A new study at the Children's Hospital of Philadelphia found that meal replacements like shakes, bars and prepackaged entrees aren't a good long-term solution for obese teens. For the new study, researchers randomly assigned 113 obese teens and their families to different diets for a year. One group of teens ate self-selected low-calorie meals not exceeding 1,300 to 1,500 total calories per day. The other group ate meal replacements (three SlimFast shakes and one prepackaged entree), along with five servings of fruits and vegetables. Four months into the study, participants in second group were randomized to a second-phase diet: some were put on the low-calorie self-selected diet, while the rest stayed on meal replacements.
At the four-month mark, all participants had lost weight, but the teens on meal replacements lost more — a 6.3% reduction in body mass index (BMI) versus 3.8% for the low-calorie group. But by the end of the one-year study, many participants had regained much of the weight they had lost, resulting in no significant differences in weight loss between the groups: on average, the teens had reduced their BMI 3.4% since the beginning of the study.
The results underscore one of the many difficulties of dieting: keeping the weight off long term. Many dieters regain weight because they can't stick to rigid eating programs for long: one-third of the participants in the current study dropped out before its conclusion. The monotony of the meal-replacement diet couldn't have helped either: teens in the meal-replacement group started out drinking SlimFasts 5.6 days a week (in Month 2); by the end of the study, they were only able to tolerate the shakes 1.6 days each week.
“The potential benefit of (meal replacement) in maintaining weight loss was not supported,” the researchers concluded. So for those of you who are gearing up to begin a weight-loss program in the New Year, it helps to remember that austerity isn't the best strategy long-term. Focus on variety — both with your diet and your exercise regimen — and manageability instead. A regular visit with Nastaran can ensure that you stay on track and keep the weight off long term.
Treating obese women's depression may help them lose weight, a new study suggests. Although researchers couldn't determine which condition may cause the other, obesity and depression frequently strike together. Obese women who saw their depression lessened in a treatment program also lost more weight than women whose depression didn't improve or worsened, researchers said.
“I expect that the relationship between depression and physical activity goes in both directions,” said study researcher Dr. Gregory Simon, a senior investigator and psychiatrist at Group Health Research Institute in Seattle. “Increased physical activity leads to improvement in depression, and improvement in depression leads to increased physical activity.” “You can't prove which came first.”
The researchers evaluated 203 women, ages 40 to 65, who had an average body mass index of 38.3 at the study's start, and found that obesity increased a woman's risk of depression by 50 percent to 150 percent.
Participants were then split into two groups: one focused only on helping the women lose weight, and the other also treating the women's depression. The researchers held 26 group treatment sessions over 12 months, and checked in on the women six, 12 and 24 months after the study began.
Of those whose depression had loosened its grip — as measured by a small drop on a test called the Hopkins Symptom Checklist depression score — 38 percent had lost at least 5 percent of their body weight. Of those whose depression scores stayed the same or increased, 21 percent lost that much weight.
While the study's purpose wasn't to make recommendations about exercise, Simon said, it's advisable for people suffering from depression to seek more opportunities for physical activity. “There certainly is evidence that exercise alone is an effective treatment for depression, whether you're overweight or obese or not, or even if you're a normal weight,” he said.
The study was unusual because it focused on the sometimes-overlooked link between depression and obesity, without focusing solely on the role of weight loss, said Robert E. Thayer, a psychology professor at California State University in Long Beach who has researched how people regulate their moods with food and exercise.
“These findings suggest that, like other negative moods that motivate eating as a kind of self-medication, depression is no exception,” said Thayer, who was not involved with the study. “It's a useful addition to the scientific literature.”
Simon said future studies could focus on learning which antidepressants — many of which can bring on weight gain as a side effect — contribute most to that situation. “Losing weight can certainly have a positive effect on people's moods,” he said.
The research was published in the November/December issue of the journal General Hospital Psychiatry.
The randomized, double-blind, placebo-controlled study, which was funded by The Dannon Company, Inc., involved 638 healthy children aged three to six, all of whom attended school five days a week. Parents were asked to give their child a strawberry yogurt-like drink every day. Some of the drinks contained the probiotic strain Lactobacillus casei (L. casei) and the others did not. Parents were also asked to record how many yogurt drinks their child consumed and to keep notes on their child's health.
At the end of the study, there was a 19 percent decrease in the number of common infections—e.g., ear infections, flu, diarrhea, sinusitis–among children who had consumed the yogurt drink with the probiotics than those who had the drink without the beneficial bacteria. When the researchers broke out the individual types of illness, they found that children who had the probiotic beverage had 24 percent fewer gastrointestinal infections (e.g., diarrhea, nausea, vomiting), and 18 percent fewer upper respiratory tract infections (e.g., ear, sinusitis, strep).
The reduction in infections did not, however, result in fewer days lost from school. Merenstein commented that “It is my hope that safe and tolerable ways to reduce illnesses could eventually result in fewer missed school days which means fewer work days missed by parents.”
The finding that the probiotic yogurt drink reduced infections in children, however, is significant. This joins results from other studies demonstrating benefits of probiotics in children, including one published in Pediatrics in which they reduced cold and flu symptoms, another in which they eased diarrhea, and one showing they helped prevent eczema in infants. Generally, probiotics have also been shown to benefit people who have celiac disease, irritable bowel, colitis, and possibly autism.
Georgetown University Medical Center