Potato chips are really bad for you. Sad…

I really like chips. Especially the jalapeno flavored ones I used to get in Washington Heights. Miss Vickies to be precise. They are good here in Italy too – especially when accompanied by Prosecco as an aperitivo. And maybe this is why I am 8 pounds over my ideal body weight…

Vickie yumminess

My friend Andrew Thorne-Lyman at Harvard sent me a great paper to follow on to the post I wrote last week about obesity, and the “i like big butts and I cannot lie,” bottomline of the paper is: Don’t eat potato chips (and the prosecco you are drinking like water isn’t helping either). The paper was published this year in the New England Journal of Medicine and examined dietary and lifestyle behavior factors that impact weight gain. The less big butts bottomline of the paper is: don’t eat potato chips (I had to say that again), don’t watch so much HBO (more on that in a minute), move your body, sleep but not too much, and don’t quit smoking if you are more afraid of being fat then dying of lung cancer. Pick your poison, or go ask Alice. One makes you larger, one makes you small…

The calories in = calories out balance theory  may be straightforward, but overtime, with our day to day decisions, it is often difficult to really know how much of the food we eat, and what type contributes to that weight gain, or for those who are lucky, loss. On average though, most of us do gain weight as we get older, bit by bit, pound by pound. This adding of the flesh over the years does have its risk and implications on lots of disease and overall quality of life.

The study investigated what lifestyle changes influence long-term weight gain. The researchers followed approximately 121,000 adult men and women in the United States from three large cohort studies over time from 1986 to 2006, 1991 to 2003, and 1986 to 2006. There were many more women than men in the study and none of these adults were obese and none had chronic diseases.

So, they assessed several things. They looked at physical activity, sleep duration, alcohol usage, cigarette smoking and of course, diet. They particularly looked at groups of food like vegetables, fruits, whole vs refined grains, dairy products etc. They also looked at time spent watching television (I recently clocked in all 6 seasons of the sopranos, which is well over 75 hours). Now, why are these HBO/Showtime/AMC TV series so addictive? I am totally into this god damn Game of Thrones, and I didn’t even like Lord of the Rings. I have wasted more time watching The Wire, Madmen, True Blood, Breaking bad, 6 feet under, and of course, da Sopranos. This HAS to be why I am 8 pounds heavier around the girth so to speak. But I digress…

Weight was evaluated every four years. Within each 4 year period, these adults gained about 3.35 pounds or over 20 years, 16.8 pounds. What made them gain all that weight?

Well, potato chip intake had the highest association with weight gain, followed by potatoes (includes french fries, mashed, boiled and baked), sugar sweetened beverages (includes fruit juice my friends…), unprocessed red meats, and processed meats. Weight loss was associated with vegetables, whole grains, fruits, nuts and yogurt. Surprising not really…

The figure below shows the three cohorts from the studies including: 50,422 women in the Nurses’ Health Study (NHS), followed for 20 years (1986 to 2006); 47,898 women in the Nurses’ Health Study II (NHS II), followed for 12 years (1991 to 2003); and 22,557 men in the Health Professionals Follow-up Study (HPFS), followed for 20 years (1986 to 2006). Weight changes are reported for each increase in the daily serving of the food or beverage; decreased intake would be associated with the inverse weight changes. All dietary factors had a significant impact on weight with the exception of butter, cheese, low-fat or skim milk, diet soda, and whole-fat milk.

Relationships between Changes in Food and Beverage Consumption and Weight Changes Every 4 Years, According to Study Cohort

Some more details. Consumption of all liquids except milk were positively associated with weight gain. Interesting about the milk yes? In fact, all dairy came out neutral on the weight gain issue in their analysis. Yogurt was powerful in all cohorts for being associated with less weight gain. Perhaps something to do with gastrointestinal health. Potatoes showed the strongest association with weight gain. Sad…The paper didn’t go into caloric consumption and instead looked at specific food groups that may contribute to satiety (yogurt for example) or less satiety (refined grains).

Those who did physical activity gained 1.76 fewer pounds every four years. Not too shabby. Those who drank alcohol gained weight – the more you drank, the more you gained – but the type of alcohol made a difference. And smokers who recently quit, gain mucho poundage but it gets easy as former smokers gained less weight.

Sleeping is important. Go figure! If you sleep less than 6 hours, you may get fat. But if you sleep more than 8, you may get fat too. So….6 to 8 seems to the perfect amount.

And watching 75 hours of the Sopranos will make you look like Tony Soprano.


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