Is Lack of Sleep Making You Fat?

August 4, 2017 by  
Filed under Dietary Patterns, Obesity

If you’re feeling a little sluggish in these dog days of summer, here’s a pretty good reason to start getting more sleep: a new study suggests that skimping on sleep certainly adds pounds.

The study – published in the journal PLOS One – looked at over 1,600 adults in the United Kingdom and found that not getting enough sleep basically makes you gain a clothes size.

Those who got only 6 hours per night had waist measurements that were 1.2 inches greater than those who slept 9 hours per night.

Additionally, the light sleepers also had less favorable lipid profiles, suggesting a metabolic effect in addition to weight when not getting adequate sleep.

So how much sleep should we be getting? Experts don’t EXACTLY agree on a set number, but it’s certainly more than 6! The Mayo Clinic says healthy adults need somewhere between 7-9 hours per night.

Think about turning in early tonight – your gut and your heart will thank you!

Holiday Weight Gain: A Worldly Problem

September 24, 2016 by  
Filed under Holidays, Obesity


Fall is upon us and the holidays are just around the corner. With the season of overeating just on the horizon, it bears mentioning that the typical American gains about a pound from Thanksgiving to New Year’s. That might not sound like much, but year in and year out, that pound adds up and can be a significant contributor to overweigh and obesity.

If it’s any consolation, N. Americans are not alone. In a letter posted in the New England Journal of Medicine this week, researchers posited that weight gain over the holidays is a universal problem. Whether its Thanksgiving in the US, Christmas in Germany or Golden Week in Japan, weight gain was almost an inevitability.

While the authors pointed out that most people lose about half of that holiday weight gain in the first few weeks of the New Year…half is not all…and half may still be a problem if you habitually put on weight in the holidays.

Here are a few tips to put in the back of your mind as we roll into holiday party season:

  • Don’t go to a party hungry – snack before so you don’t show up famished
  • Bring a healthy dish to share – of course ask the host ahead but why not contribute something you know you can safely eat?
  • Back your booze up with water – don’t guzzle high calorie cocktails, slow your roll with a big glass of water in between drinks
  • Relocate away from the food – out of sight, out of mind, don’t post up too close to the food if you default to grazing when you’re not really hungry

Diet and Maternal Death Rate

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When it comes to global statistics, there are many metrics where the US shines. Our life expectancy is exceptional, literacy rates are laudable and relatively few people die from communicable disease.

But the US maternal death rate is on the rise, and that’s a concern when you consider it is occurring in the wealthiest nation in the world.

A new analysis published in the August 8 online edition of Obstetrics & Gynecology showed that between 2000-2014, the nation’s maternal death rate rose by almost 27%. In 2000, 19 women for every 100,000 live births died during or within 42 days following pregnancy. By 2014, this number increased to 24 deaths in every 100,000 live births.

For comparison, with the 2014 numbers, the US ranks 30th on a list of 31 countries who report this type of data to the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD). Mexico is 31st.

Researchers didn’t speculate on the cause for the increase in this particular analysis. But the increasing age of women at time of childbirth coupled with higher rates of obesity and co-morbid conditions such as diabetes and heart disease certainly doesn’t help.

Health professionals agree that obtaining and maintaining a healthy weight is important prior to conception. Consuming a well-balanced diet, a daily prenatal vitamin and staying physically active within individual limits is key to a healthy pregnancy. Avoiding harmful agents such as tobacco, alcohol and illicit drugs are also imperative.

For more information about having a healthy pregnancy, check out this page from

Fertility and Diet

April 30, 2016 by  
Filed under Biotechnology, Obesity


It’s National Infertility Awareness Week. According to the National Infertility Association, about 30% of infertility can be attributed to female factors, 30% to male factors, 20% is unexplained and 10% is caused by a combination of problems in both partners.

While there are many potential causes of infertility, weight may play a role. Women who are very thin or obese are less likely to conceive than those who are in a healthy weight range.

According to The American Society for Reproductive Medicine (ASRM) 12% of all infertility are a result of a woman weighing either too little or too much. Too much body fat results in overproduction of estrogen and too little body fat leads to underproduction of estrogen. Both result in hormonal changes in the body that disrupt ovulation and reduce likelihood of conception.

When it comes to fertility and diet, ASRM states that there is no evidence to support diet changes in women with a healthy body weight (body mass index 19-25) who have regular periods.

There are however a few dietary considerations that may be linked to infertility, regardless of BMI:

  • A diet high in mercury (found in seafood)
  • Smoking
  • Heavy alcohol consumption (more than 2 drinks per day in women)
  • Heavy caffeine intake
  • Recreational drug use

If you are considering pregnancy, reducing alcohol and caffeine intake and avoiding smoking and recreational drugs are the dietary considerations that you should be making. To learn more about fertility take the Fertility Myths quiz from

Dietary Guidelines: What’s New & Best for You?



January 7, 2016 marked the release of the new Dietary Guidelines for Americans 2015 – 2020. Since the introduction of the dietary guidelines in 1980 15% of Americans were classifies as obese, now more than 35 years later this statistic has ballooned to 35% of all Americans. Obviously the intended messages of the guidelines are not impacting our society in the way they were intended. So what are the new dietary guidelines, how are they different, and how can they impact change in our society?


  1. Follow a healthy eating pattern across the lifespan
  2. Focus on variety, nutrient density, and amount
  3. Limit calories from added sugar and saturated fats and reduce sodium intake
  4. Shift to healthier food and beverage choices
  5. Support healthier eating patterns for all

How they are different:

The new dietary guidelines are much broader to allow focus on small changes in the diet instead of letting individual food groups and nutrients consume you. The key component is emphasis on a healthy eating pattern that is calorically appropriate to help support a healthy body weight and reduce risk of chronic disease. Shifts in personalized food and beverage choices need to be made to achieve a healthy eating pattern and increase nutrients of concern such as potassium, calcium, Vitamin D, and fiber.


A new specific limit on added sugars to less than 10% of calories is highlighted in the new guidelines. Paying attention to identifying sugary beverages in your diet and limiting these can make a huge impact on eliminating excessive calories in your diet and may even aid in trimming up your waistline.


There has also been a removal of a specific limit on dietary cholesterol. Evidence shows there is no relationship between dietary and serum cholesterol. It is now recommended that Americans eat as little dietary cholesterol as possible.

The new guidelines offer an adaptable framework to allow food choices that fit in your budget and align with personal and cultural preferences. Benefits of these new guidelines enable you to choose a diet that is right for you.

Below are key recommendations to consider when implementing a heathy eating pattern:

  • Include a variety of vegetables – dark green, red and orange, legumes (beans and peas), and starchy
  • Focus on fruits, especially whole
  • Grab grains, at least half should be whole grains
  • Choose fat-free or low-fat dairy (milk, yogurt, cheese, fortified soy beverages)
  • Implement in your diet a variety of protein foods (seafood, lean meats and poultry, eggs, legumes, nuts, seeds, and soy products)
  • When possible, choose oils as fat sources
  • Limit saturated fats, trans fats, added sugar, and sodium
  • Consume less than 10 percent of calories per day from added sugar
  • Consume less than 10 percent of calories per day from saturated fats
  • Consume less than 2,300 mg per day of sodium
  • Limit alcohol to one drink per day for women, and two drinks per day for men
  • Meet the Physical Activity Guidelines for Americans (at least 150 minutes of moderate exercise)

Simple solutions to make these recommendations work for YOU:

  • Make a switch to replace sugary desserts with fruit instead
  • Limit soda or energy drinks to one per day
  • Tailor portion sizes to fit your needs
  • Substitute medium or high fat protein for lean choices each day
  • Cook more often at home to limit added sugar and sodium
  • Make a conscience effort to increase daily activity
  • The Mediterranean, vegetarian, and DASH diets are all examples of healthy eating patterns

Impact of society in order to implement change:

With the new dietary guidelines there is a shift toward the idea that everyone plays a role in supporting healthy eating patterns. It is time to recognize that there is more influence on our food choices than education and will power alone. Other factors play a vital role in influencing food choices such as, personal relationships, where you live, work, and shop. Health professionals, industries, government, and communities are needed to support Americans and their families in making dietary and physical activity choices that align with the Dietary Guidelines. It is important to support local farmers, get involved to increase recreational access in your neighborhood, and foster partnership with food manufacturers to align more accessibility to recommended foods. Everyone plays a role in making healthy changes and in improving the health of the current and future generation. For more information on the dietary guidelines please visit

Special thanks to dietetic intern Amanda Cravinho for her contributions to this post.

The Global State of Childhood Obesity


If you think childhood obesity is a problem relegated to rich countries, it may be time to think again.

A new report out from the World Health Organization (WHO) points to an “alarming” number of obese children.

Highlights from the report include:

  • At least 41 million children under age 5 are obese or overweight
  • There are now more overweight and obese children in low and middle-income countries than in high income countries
  • Overweight kids in the developing world more than doubled from 7.5 million in 1990 to 15.5 million in 2014

One of the largest concerns is the rate at which obesity and overweight is climbing in the developing world. The WHO report found that Libya, Egypt, Morocco, Algeria, Tunisia and Botswana were the countries with the highest percentage of overweight children among African countries.

And what’s to blame for this rapid rise in pediatric weight? The report cites the marketing of unhealthy food and drinks in the developing world as a primary contributor.

But it’s not all bad news – the WHO report outlined 6 main, practical areas to help end childhood obesity:

  1. Promote intake of healthy foods
  2. Promote physical activity
  3. Preconception and pregnancy care
  4. Early childhood diet and physical activity
  5. Health, nutrition and physical activity for school-age children
  6. Weight management

For more information about the WHO report, click here.



Soda Sales See Serious Slide



There’s a bit of good news on the nutrition front, and that is the continued decline in US soda sales.

Recent Nielsen data from all channels including grocery, drug and convenience stores shows an 8.2% decline in the 4 weeks leading up to October 31, compared to the same period 1 year ago. Dollar sales are also on the decline, down 5.5% in that same 4 week period compared over 1 year.

Diet Pepsi has sen the most precipitous drop with an 11.4% decline in sales and 8.9% drop in dollar sales.

Soda is the low-hanging fruit, so to speak, in tackling overweight and obesity. It provides no nutritive value and contributes only sugar-fueled unnecessary calories to its drinkers’ diets.

But Americans’ intake of sugar-sweetened beverages doesn’t start and stop with soda. Other contributors of useless calories include energy drinks, vitamin waters and fruit drinks – and these category winners are also owned by the big soda companies.

When it comes to sippin’ smart, keep in mind the following tips:

  • Water is sufficient for hydration for nearly every individual with a few exceptions (elite athletes, underweight individuals, those exercising in extreme conditions)
  • If you consume dairy, stick to non-fat or low-fat (1%) milk products and avoid added sweeteners
  • Energy drinks provide “energy” primarily through caffeine and amounts are rarely disclosed on the packaging

For a great read on the entirety of Big Soda, including unscrupulous marketing practices and its contributions to the current global obesity crisis, check out Soda Politics: Taking on Big Soda (and Winning) by esteemed nutrition author and educator Marion Nestle.


Do Menu Labels Impact Consumer Choice?

February 2, 2015 by  
Filed under Consumer awareness, Obesity


Obesity in America has become epidemic and nearly half of American’s food budget is used on eating out. Restaurants and fast-food chains are notorious for having far more calories in meals then typical meals made at home.

New York City was the first city to start menu labeling initiatives in the late spring of 2008, which required all restaurant chains with at least 15 stores to list calories per serving next to each food item on the menu or menu board.

Similar initiatives have been passed in cities such as Philadelphia and states such as California, Oregon and Maine. As a part of the new health care reform law menu labeling in restaurants will become mandatory nationwide within the year.

The goal of menu labeling is to increase consumer awareness so that healthier choices can be made and inspire restaurant industry innovation.

But does the new menu labeling law actually impact consumer choice?

In January 2009 King Country in Washington State, which includes Seattle and some of its suburbs, started requiring menu labeling.

Researchers found that the proportion of customers who saw and used nutritional information tripled from 8.1% in 2008 to 24.8% in 2010. Those that were more likely to use the information were women, higher income groups and those eating at a fast-food versus a sit-down chain restaurant.

The number of customers using the calorie information isn’t great, however the significant increase in numbers of customers who saw and used the nutritional information is.

Also, a greater focus on informing low-income groups of menu labeling is needed. In time menu labeling may become more greatly used and make a differences in the obesity epidemic and the health of Americans.

Special thanks to Dietetic Intern Jenny Legrand for her contributions to this post.

Is a Detox Diet Right for You?

With the New Year upon us, people are scrambling for diet resolutions and looking to detox.

With all of the buzz about detox diets, you may have started to wonder if you should start one too?

detox-dietsWhat are Toxins?

Toxins are defined as substances that have entered the body through smoking, pollution, pesticides, or additives found in the food we eat.

Detox diets claim to help rid the body of toxins, provide more energy and help kick start weight loss; however, there is little scientific evidence to support that detox diets actually rid the body of toxins. There is also no way to measure if you are “toxic”, or to justify if you even need to detox!

If You’re Gonna Detox…Do it Right!

Here are few detox tips that are good to know:

  • Your body has a built in system to remove harmful substances: your liver, lungs, kidneys, and GI tract are always in a natural state of cleansing
  • People with medical conditions such as diabetes or certain types of cancer as well as children, older adults and pregnant women should avoid detox diets as they may be nutritionally inadequate or inappropriate
  • Detox diets do have side effects: moodiness, irritability, depression, fatigue, and constipation (from a lack of fiber and other nutrients) may occur
  • Quick fix diets only provide short-term results; most people gain lost weight back…and then some.

The healthiest way to utilize a detox diet – if at all – is for a very short period of time. Most nutrition experts agree that if a “detox diet” is kept to 1-2 days, it can serve as an important psychological break between a period of unhealthy eating (the holidays?) and a new healthier period in the New Year.

Special thanks to Dietetic Intern Jenny Legrand for her contributions to this post.

Belly Fat Rates on the Rise in US

September 19, 2014 by  
Filed under Obesity, Weight management

Not all fruits are created equal…especially when it comes to fruit and figure.

A new study in the Journal of the American Medical Association found that belly fat in apple-shaped people is on the rise in the US, noting:

  • 54% of US adults have abdominal obesity, up from 46% in 1999-2000
  • Over the past 12 years, the average waist size in US went up 2 inches per woman to 38 inches and up 1 inch for men, to 40 inches

So what’s so bad about belly fat?

People with apple-shaped figures harbor a type of belly fat that is more dangerous than the pear-shaped fat distribution that tends to centralize around the buttocks and hips.

The type of fat that accumulates around the central or abdominal area in apple-shaped people is thought to be more metabolically active than subcutaneous fat found in pear-shaped people.

This central obesity or belly fat, also called visceral fat, leaches into the bloodstream and increases health risk by lowering levels of beneficial hormones, increasing inflammatory substances and even elevating the bad LDL cholesterol levels.


How do you know if you have belly fat?

A good rule of thumb for keeping belly fat at bay is to reduce your waist circumference if you are overweight or obese. To measure your waist circumference, with your clothes off, place a tape measure around your abdomen such that it is snug but not compressing your skin and sits just above your hip bone. Relax, breathe out, and measure your waist.

A good goal is to aim for:

  • A waist circumference of less than 35 inches in females, and
  • A waist circumference of less than 40 inches in males

Can you exercise away your belly fat?

There are no specific exercises you can do to get rid of “just” your belly fat.

Spot reducing – the attempt to exercise one particular area of the body to lose weight there – does not work. Instead, a comprehensive approach to physical activity and balanced eating that causes overall weight loss, is the only way to in turn reduce belly fat.

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