How Not to Overeat

To find out how effective the traditional method of diet and exercise is in losing weight, scientists studied children to get their reaction.

How not to overeatOvereating is something we all do, whether we are young or old and even if we’re not hungry. Changing this repetitive and destructive habit requires a lifestyle change and some serious behavioral therapy.

A recent study out of the University of California, published in the Journal of Consulting and Clinical Psychology looked at a couple of different methods to help overeating.

These studies focused on reprogramming natural responses to satiety and internal hunger cues. Scientists also brought cognitive therapy into the mix by working on the psychological and physiological response to foods in any given situation.

The first method was called Appetite Awareness Training that focused on learning the difference between being full and actual hunger. The second method was called Cue Exposure Training that focused on resisting temptation – something like that old dog trick, where you sit your dog down in front of a delicious treat and he sits there and drools, not touching the food until he’s given the command.

“We teach children and parents how the environment tricks us into eating foods even when we’re not hungry,” said Kerri Boutelle, PhD and lead study author, citing examples of food triggers such as TV commercials, the abundance of easy-to-eat and high-calories snacks, and the use of food as a reward.

This study lasted eight weeks and provided the participants with coping skills and ideas to help resist temptation and the urge to overeat. Test subjects were also taught how to manage their overeating and listen to their body’s hunger cues and food-related moods.

The results were recorded for body weight, overeating, binge eating and caloric intake.

“While this was a pilot study, our initial results suggest that the ‘cue exposure’ approach might be very helpful in reduction of eating in the absence of hunger,” said Boutelle. She added that significant reduction in such overeating was found in the cue-exposure group, even six months post-treatment, though there was very little long-term impact on overeating in the appetite awareness group. There was only a small effect on body weight and no effect on reported calories eaten in either group; however, both approaches resulted in decreased binge eating in children and their parents

“These findings are exciting because they offer a completely new paradigm for controlling overeating and binge eating,” Boutelle said. “By reducing overeating and binge eating, we hope to provide a new way of preventing weight gain and providing children with a sense of control over what they chose to eat. This is really important, because a loss of control can lead to depression and other psychiatric problems, and of course childhood obesity.”


University of California – San Diego. “New approach to management of overeating in children.” ScienceDaily, 7 Dec. 2011. Web. 20 Dec. 2011

Soda Pop and Video Games Adding to Childhood Obesity

If you’re a teenager and trying to lose weight, where do you go for advice?

Soda pop, video games and teenage obesityReportedly, 75% of obese teenagers are trying to lose weight, but when their methods were analyzed by researchers, it was found that certain habits and behaviors are holding them back.

These findings come from a study out of Philadelphia, where 14% of high-school students are overweight. This analysis from the Philadelphia Youth Risk Behavioral Survey, looked at about 44,000 high-schoolers to determine what kind of efforts are being made to help with weight loss and what kind of behaviors are lingering that prevent them reaching their goals.

Such behaviors as smoking, regular exercise, video game playing and the consumption of junk food were all taken into account.

Sadly, the obese weight group of female teenagers were also more likely to be smokers and even though most of these females were committed to 60 minutes of aerobic activity a day, their subsequent consumption of soda pop was standing in their way of success.

You need to exercise for 30 minutes of cardio to burn one soda pop.

Their male counterparts were less likely to exercise on a daily basis, giving up aerobic activity for video games – an average of three hours a day is spent on playing video games.

“From a health education standpoint, finding out that three-quarters of students who are obese want to lose weight is exactly what we want,” said lead researcher Clare Lenhart. “But the behavior they’re engaging in is puzzling; it’s counterproductive to what they’re trying to do.”

The researchers believe there is a lack of education amongst these teens and there needs to be a better system for raising awareness to help break bad habits causing weight gain.

“For example, among the girls who are exercising, they may not realize that one soda could undo that 30-minute walk they just took.”

Health-care providers can also do a better job at evaluating teen health with more accurate follow-up questions about their activity levels and nutritional habits.

“If a child is going to their pediatrician, and he asks them if they’re losing weight, an appropriate follow-up question might be, ‘How are you doing that?'” said Lenhart. “It could help guide those teens to more productive weight loss activities.”


Temple University. “Overweight teens want to lose weight, going about it the wrong way.”ScienceDaily, 1 Nov. 2011. Web. 5 Dec. 2011.

Can Chewing Gum Help You Lose Weight?

Most of us will chew gum after meals to freshen our breath, but what if you could lose weight from chewing gum?

chewing gum and weight lossThe act of chewing sends signals to the brain to release appetite hormones into the bloodstream that tell the body when it is full. That is why you should chew your food slowly to stimulate this hormone so you feel fuller on less food.

Exercise has a similar effect. When you exercise, hormones are released into the bloodstream that affect our appetites in a positive manner.

Tapping into this known piece of science, chemist Robert Doyle from the Syracuse University set out to experiment on this hormone to find ways to combat obesity and stimulate weight loss.

Published online in the American Chemical Society’s Journal of Medicinal Chemistry, this study talks about the hormone Human PYY, which regulates appetite and energy. The amount of PYY that is released increases with the number of calories consumed.  Someone who is obese will have lower levels of PYY than their non-obese counterparts. The higher the levels of PYY in the bloodstream, the less food you’ll consume.

“PYY is an appetite-suppressing hormone,” Doyle says. “But, when taken orally, the hormone is destroyed in the stomach and that which isn’t destroyed has difficulty crossing into the bloodstream through the intestines.”

The challenge Doyle faces is finding a pathway for PYY to enter the body unharmed so it can do its job. Doyle has used B12 in the past as a method of delivering another appetite hormone – insulin.

“Phase one of this study was to show that we could deliver a clinically relevant amount of PYY into the bloodstream,” Doyle says. “We did that, and we are very excited by the results.”

Doyle plans to try this B12-PYY system in chewing gum as a nutritional supplement to help people lose weight.

“If we are successful, PYY-laced gum would be a natural way to help people lose weight,” he says. “They could eat a balanced meal, then chew a stick of gum. The PYY supplement would begin to kick in about three to four hours later, decreasing their appetite as they approach their next meal.”


Syracuse University. “Chew gum, lose weight? Hormone that helps people feel ‘full’ after eating can be delivered into bloodstream orally.” ScienceDaily, 21 Nov. 2011. Web. 24 Nov. 2011.

Explaining Post-Diet Weight Gain

The biggest complaint amongst dieters who follow a calorie-restricted diet is that as soon as they stop the diet, they gain back most of the weight lost.

post diet weight gainWithin the first year, as many as 80% of dieters gain back the weight lost while on a diet.

To understand better why this is such a common occurrence amongst dieters, scientists out of the University of Melbourne studied appetite hormones to see if they were altered during the dieting process.

Published in the New England Journal of Medicine, the results of this study showed that these hormones indeed were affected for about a year after a calorie-restricted diet. After dieting, the hormones were supercharged and working over time to regain the weight lost. The effect of these altered hormones is increased hunger and a larger-than-normal appetite.

“Maintaining weight loss may be more difficult than losing weight,” says lead researcher Joseph Proietto, PhD, a professor of medicine at the University of Melbourne’s Heidelberg Repatriation Hospital, in Victoria, Australia. “This may be due to biological changes rather than [a] voluntary return to old habits.”

To test this theory, the scientists placed 50 overweight and obese men and women on a 10-week, calorie-restricted diet and then tested their hormone levels over a one-year period.

These blood tests showed that appetite hormones leptin, ghrelin and insulin were altered as a result of weight loss. Subjects also noted an increase in hunger throughout the morning, even after eating breakfast.

Even though the average weight lost was 30 pounds over the 10 weeks, the dieters gained back about 12 pounds over the course of the year. This was in spite of eating a well-balanced diet and exercising on a regular basis. The dieters again noted an increase in hunger pangs and blood tests showed that hormone levels were still unstable.

While these results may shock a few people, the scientists explain that this is a typical response of the body and one that has been hard-wired into our genetics as a survival technique.

“Multiple mechanisms have been developed over eons of evolution to get you to regain weight once you lose it, to tell your brain you’re hungry and to ensure that you don’t stop eating. If you don’t have those drives, you wouldn’t be alive.

Now that we live in a world where calories are so easily consumed and physical exercise—the best way to burn off those calories—is largely unnecessary for day-to-day survival, these biological drives are backfiring and contributing to obesity.” – Dr Charles Burant, Director of the University of Michigan Nutrition Obesity Research Center.

It’s not all a total loss though. Despite these increases in hunger pangs and cravings, dieters can still be successful if they arm themselves with a strong willpower and persevere to resist these cravings.

“That’s not to say that weight regain is inevitable, or that these drives can’t be overcome through willpower. Although the hormone changes noted in the study are very real physical effects, personality and psychological factors may play a role in an individual’s ability to manage chronic hunger. This may explain why some people maintain weight loss for longer than others,” he says. “Maintenance of weight loss requires continued vigilance and conscious effort to resist hunger.” – Joseph Proietto, PhD, University of Melbourne.

Researchers are using this information to develop new ways to help restore hormonal levels after dieting.

Columbia University has used leptin with great success in helping dieters to keep the weight they lost off.

“When diabetics don’t have enough insulin in their bodies, we give them back insulin in order to maintain their blood glucose,” Dr. Burant says. Researchers should be finding a way to do the same for people who have lost weight, he adds, “whether it’s with a drug, a dietary supplement, or certain nutrients—something that will stimulate the release of these hormones.”