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Fat and Happy?

. Web Feature .
Caloric Confusion 3 pages: | 1 | 2 | 3 |

As Alan learned in" Doctor Empathy," "eat less, exercise more" may not be the most appealing advice, but it is the most effective way to lose weight. Or is it? One doctor noticed some of his patients simply could not shed pounds, despite eating as little as 800 calories a day. The truth behind this paradox turned out to be quite simple, but the implications -for dieters and doctors alike- are profound.
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Truth Serum

One out of every three adult Americans is obese- 25 percent above the optimal body weight- and the numbers are climbing ever higher. Associated with heart disease, stroke, cancer and diabetes, obesity is linked with some 300,000 preventable deaths and costs an estimated $165 billion in health care and lost productivity.

Photo of Ravussen
Dr. Heymsfield consults with a patient  

However, as America's collective waistline has grown, so has scientific understanding of the genetics, biochemistry and even psychology that regulate weight gain and loss. Despite the public's love affair with pills and powders and other "miracle" diets, the data keep telling us to simply eat less, move more.

"Obesity is associated with some 300,000 preventable deaths and costs an estimated $165 billion in health care and lost productivity."

But Dr. Steven Heymsfield, an obesity specialist at St. Luke's-Roosevelt Hospital Center in New York City, found one group of people for whom the "eat-less-move-more" mantra did not work. Heymsfield's patients were keeping food records as part of standard obesity treatment. Despite reporting daily caloric intakes as low as 800 calories a day (a 150-pound person requires at least 1500 calories per day) these patients weren't losing an ounce of body fat. What was going on?

Photo of Chantal drinking truth-telling water
Study participant Chantal samples the truth-telling water  

"We saw so many people telling us they didn't over eat," says Heymsfield. "Yet their weight didn't drop. This clinical observation prompted a study."

Heymsfield had twenty seemingly weight-loss-resistant patients consume isotope-laced water that would allow researchers to track exactly how many calories each patient expended. If someone eats fewer calories than he or she expends, weight loss occurs. If that person consumes more, weight gain happens. Therefore, someone who has exerted 3000 calories, but does not show any weight loss on the scale, must necessarily have eaten 3000 calories as well. But Heymsfield did not tell his patients what the water was for. Without knowing that the special water would essentially double-check their accuracy, the patients kept their usual food diaries for two weeks before returning to Heymsfield's clinic.
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3 pages: | 1 | 2 | 3 |

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