Yesterday I reported on a truly important study - the trojan where would you like to have the sex study' - no coubt the Nobel Committee will create a new award for this research. Today I turn my sights to more weighty matters (pun intented) and a study that examined the factors that made folks gain weight over a 20 year period.
What we eat and how much of it we consume has far more impact than exercise and most other habits do on long-term weight gain, according to the study by Harvard University scientists. It's the most comprehensive look yet at the effect of individual foods and lifestyle choices like sleep time and quitting smoking.
The results are in Thursday's New England Journal of Medicine.
See - I bet the trojan condom study was not found there!
The new study finds food choices are key. The message: Eat more fruits, vegetables, whole grains and nuts. Cut back on potatoes, red meat, sweets and soda.
Doctors analyzed changes in diet and lifestyle habits of 120,877 people from three long-running medical studies. All were health professionals and not obese at the start. Their weight was measured every four years for up to two decades, and they detailed their diet on questionnaires.
On average, participants gained nearly 17 pounds over the 20-year period.
For each four-year period, food choices contributed nearly 4 pounds. Exercise, for those who did it, cut less than 2 pounds.
Potato chips were the biggest dietary offender. Each daily serving containing 1 ounce (about 15 chips and 160 calories) led to a 1.69-pound uptick over four years. That's compared to sweets and desserts, which added 0.41 pound.
Soda added a pound over four years. Eating more fruits and vegetables and other unprocessed foods led to less weight gain, probably because they are fiber-rich and make people feel fuller.
For each four-year period, these factors had these effects on weight:
An alcoholic drink a day, 0.41-pound increase.
Watching an hour of TV a day, 0.31-pound increase.
Recently quitting smoking, 5-pound increase.
People who slept more or less than six to eight hours a night gained more weight.
By my calculations if one were to ditch potato chips, stop watching TV, keep smoking, and exercise they would likely gain no weight at all. Mind you, they'd likely be dead of lung cancer but at least they'd be thin.