Xylitol low calorie substitute

Xylitol is a lower-calorie sugar substitute with a low glycemic index. Some research suggests that it may also improve dental health, prevent ear infections, and possess antioxidant properties.

Xylitol is a sugar alcohol, which is a type of carbohydrate and does not actually contain alcohol. It occurs naturally in small amounts in fibrous fruits and vegetables, trees, corncobs, and even the human body.

Manufacturers use it as a sugar substitute because its sweetness is comparable with that of table sugar but with fewer calories.

It is also a common ingredient in many products, from sugar-free chewing gum to toothpaste. People also use it as a table-top sweetener and in baking.

This article looks at the uses and potential health benefits of xylitol. It also covers its side effects, drug interactions, dosage, and alternatives.

Uses

Xylitol sweetener on wooden spoons
A low-calorie alternative to sugar.

Xylitol has a similar level of sweetness to sugar but with a fraction of the calories. It is a popular ingredient in a variety of products, including sugar-free gum and toothpaste.

Manufacturers add it to a range of foods, including:

  • sugar-free candies, such as gum, mints, and gummies
  • jams and jellies
  • honey
  • nut butter, including peanut butter
  • yogurt

It is also an ingredient in some dental care products, including:

  • toothpaste
  • mouthwash
  • other fluoride products

Potential benefits

Xylitol has several potential health benefits, including:

Low glycemic index

It has a low glycemic index (GI). This means that consuming it does not cause spikes in blood glucose or insulin levels in the body. For this reason, xylitol is a good sugar substitute for people with diabetes.

Due to its low GI, it is also a weight loss-friendly sugar substitute.

Also, a 2015 study revealed that it had significant blood glucose-lowering effects in rats that ate high-fat diets.

Dental health

Xylitol is an ingredient in many dental hygiene products, including toothpaste and mouthwash. This is due to the fact that it is non-fermentable, which means that the bacteria in the mouth cannot convert it into the harmful acid that causes tooth decay.

The oral bacterium Streptococcus mutans is largely responsible for plaque, which is the sticky, white substance that can accumulate on the outside of a person’s teeth.

Plaque binds lactic acid against the surface of the tooth. This acid breaks down the enamel and leads to tooth decay.

While it is normal for people to have some plaque on their teeth, excess amounts can lead to tooth decay, cavities, and gum disease.

A 2017 systematic review suggests that xylitol reduces the amount of S. mutans bacteria in the mouth, which reduces the amount of plaque and may help prevent tooth decay.

A 2014 study examined it on Porphyromonas gingivalis, which is the bacterium responsible for gingivitis, or gum disease. If left untreated, excess amounts of P. gingivalis can move into the bloodstream and lead to systemic inflammation.

In the study, scientists grew samples of P. gingivalis in a laboratory and added them to human cell cultures pretreated with xylitol. They saw that xylitol increased the production of immune system proteins and inhibited the growth of the bacteria.

Ear infections

Xylitol may help prevent ear infections.
Xylitol may help prevent ear infections.

The bacteria that cause tooth plaque can also accumulate behind the eardrum and cause infections of the middle ear. Doctors call these infections acute otitis media (AOM).

A 2016 systematic review found moderate-quality evidence that chewing gum, lozenges, or syrup containing xylitol can reduce the occurrence of AOM from 30 to 22 percent among healthy children.

However, a 2014 study found xylitol syrup to be ineffective in reducing AOM in children at high risk of the infection.

These conflicting results indicate the need for more research regarding the use of xylitol as a preventive treatment for ear infections in children.

Antioxidant properties

According to the National Center for Complementary and Integrative Health, free radicals cause oxidative stress, which can lead to cell damage and may play a role in the development of several conditions, including diabetes, cardiovascular disease, and cancer. Laboratory studies show that antioxidants neutralize free radicals and counteract oxidative stress.

A 2014 study revealed that xylitol may have antioxidant properties. Diabetic rats who ate xylitol produced higher amounts of glutathione. This is an antioxidant that counteracts the harmful effects of free radicals. It is important to note that human studies are needed to validate these findings.

Side effects and safety

The United States Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has approved xylitol as a food additive. It is generally safe, but like other sugar alcohols, it can cause digestive issues such as bloating and diarrhea in some people.

It is worth noting that this substance can be very toxic to dogs. It is vital to store products containing xylitol in a safe place that pets cannot reach. Anyone who thinks that their dog has consumed xylitol should call their veterinarian or the Animal Poison Control Center immediately.

Drug interactions

Currently, xylitol has no known interactions with prescription or over-the-counter medications. Always consult a doctor about potential interactions when starting new medications or supplements, however.

Dosage

The suitable dosage of xylitol can vary from person to person. A 2016 review found that adults can safely tolerate between 10 grams (g) and 30 g  per day, which they usually divide into several smaller doses. After the body adapts, adults can consume up to 70 g per day without side effects.

Studies in children have used doses of up to 45 g daily. Some research suggests that consuming around 5–6 g  per day may help reduce plaque-causing bacteria in the mouth.

However, the American Academy of Pediatric Dentistry says that more research is necessary before recommending xylitol to improve dental health in children.

Alternatives to xylitol

Syrup or nectar in a glass bowl
Agave nectar is an alternative sweetener

Manufacturers use a range of low-calorie artificial sweeteners and sugar substitutes to sweeten foods and beverages. Many of these substitutes are also available as table-top sweeteners, and some people use them in baking.

Some substitutes are significantly sweeter than table sugar. However, its sweetness is very similar to that of table sugar.

Other artificial sweeteners and sugar substitutes include:

Sorbitol

Sorbitol is a sugar alcohol with a similar molecular structure to xylitol. Sorbitol does not spike blood glucose levels, so it is a good sugar substitute for people who have diabetes.

Like xylitol, bacteria cannot break down sorbitol into the acids that cause tooth decay.

Erythritol

Erythritol is another sugar alcohol. Similarly to xylitol, erythritol also inhibits the growth of S. mutans.

A 2016 review found that high concentrations of erythritol are more effective at reducing oral plaque than both xylitol and sorbitol. However, xylitol is more effective than erythritol at lower concentrations.

Stevia

Stevia is a natural sweetener that manufacturers extract from the stevia plant. Stevia extract is available in granular and liquid forms. Purified leaf extract is 250–300 times sweeter than sugar.

Like xylitol, stevia can sometimes cause diarrhea and other digestive issues.

Agave nectar

Agave nectar is a syrup that manufacturers extract from the agave plant and use as a sugar substitute in some drinks and foods.

However, agave nectar mainly contains fructose, which bacteria in the mouth can break down into the acids that cause tooth decay.

Summary

Xylitol is a reduced-calorie sugar substitute similar in sweetness to table sugar. It also has a low GI, which makes it an attractive alternative to sugar for people wishing to lose weight and those with diabetes.

Some research also suggests that this compound has antibacterial properties that can help prevent tooth decay, gum disease, and ear infections. However, further research into the potential health benefits of xylitol is needed.

Fat burning foods

Consuming certain fat burning foods can lead to a reduction in body fat. When a person adds these fat-burning foods to the diet, they can burn fat and lose weight over time. Such fat burning foods include eggs, nuts, and oily fish.

The term “fat burning foods” may apply to those that produce fat loss by stimulating metabolism, reducing appetite, or reducing overall food intake.

All foods stimulate metabolism. However, some types of food, such as chili peppers, might have a larger impact on metabolism than others. Eating these foods may lead to weight loss.

Certain foods, such as nuts, can also offset hunger for longer than others. Consuming these foods may help control appetite and reduce overall food intake, leading to weight loss.

In this article, we examine some fat burning foods that could help people lose weight. We also take a look at how best to include these foods in the diet.

Nuts

cashews, almonds, hazelnuts, pistachios and walnuts are fat burning foods.
Regularly eating nuts can help boost energy levels and offset hunger.

Nuts are very nutritious. They are high in protein and good fats, which are both beneficial for offsetting hunger over long periods.

Importantly, people can incorporate nuts into a healthful diet without gaining any weight.

For example, one study from 2011, published in the Journal of Nutrition and Metabolism, found that including nuts in the diet over 12 weeks led to improvements in diet quality, without any weight gain.

Oily fish

Fish is a type of healthful food that contains vital omega-3 fatty acids. Oily fish such as salmon are particularly high in long-chain fatty acids that are difficult to find elsewhere.

Fish is also high in protein. Dietary protein can offset hunger, and it is an important tool for weight loss.

Yogurt

Yogurts can vary in their nutritional content. Plain yogurt, such as Greek-style yogurt, is the most healthful. It contains a variety of vitamins, minerals, and probiotics.

Yogurt also contains different types of protein, such as casein and whey. A study from 2014 that appears in the Nutrition Journal shows that eating high-protein yogurt can have benefits for appetite control, offsetting hunger, and lowering overall food intake.

Split peas

Split pea and lentil stew or curry with chillis are fat burning foods
Split peas are a healthful source of energy and a versatile ingredient.

Peas are high in vitamins, minerals, and fiber. They also contain complex carbohydrates, which are a good source of energy.

Split peas also contain proteins that can offset hunger.

A 2011 study that appears in the Nutrition Journal explains that the protein contained within split peas has a greater impact on reducing hunger than whey protein from milk.

Eggs

Eggs are rich in vitamins, minerals, and other nutrients important to health, report the American Heart Association (AHA). They are high in cholesterol, but there is no evidence to suggest that eating cholesterol causes high cholesterol in the body.

Eggs are also an excellent source of protein and can help control appetite. A study in the journal Nutrition Research found that eating eggs at breakfast had a positive impact on controlling hunger and food intake later in the day.

Chili peppers

Chili peppers contain the chemical capsaicin, which could have benefits for weight loss.

A 2012 systematic review, published in the journal Appetite, shows that capsaicin may increase fat burning and reduce appetite. These effects may help lead to weight loss.

Coconut oil

Coconut oil contains a high level of medium-chain triglycerides. This is a specific type of fat that may have a range of health benefits.

A meta-analysis from 2015, which appeared in the Journal of the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics, found that these medium-chain triglycerides could lead to weight loss. However, more studies are needed to confirm the results.

Many scientists believe that medium-chain triglycerides can increase energy consumption and reduce fat stores.

Green tea

Green tea is a fat burning food
Green tea has many health benefits, such as aiding weight loss.

Green tea is a beneficial source of antioxidants and may have several health benefits. One of these benefits includes weight loss.

A high-quality review from 2012, published in the Cochrane Database of Systematic Reviews, found that green tea consumption led to weight loss in adults who were overweight or obese.

The amount of weight loss was small but consistently present across several different studies.

Adding fat burning foods to the diet

In some cases, it is possible to base a meal on one particular fat burning food. For example, it may consist of oily fish such as salmon with vegetables. Another option is to have eggs with whole-grain toast for breakfast.

For vegetarians and vegans, plant-based meals that are rich in protein can be a useful way to aid weight loss. Mixing fat-burning foods such as split peas with other beneficial sources of protein are one way of doing this. Examples of this include split pea soup, or split pea dal.

It may also be beneficial to choose fat-burning snacks such as nuts. Such snacks are more able to satisfy hunger and control appetite than others, such as chocolate or chips.

Summary

Certain foods can help a person burn fat and lose weight. However, it is important to remember that fat-burning foods must be part of a healthful diet overall. Also, a person must engage in regular physical activity to burn fat and lose weight.

These foods are unlikely to cause any noticeable fat loss on their own.

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

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.

IIFYM diet technique

IIFYM stands for “if it fits your macros,”. This dieting technique involves counting the number of macronutrients, rather than calories, that a person is consuming.

Unlike diets that involve food restriction, proponents describe IIFYM as a flexible diet that can help people lose weight without drastically changing their eating habits.

Little research has investigated the diet, so its effectiveness has not been scientifically established.

In general, many people can lose weight by eating smaller portions, choosing less energy-dense foods, and increasing their physical activity. This does not have to occur as part of a dietary fad.

In this article, we describe how to follow the IIFYM diet and include potential benefits and risks.

What is the IIFYM diet?

Person writing down macronutrients for iifym diet
People following the IIFYM diet keep track of proteins, carbohydrates, and fats.

The IIFYM diet hinges on the idea that eating fewer calories than the body requires — while still consuming enough protein, carbs, and fats — results in weight loss at a steady and predictable rate.

People following the IIFYM diet keep track of these three macronutrients:

The diet groups fiber with carbohydrates.

A person can consume these macronutrients in varying combinations, as long as the amounts do not exceed the body’s macronutrient needs for the day. This means that, if the calculation balances out, a person can eat any type of food, while still meeting their health or weight loss goals.

How to start with the IIFYM diet

Following the IIFYM diet involves:

  • calculating how many calories you need to maintain your current weight
  • determining how many calories to cut for the desired weight loss
  • grouping these calories by macronutrients: proteins, carbohydrates, and fats

The targets and figures vary, based on factors such as age, sex, weight, height, and activity levels.

Start by using the calculator on the IIFYM website or by following the steps below:

Step 1: Calculate current calorie needs

A person’s basal metabolic rate (BMR), or resting metabolic rate, is the amount of energy, in calories, that their body needs at rest for 24 hours. This energy goes toward essential functions, such as breathing, circulation, and body temperature.

A person can determine their BMR with an online calculator that uses the Mifflin-St. Jeor equation.

To manually calculate BMR:

  • for men, BMR = 10 x weight (kg) + 6.25 x height (cm) – 5 x age (years) + 5
  • for women, BMR = 10 x weight (kg) + 6.25 x height (cm) – 5 x age (years) – 161

Step 2: Adjust calorie needs for activity level

The next step involves factoring in the average physical activity level, as this affects the number of calories that the body uses. This measurement is called total daily energy expenditure (TDEE).

A person can calculate their TDEE using an online calculator, which automatically factors in their BMR. The IIFYM website also provides a TDEE calculator.

Step 3: Adjust calorie needs for desired weight

Subtract 15–20 percent of the TDEE to find out, according to the IIFYM website, how many calories a person should eat per day to achieve their weight loss goals.

Step 4: Determine macro needs per day

The final step is to divide the resulting value into what the website calls “adjusted macros.” This will determine how many macros a person needs, based on their current body weight:

  • protein: calculate this intake at around 0.7–1.0 grams (g) per pound (lb) of body weight
  • fat: calculate at about 0.25–0.4 g per lb of body weight
  • carbohydrates: this value comprises the remaining calories from the adjusted macros score

Sticking to IIFYM in the long term

To follow the IIFYM diet, a person must determine how many macros they are consuming at each meal and track their daily intake to ensure that it is close to their adjusted goal.

For more accurate results, a person may consider using a digital scale to weigh food.

Many macro-friendly recipes are available online. The IIFYM website provides a range of meal plans, including breakfasts, lunches, dinners, snacks, and desserts.

Benefits of IIFYM

The possible benefits of the IIFYM diet include:

Flexibility

Man and woman eating lunch together outside
The IIFYM diet aims to make meals enjoyable and stress-free.

The IIFYM website promises “no more dieting” and “no more restrictions.” It is advertised as a more flexible dieting stylebecause it incorporates more foods than many other diets.

It encourages people to eat diverse foods, as long as they do not exceed their macro targets.

The aim of the IIFYM diet is to make meals more enjoyable, and meal planning less stressful, which may increase the likelihood of sticking to the diet.

Losing weight

A person usually loses weight if they burn more calories than they take in. This often involves cutting around 500–750 calories each day. People may achieve this by following the IIFYM diet.

Similarly, increasing calorie consumption leads to weight gain. People looking to gain weight may also be able to meet their goals with IIFYM.

May benefit those unable to exercise

Because IIFYM takes physical activity levels into account when calculating macros, a person who gets limited or no exercise may find the diet useful.

Negatives of IIFYM

The IIFYM diet may have the following drawbacks:

No focus on micronutrients

Micronutrients, such as vitamins and minerals, are as important as macronutrients for health and development, but the IIFYM diet does not account for their intake.

The body does not produce micronutrients, so a person must obtain them from their diet. A person following the IIFYM diet may not be getting enough of these vital nutrients.

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, more than 2 billion people worldwide have micronutrient deficiencies.

Macro calculations are not flexible

People may have difficulties adjusting their macro requirements to account for changes such as illness, recovering from injury, and breastfeeding.

For instance, research indicates that following an illness, the body needs more calories and protein, namely 1.5–2.0 g of protein per kilogram of body weight per day, to make up for the loss of lean body mass and to promote recovery.

Takeaway

Proponents advertise the IIFYM diet as a flexible method of weight loss. It involves counting macronutrients — proteins, carbohydrates, and fats — instead of calories.

However, little scientific research has looked into its effectiveness.

People following the diet must be sure to consume enough micronutrients, such as vitamins and minerals.

If a person uses more calories than they consume, they are likely to lose weight. An individual can do this by following a healthful diet, reducing portion sizes, and getting more physical activity.

For best results, and to ensure that their dieting plan is healthful, a person may wish to consult a healthcare professional.

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.

Exercise can become habit

Make exercise a habit today. Once you’ve fallen out of the habit of exercising on a daily or weekly basis, getting back into the routine can be brutal. Even when you know working out would lead to more energy and a toned beach body, it can be hard to make yourself get off the couch and head back to the gym or yoga studio.  Sometimes you just need a little inspiration to take that first step in the right direction. Reminding yourself of the many health benefits of exercise, setting weight-loss goals, or picturing how you want to look in your wedding dress or tuxedo can help get you in the right mindset. Then it’s all about finding time to fit in workouts and sticking to that schedule as much as possible to build new habits.

How to get there

Here is a great example of how to make exercise a habit that needs to be understood by those reading this post.  I have a friend who within two years went from 240 pounds to 180 – a net loss of 60 pounds! How did he do it? He made drastic changes to his lifestyle, both in diet and exercise.  He did not kill himself in the gym, merely got on the treadmill and power walked his way slowly until he was able to do 50 minutes at a 12-degree incline, peaking at 4.2 miles per hour. He religiously did this three times a week. It became such a habit that he was able to incorporate it into his weekly routine and it became second nature.  He stopped drinking beer and all sugary beverages.  He adopted a diet that was more agreeable to his body.

Hurricanes can make one exercise without knowing it

Then, a category five hurricane hit and the gym closed for a month.  All of the dietary sacrifices went out the window!  Due to food shortages at supermarkets, he was forced to now eat processed meats, canned goods, and other foods which had been given up long ago.  Bananas, apples, oranges, nuts, vegetables, lean meats and other essential food groups were in short supply.   The days were extremely hot and humid, temperatures peaking at 106 degrees due to the deforestation caused by the hurricane.  Potable and drinking water was also a precious commodity.

So how did he stay in shape? There was plenty of manual work to do during the recovery after the hurricane!  There was plenty of debris to collect and carry away. Gasoline and diesel containers had to be negotiated every day, sometimes several times per day.  The work was intense and sweating profuse.  His place of work was flooded and he spent many hours bailing out water, throwing away more debris until mountains of trash accumulated outside his workplace. When he was able to work out, he followed these simple exercises which did not require his trusted treadmill.  The family organized itself and cooked on a small gas stove.  Small generators were obtained to keep refrigerators running a few hours per day.

When all was said and done, he had actually lost more weight due to the unintended exercise.  Perhaps the anxiety of a bad situation and the survival mode one had to go into was a factor. But this is just an extreme situation, which shows that it can be done!

Make a deal with yourself to start todexerciseay. Go on a short run or a long walk, sign up for a weekly kickboxing or yoga class, or turn on a brief fitness video. Carving out a few minutes per day is the perfect way to ease yourself into a regular routine again. Before you know it, you’ll be pushing yourself to work out a few minutes longer or run another mile farther. You may even find that you crave those workouts and the “me time” and chance to clear your mind that they provide.  Even in times of distress, our bodies will continue to try to accommodate routines that benefit our overall well-being.

 

Nuts and your health

Two new studies suggest that a small daily serving of nuts may benefit overall metabolic health and keep off the weight we tend to gain as we enter adulthood.
serving of nuts
A daily serving may prevent weight gain and improve metabolic health in the long run, two new studies suggest.

From providing cardiovascular benefits to potentially improving fertility, and even boosting memory and intelligence, the health benefits of nuts are numerous — and no wonder.  They are packed with unsaturated fatty acids, fiber, protein, and other beneficial chemicals, which may all contribute to good health.

However, can these dried seeds aid weight loss? Are certain types better able to support good metabolism?

Two new studies delved deeper into these questions. The authors will present the findings at Scientific Sessions 2018, a conference to be held by the American Heart Association (AHA) in Chicago, IL.

The first study — led by Xiaoran Liu, Ph.D., a research associate in the nutrition department of the Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health in Boston, MA — looked at the long-term effects of nuts and peanuts on body weight.

The second study examined the effects of Brazil nuts on satiety, blood sugar, and insulin response.

It was supervised by Mee Young Hong, Ph.D., a registered dietician and a professor in the School of Exercise & Nutritional Sciences at San Diego State University in California.

Nuts prevent weight gain in adulthood

The first study explored consumption in:

  • 25,394 healthy men who had taken part in the Health Professionals Follow-up Study
  • 53,541 women who had participated in the Nurses’ Health Study
  • 47,255 women who had taken part in the Nurses’ Health Study II

The three groups had filled in food frequency questionnaires once every 4 years.

The researchers discovered that replacing foods that had less nutritional value with a 1-ounce serving of nuts and peanuts lowered the risk of weight gain and obesity over the 4-year follow-up intervals.

More specifically, replacing a serving of red meat, processed meat, french fries, desserts, or potato chips with a serving of nuts correlated with significantly less weight gain in the long run.

The study’s first author comments on the findings, saying, “People often see nuts as food items high in fat and calories, so they hesitate to consider them as healthy snacks, but they are in fact associated with less weight gain and wellness.”

“Once people reach adulthood, they start to gradually gain about 1 pound a year of weight, which seems small. But if you consider gaining one pound over 20 years, it accumulates to a lot of weight gain,” Liu notes.

Adding 1 ounce of nuts to your diet in place of less healthy foods — such as red or processed meat, french fries or sugary snacks — may help prevent that slow, gradual weight gain after you enter adulthood and reduce the risk of obesity-related cardiovascular diseases.”

Xiaoran Liu, Ph.D.

Brazil nuts benefit insulin, glucose responses

In the second study, researchers examined the effects of consuming the Brazil variety in 22 healthy adult participants, 20 of whom were women.

The participants added either 36 grams of pretzels or 20 grams of Brazil nuts to their normal diet in two trials. At least 48 hours passed between trials.

The Brazil nuts and pretzels contained about the same number of calories and the same amount of sodium. Both triggered a sense of fullness, but the Brazil type contributed to an increased feeling of satiety.

Forty minutes after the participants had consumed their snacks, the researchers found that the pretzels had caused significant increases in blood sugar and insulin levels, whereas the Brazil nuts had not.

The study’s senior author explains, “While both Brazil nuts and pretzels increased a sense of fullness after they were eaten, eating Brazil nuts stabilized postprandial (after eating) blood glucose and insulin levels, which may be beneficial in preventing diabetes and weight gain.”

Although the study was observational, the researchers speculate that selenium may explain the benefits of Brazil nuts. Prior studies had linked the mineral with better insulin and blood sugar responses, and Brazil nuts are rich in selenium.

However, the researchers caution that because only 9 percent of participants were men, the study’s findings may not apply to all.

Our study allows researchers and clinicians to consider the possible beneficial role of Brazil nuts to help people feel full and maintain a healthy level of glucose, reducing the risk of obesity and diabetes.”

Mee Young Hong, Ph.D.

Dietary supplement brand use

Generational preferences appear to affect engagement with dietary supplement brands.

Conducted by Chicago-based CBD Marketing, the new research indicated that for supplement brands to be most effective they cannot assume one message or marketing tactic works for all consumer ages and types, even if the product(s) have efficacy across multiple age categories.

“It’s clear from our research that the idea that ‘one size fits all’ for product marketing—including social media marketing—is ludicrous,” said Lori Colman, CBD Marketing’s Co-CEO, who presented the findings at this week’s SupplySide West in Las Vegas.

“Our study proves you can’t assume everyone buys your product for the same reason. Products, including supplements, are purchased for different reasons by different age, demographic or user groups. Marketing needs to resonate with, and reflect, audience-specific needs in order to be effective.”

Research details?

Almost half a million social media posts were analyzed, with the data related to dietary supplement engagement interest across three age-segmented groups: Boomers (age 55 +); Gen X (age 35–54) and Millennials (age 18–34). The social posts were generated by men (44%) and women (56%), with Millennials responsible for the greatest volume of posts at 47% of the total.

According to CBD Marketing, all these groups talk about and seek recommendations for dietary supplements on social media platforms, making analyzing social media content a highly reliable barometer of consumer opinions.

Boomers?

Breaking the data down by age group revealed that Boomers represent almost 50% of all consumer spending, and that they spend an average of 11 hours per week online, researching and shopping.

A key focus for this age group is healthy aging, with interest around skin/muscle, joints, eye care, heart health, digestion and brain/memory.

• Boomers want proven benefits and look for products related to healthy aging. They are wary of adverse health effects.

• They prefer pills, vitamins, natural dietary supplements, condition-specific products.

• They avoid products with artificial ingredients, and with stated side effects.

• Influencers include individuals who personify healthy aging, with advice on diet, weight loss and general health education.

Generation X?

This age group is the most time-constrained, and are striving for more of a work-life balance. Their dietary supplement use is mostly around addressing middle-age maladies, and their dietary supplement conversations are largely food focused. Marketing should stress convenience, taste and use in everyday meals, said CBD Marketing.

• They view supplements as a food ingredient.

• They want protein, particularly plant-based protein.

• They prefer products with workout or weight management benefits.

• They don’t want artificial ingredients, vitamin pills or products that have a bad taste or aftertaste.

• Influencers include those who provide recipes, resources and consumer education on food, health and lifestyle.

Millennials?

Protein scoop dietary supplement © Getty Images marekuliasz
© Getty Images / marekuliasz

Most Millennials are interacting on social media every day. They distrust large institutions and their interests lean toward holistic health solutions, sports nutrition, energy and sleep. According to the CBD data, their dietary supplement conversations are very personal and often describe how they feel.

Marketing should highlight how products are personalized to meet consumer needs, are sustainable and natural.

• Protein powder is a very hot topic, especially plant-based. Protein drinks and shakes dominate.

• They want natural ingredients, clean label products.

• Fitness and their own general health and wellness are key.

• They don’t want multi-vitamins, pills, incomplete proteins or anything with a gritty texture or aftertaste. NO to products from big pharma.

• Influencers focus on fitness, personal wellness. Promoting brands is OK.

Marketing impacts of a dietary supplement?

Colman added: “Consumers in all age groups are fueling the growth of the supplement industry, which is expected to be a $278 billion global market by 2024.?

“Even now, in 2018, 76% of U.S. adults report taking supplements—that’s 170 million Americans. To be most impactful with their marketing, the supplement industry needs to tune into nuances that are in plain view on social media.”?

According to data from the Council for Responsible Nutrition’s 2018 Consumer Survey on Dietary Supplements?, 78% of Baby Boomers use supplements, 77% of Gen Xers are supplement users, as are 69% of Millennials.

dietary supplements