[By Roanne Weisman; Boston May 20, 2016] By now, you have probably heard about the “Biggest Losers” from the reality TV show: They all regained their original weight and, in some cases, even more. The media reporting on this result would have us believe that there is no escape from our genetic destiny. Once we have arrived at obesity, we are genetically trapped in metabolisms that, in the words of the New York Times article, “were intensifying their effort to pull the [Biggest Loser] contestants back to their original weight.” Ultimately, This article advises us to give up on ourselves. Why? Because “science” has said so. What kind of science is that? Or, perhaps more importantly, what kind of science reporting tells us that we have no control over our own bodies? The answer to both questions is “irresponsible.”
Category Archives: Obesity
March 22 was World Water Day. So this is a good time to think about the meaning of water in our lives and the worldwide threats to our supply of clean water. To that end, Alexa Fleckenstein, M.D., this site’s resident “water doctor,” discusses the latest water-related craze: “thermogenesis”, which asks the question: Can drinking cold water help you lose weight? Here are her thoughts:
A new study claims that drinking cold water uses up calories, by thermogenesis —a fancy word for heat production. The study showed that about two thirds of the calories you use up when drinking cold water are expended to warm up the water to body temperature. And one third is used up by increased metabolism, triggered by stress hormones such as adrenaline (the “fight-or-flight” hormone).
Cranking up metabolism to burn up calories may sound like a good idea, but flooding our bodies with stress hormones is not what we need in our stressed-out times. To make matters worse, cold water inside your body clamps down the blood vessels in the stomach, hindering digestion. And since we are already a nation with rather compromised digestive systems, this is a high price to pay for weight loss.
The numbers cited in the study are not impressive: By drinking a pint of cold water, you lose 25 food calories. A similar study done a year ago used even colder water—ice cold—and found that you would have to drink 400 glasses to lose one pound. And this minimal weight loss does not come from losing subcutaneous or abdominal fat (the fat you want to lose).
Talking about losing weight by thermogenesis means not talking about the weighty elephant in the room: The combination of too many calories and not enough exercise. One tablespoon of sugar has exactly those 25 calories that you lose by drinking a pint of cold water. Sounds good? Not if you compare it to a can of soda: up to 150 calories. Or a candy bar: same. Or a portion of ice-cream: about 300. Or a slice of pizza: about 350.
When it comes to weight loss, there is no silver bullet—or silver ice cube—that will magically melt off the pounds. You can, however, crank up your metabolism with a hot bath, and end it with a cold shower to lose a few calories (so few it is only worth mentioning to counter this cold water weight loss craze). You’d be better off following the “freshness pyramid” weight loss program described in my book to fill your body with foods that are bursting with both water and nutrition. But when you drink your water, forget “thermogenesis” and keep it safely at room temperature!
That’s at least how much this country could save in health care costs and worker productivity if people lived healthier lives and if the health care system helped them do it.
A recent national study announced in a press release by the Milkin Institute reported that 40 million cases of seven chronic diseases — cancers, diabetes, heart disease, hypertension (high blood pressure), stroke, mental disorders and pulmonary (lung) conditions — could be prevented in the year 2023. How? By re-orienting the focus of health care resources more toward prevention and early detection of disease, rather than focusing primarily on treatment. In other words, let’s head off disease before it happens, rather than waiting until we get sick.
The study concluded that this would reduce anticipated treatment expenses associated with the seven diseases and improve productivity by $1.1 trillion that year. The report notes that the most important factor is obesity, which if rates declined could lead to $60 billion less in treatment costs and $254 billion in increased productivity. We know from other sources that the obesity epidemic in this country is already leading to an alarming increase in Type II diabetes — not only in adults, but in children as well.
To reduce the human and economic cost of disease, the Milken Institute calls for:
• More incentives to promote prevention and early intervention, and
• A renewed national commitment to achieve a “healthy body weight.”
“By investing in good health, we can add billions of dollars in economic growth in the coming decades,” said Ross DeVol, Director of Health Economics and Regional Economics at the Milken Institute and principal author of the report. “The good news is that with moderate improvements in prevention and early intervention such as reducing the rate of obesity, the savings to the economy would be enormous.”
We have been hearing from our doctors for years that that by choosing more nutritious food, exercising regularly and reducing the stress in our lives, we can take significant steps toward improving our health as well as preventing disease, suffering and premature death. Now, policy think tanks, government agencies and insurers are telling us that we can save money as well.
So what is stopping us?