any high-intensity activities.

Eating enough calories on the 4 days off will allow people to exercise more easily. However, proponents of the diet recommend sticking to fewer than 1,500 calories on these days too.

One small study looking at alternate day calorie restriction (ADCR), also called intermittent fasting, found that combining ADCR with exercise led to greater weight changes than either dieting or exercise alone.

Following a VLCD can prevent people from exercising at all.

Confusing science

The military diet suggests that people who dislike or cannot eat grapefruit swap it for a glass of water with baking soda in it to continue to promote an alkaline environment.

It is true that foods can change pH from acid to alkaline. However, this primarily affects the acidity or alkalinity of a person’s urine. The pH of foods in the diet does not affect a person’s blood or metabolism enough to significantly influence weight gain or loss, although it may affect other aspects of health.

All fruit produces alkaline byproducts in the body. As a result, swapping one fruit with another fruit should be fine.

The high-protein aspect of the diet will make urine more acidic. As a result, it is not suitable for someone experiencing kidney problems or gout.

Advantages

In the short term, the military diet could be beneficial for weight loss.

It is easy to follow because it includes limited foods with simple measurements and cooking methods.

The recommended meal plan for the 4 days off allows for a wide variety of vegetables and fruits, and it also includes whole grains, legumes, and different meal choices.

The plan provides the calorie targets for each food and suggests substitutions for people with food intolerance and other dietary considerations.

The diet focuses on protein, which increases the feeling of fullness, maintains muscle mass, and provides energy for day-to-day activities. It is important to maintain muscle tissue as it contributes directly to a person’s metabolism.

A small 2018 study looked at the effects of following a diet with calorie restrictions on alternate days. The researchers compared the results of the diet with those of exercise in obese and overweight people.

In the participants who were both following the diet and exercising, body weight, waist circumference, and body fat percentage all decreased.

A 2016 review compared a VLCD with an alternate-day-fasting (ADF) diet. The researchers found that ADF was more effective for fat loss and preserving fat-free mass, including muscle.

Due to the military diet’s recommended daily calorie intake of 1,000 to 1,400 calories on the first 3 days, it is not possible to classify it as either a VLCD or an ADF program. Research on VLCD and ADF regimens only looks at diets providing fewer than 800 calories per day.

Although calorie intake on the military diet is too high to count as fasting, the approach of eating normally on the 4 days off mimics the practice of intermittent fasting. Therefore, people may achieve better long-term results by following this diet rather than a low-calorie diet.

Further research is necessary to confirm any specific benefits of the military diet.

Conclusion

The military diet involves restricting calorie consumption on 3 days and then eating a regular diet for the next 4 days. To optimize their weight loss, people may wish to try reducing calories on the 4 rest days too.

Following the military diet may be effective and harmless in the short term, but long-term adherence has associated risks. These include regaining the lost weight afterward, especially if people are reducing their calorie intake on all days of the week.

The diet is very limited in choice and includes some foods that are high in saturated fat, salt, and sugar. It also promotes eating unhealthful processed meats and under emphasizes vegetable consumption.

Adopting healthy eating habits every day is a more sustainable approach to losing weight and maintaining weight loss.

Q:

What is the safest way to lose weight quickly?

A:

There is no one-size-fits-all approach to weight loss. However, overconsuming carbohydrates in the form of sugar is one of the main culprits of weight gain, particularly if a person’s exercise regimen does not match their carbohydrate intake. One cup of sugar provides 774 calories. A person could eat 12 cups of grapes for the same calories, and these have a lot more nutrients and provide more satiety.

To lose weight safely, remove all added sugars from your diet. Scan the pantry, refrigerator, and freezer and remove or avoid products containing any form of added sugar on the ingredient list. These products will include sodas, sweet beverages, cereals, most yogurts, baked goods, and more.

Although it may significantly narrow down a person’s food choices, removing added sugar (and most packaged and processed items in the process) will lower their calorie intake and give them a better understanding of what constitutes real, nourishing food.

New Obesity procedure

New obesity procedure appears to also reduce muscle mass.  A study about a new obesity procedure for the treatment of obesity has raised some concerns. This is because, while the treatment leads to weight loss, the pounds a person sheds consist of skeletal muscle as well as fat. Also, body fat loss seems to be mainly of the subcutaneous — as opposed to the riskier visceral — type.
obesity procedure doctor taking measurements of obese man
Visceral fat can harm health, and some people with obesity resort to surgical procedures to remove it.

Skeletal muscle is necessary for good health; its loss can result in not only physical problems, but it can also impair metabolism and raise the risk of injury.

Visceral fat is the type of fat that surrounds the organs deep inside the abdomen. Doctors have linked carrying too much of it to health problems, such as type 2 diabetes and heart disease.

The new obesity procedure is called left gastric artery embolization. Interventional radiologists have been using it for decades to stop bleeding in emergencies.

However, the idea of using gastric artery embolization to treat obesity is new, and clinical trials are currently evaluating its safety and effectiveness for such a purpose.

The aim of the new obesity procedure treatment is to reduce the effect of an appetite hormone by injecting microscopic beads to block an artery that supplies blood to the stomach.

The study’s findings featured recently at the annual meeting of the Radiological Society of North America that is currently taking place in Chicago, IL.

Need for new cost-effective, low-risk obesity procedures

Study lead author Dr. Edwin A. Takahashi, who is a vascular and interventional radiology fellow at the Mayo Clinic in Rochester, MN, explains that a lot of research has shown that gastric artery embolization can achieve weight loss.

“However,” he adds, “there has been no data on what is contributing to the weight loss, whether the patients are losing fat, as desired, or muscle mass, or some combination of the two.”

Obesity is a significant global public health issue with links to heart disease, type 2 diabetes, cancer, and other serious illnesses and health problems.

Rates of obesity and being overweight have almost tripled worldwide over the last 40 years, according to the World Health Organization (WHO).

The WHO estimates for 2016 suggest that being overweight affects more than 1.9 billion of the world’s adults. This figure includes some 650 million adults with obesity.

While changes to lifestyle factors such as diet and physical activity can work, for many people, these are not enough, and they opt to undergo weight-loss operations that reduce the size of the stomach.

Such surgical procedures have proved effective as treatments for obesity, but they are costly and carry risks and complications.

Left gastric artery embolization

Left gastric artery embolization — if found to be effective and safe — could offer people a less invasive option for the treatment of obesity.

The obesity procedure involves injecting microscopic beads into the artery that delivers blood to the stomach. The radiologist inserts a catheter either in the wrist or groin and uses imaging to reach the artery.

Once released into the artery, the microbeads block the flow of blood through the smaller blood vessels to the stomach. This has the effect of reducing production of ghrelin, a hunger-stimulating hormone.

Early trials have shown promising results that the procedure can help people lose weight. However, there is little information about where the weight loss comes from, and how it affects body composition of fat and muscle.

Dr. Takahashi and his team examined computed tomography scans of 16 overweight people, some with obesity, who had undergone left gastric artery embolization to stop bleeding.

With help from special software that analyzes tissue density, they assessed fat and muscle composition on scans taken before and about 1.5 months after the treatment.

Results raised some concerns by new obesity procedure

All 16 of the individuals who underwent embolization lost a significant amount of weight afterward. On average, they lost 6.4 percent of their body weight in the ensuing 1.5 months.

Their body mass index (BMI) fell by 6.3 percent over the same period.

The weight loss came as no surprise to the researchers; however, what did surprise them was the alteration in body composition.

They calculated that skeletal muscle index reduced by 6.8 percent. This index reflects the quantity of muscle in the body that is attached to bone and helps the movement of limbs and other body parts.

Loss of skeletal muscle can not only reduce physical function, but it can also damage metabolism and raise the risk of injury.

“The significant decrease in the amount of skeletal muscle,” says Dr. Takahashi, “highlights the fact that patients who undergo this procedure are at risk for losing muscle mass and need to be managed accordingly after [the] procedure.”

We must make sure they receive adequate nutrition to minimize the amount of muscle tissue they lose.”

Dr. Edwin A. Takahashi

The results also showed that the individuals lost a lot of body fat; there was an average drop of 3.7 percent in body fat index.

However, most of the body fat loss was due to the reduction in subcutaneous fat. Loss of visceral fat was insignificant over the follow-up.

Subcutaneous fat is all over the body under the skin. Visceral fat is fat that surrounds the organs deep in the abdominal cavity.

Science “has been distinctly linked” carrying excessive amounts of visceral fat to several health problems and conditions. These include impaired metabolism, insulin resistance, increased risk to certain cancers, prolonged hospitalization, and higher risk of complications.

The team now want to focus further studies on individuals who undergo left gastric artery embolization specifically to treat obesity.

Obesity versus Depression

Is depression the cause of obesity or is obesity the cause of depression? Although depression and obesity often come hand in hand, the relationship between the two is difficult to tease apart. A new, large-scale genomic study adds new evidence.

Pensive woman ponders obesity
The relationship between depression and obesity is complex.

Both excessive weight and depression are significant global health problems. According to the authors of the latest research, they cost the global economy trillions of dollars every year.

Previous studies have noted that depression often appears in individuals who are overweight or obese.

However, observational studies have not been able to demonstrate whether obesity causes depression, as there are many competing factors to consider.

For instance, being grossly overweight is a risk factor for a number of conditions, and so it might be that dealing with other health issues increases the likelihood of becoming depressed, rather than the obesity being the cause.

Some researchers have argued that the relationship might be the other way around: depression is a risk for obesity.

Others believe that depression and obesity exacerbate each other. For instance, obesity might make depression more likely to occur initially, but once depressive symptoms arise, they might compound the condition by making it harder for the individual to exercise. In these cases motivation of the individual would be a great place to start.

Obesity and depression revisited

To gain a better understanding of this complicated relationship, researchers from the University of Exeter in the United Kingdom joined forces with scientists from the University of South Australia. They published their results in the International Journal of Epidemiology this week.

“Obesity and depression are both global health problems that have a major impact on lives and are costly to health services,” explains lead author Dr. Jess Tyrrell. “We’ve long known there’s a link between the two, yet it’s unclear whether obesity causes depression or vice versa, and also whether it’s being overweight in itself or the associated health problems that can cause depression.”

The study used genetic data to inspect the causal relationship between excessive weight and depression. The team wanted to understand whether a higher body mass index (BMI) was related to an increased risk of depression without the presence of other health conditions.

The researchers used genetic and medical data from 48,000 people with depression and compared it with in excess of 290,000 controls, making it the largest study to address this question to date.

Psychological impact to blame?

Overall, as expected, a higher BMI was associated with higher odds of depression. This association was stronger in women than men, confirming earlier findings. Women with a high BMI had a 21 percent increase in risk, compared with 8 percent in men.

By investigating individuals with genes predisposing them to obesity but without ones that predispose them to metabolic conditions, such as diabetes — referred to as a “favorable metabolic profile” — the researchers could separate out the psychological component of obesity.

In their analysis, they accounted for a range of variables that could influence the results, including socioeconomic position, alcohol consumption, smoking, and physical activity.

They found that individuals with a favorable metabolic profile were just as likely to develop depression as individuals with obesity that carried genes predisposing them to develop metabolic conditions. This effect was most pronounced in women.

To double-check their findings, they also took data from the Psychiatric Genomics Consortium. And their second analysis returned similar results, adding further weight to their conclusions.

“Our robust genetic analysis concludes that the psychological impact of being obese is likely to cause depression.” Dr. Jess Tyrrell

These results provide vital insight, as Dr. Tyrrell explains, “This is important to help target efforts to reduce depression, which makes it much harder for people to adopt [healthful] lifestyle habits.”

However, the relationship between the two is convoluted, and questions remain. As the authors write, “we have not ruled [out] a possible bidirectional causal relationship between higher BMI and depression […] Further research is required to explore the causal role of depression on body mass index and obesity.”

Because depression and obesity can have profound impacts on individuals and society at large, scientific attention is likely to continue to look at their links.