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Entries in tufts university (2)


The I Diet: A Diet That Respects Your Instincts 

I don't often post about diet books. I guess it's because I find the tenets of effective weight loss to be pretty basic; my favorite quote is by longtime obesity researcher Dr. Jules Hirsch, "Eat as little as you can get away with, and try to exercise more." Of course that doesn't address the importance of eating a high quality nutrient-dense diet or the greater complexities of keeping weight off, but I believe it'll do for straightforward weight loss. Another reason may be that I view diet books as gimmicks even if they're perfectly nutritionally sound. They simply find a new angle or approach to view weight loss. That doesn't mean I don't recommend them to some people who may need yet another magic bullet or new hope to try again. One book I appreciate is The "I" Diet by Susan Roberts. It's not new; it debuted in 2008 and was revamped in 2010 in paperback. But during this time, it's garnered great reviews from reputable sources and from, most importantly, success story readers. Dr. Roberts is a professor of nutrition and psychology specializing in obesity research, and the director of the Energy Metabolism Laboratory at the Jean Mayer USDA Human Nutrition Research Center on Aging at Tufts University, with almost 200 published research papers. I've heard both Dr. Roberts and Dr. Blumberg (from last week's post) speak from my grad school days at Tufts and I can vouch that they are the best of the best in their research fields. This L.A. Times review details some points of the book, and then check out my recent interview with Dr. Roberts as she explains the reasons why The "I" Diet (referred to as "iDiet" below) has been such a success.

Q: The big question is what makes your diet book different from endless other weight loss books that people have tried and given up on?

A: iDiet has a unique dietary profile and a different type of behavioral program that makes weight loss easier:

  • Most diets fixate on one specific dietary factor (e.g. high protein with the Atkins, or low glycemic index with The Zone) but the science shows that one single dietary focus doesn't work that well. iDiet is the only diet that packages together all the nutrition science into one diet. It effectively suppresses hunger and makes it more enjoyable (i.e., offering a greater range of good foods).
  • Our behavioral support program in the groups is unique. We actually don't focus directly on weight loss, but rather on scientifically changing food preferences with 'cognitive restructuring' exercises, and also we put a lot of effort into making it easy. The combination of these things allows our program members to say 'It doesn't feel like a diet.' That is why they're able to stick with it and enjoy it more.

Q:  What are the basic tenets of this diet?

A:  We recommend a moderately high protein, high fiber, mixed glycemic index and high volume diet. That sounds complicated and it is, which is why we have lots of menus, recipes and no-cook meals that people can get started with to learn what a good, satisfying (and tasty) meal looks like.

Q:  Can you briefly explain how the "I" or instincts are related to weight control?

A:  Our 'food instincts' are the basic aspects of our biology that drive eating. For example, when we are hungry we have to eat (hunger is one of our instincts). When food is present we eat it (instinct: availability). We need to eat things we know and love (instinct: familiarity) and we love high calorie foods. The last instinct is variety: when we have a varied diet we eat more unconsciously. iDiet recognizes these basic biological drivers of what our body and brain need; it works with these instincts and harnesses them to make weight loss easier. We put a lot of emphasis on not being hungry. That is a huge revelation to most dieters. They love feeling satisfied, which allows us to work more effectively on psychological challenges like stress eating that some of our dieters are prone to.

Q:  The book cover describes this as "A diet where the dieter never goes hungry or feels deprived." That sounds impossible for a weight-loss plan! You eat fewer calories, so you should feel hungry right?

A:  No, that is the perception but we have the science optimized and people really don't feel hungry. It isn't that hard when you know how!

Q:  Will I have to buy special foods or cook special meals, and can my whole family eat this diet (e.g., is it nutritionally complete for a child or teenager)?

A:  There are no special foods or meals in the sense of it being weird diet food. We have our own menus and recipes (because that is partly what makes the diet work better than other diets) but they are family friendly and many of our dieters say that their family likes the food more than other things they used to eat. We have pizza, chicken parmesan, and Chinese and Mexican recipes. Some members do a combination of iDiet meals (the Mexican Lettuce Wraps are really popular) and foods the kids want (e.g., chicken nuggets) and then they have their own iDiet food for that meal. Over time, they often find family members trying and loving their meals. We have many adult partners come to our annual parties and rave about the food and talk about their own weight loss while their partner was in the program!

Want to hear more from Dr. Susan Roberts in person? Check out a dinner and workshop being hosted by Healthy Habits Kitchen in Wellesley on Tuesday January 29 at 7:00 pm. The $29 fee includes the workshop, a delicious HHK dinner, and a copy of her book.


National Hot Tea Month: Your questions about tea and health answered with Dr. Jeff Blumberg

The Tea Council gave me a heads up that January is National Hot Tea Month...perfect timing because I've been super curious about tea lately! I'm not a tea fanatic but I now drink some every day. A year ago I started sipping about 16 ounces of green tea in the morning and truly believe it's made a difference in my immune function. I have no scientific comparison and it could have been a lighter year for viruses, but I'm usually a magnet for cold bugs and last year (despite being a very stressful work year and getting less sleep) I remained sniffle-free. When I felt that familiar sore throat, it went away in about a day. But who isn't overwhelmed by the endless types of tea and deciding which is best: white, green, black? Does green tea really promote weight loss? How much should one drink?

I had the awesome chance to throw some Q&A at Dr. Jeff Blumberg, the director of the Antioxidants Research Laboratory at the Jean Mayer USDA Human Nutrition Research Center on Aging at Tufts University. He and a host of other top tea experts around the world presented the latest on tea at the Fifth International Scientific Symposium on Tea & Human Health. This infographic shows a summary of the results, and then be sure to check out my exclusive Q&A with Dr. Blumberg below.

Q:  Do health benefits vary among black, green, and white teas? Recently white tea has been touted as being even better than green; is this true?

A:  There are relatively few studies that have tested different types of tea ‘head-to-head’ against one another. However, in general, all the varieties of tea (which are all derived from the same plant species, Camellia sinensis L.) show similar benefits on major outcomes (e.g., cancer, heart disease, stroke) when the different studies are compared with one another. White tea (made from the youngest buds and processed somewhat less than green tea) has more catechins (the main class of flavonoids in tea) than green tea; however, it is also much more expensive and has a different flavor/aroma than green tea. If your goal is to obtain more of the antioxidant catechins, then you can quite simply drink a stronger brew or have a second cup.

Q:  Does it matter how long you steep the tea and if you use loose-leaf tea vs. tea bags? Are there particular brands that you prefer?

A:  The longer you steep tea, the more catechins and other phytochemicals you extract from the tea (and, thus, the more antioxidants you consume). I’m not familiar with any study that has tested the relative extraction of loose-leaf vs. bagged tea but have no reason to believe there is a significant difference between the two. I personally choose widely from the vast array of teas available. I seek out and greatly appreciate the remarkable diversity of teas and find that different ones complement different foods (and different moods). But, that’s just me…

Q:  Is there any health benefit from drinking iced tea "drinks," like the bottled Lipton iced green teas? I'm guessing they may not contain enough tea catechins to be beneficial?

A:  Ready-to-drink teas often contain lower concentrations of tea phytochemicals than freshly brewed tea, partly because of how they are formulated and partly because these compounds (mostly flavonoids) degrade over time. Some tea drinks are now fortified with tea flavonoids to address this matter; however, I have little information on this topic as it is largely proprietary data.

Q:  I've read that tea decaffeinated by effervescence is preferable to preserve the catechins over chemical decaffeination. Is this true?

A:  I don’t know the answer to this question. Generally, decaffeination reduces tea flavonoids by about 10-15%. As noted earlier, you can ‘remedy’ this loss by simply brewing a stronger cup or drinking more tea.

Q:  There's so much hype about green tea for weight loss. Do you believe that drinking green tea is useful to boost metabolism for weight management? If so, how much tea do you recommend drinking daily?

A:  There is good evidence supporting the efficacy of green tea in very modestly increasing energy expenditure (burning calories) via increased thermogenesis and increased oxidation of fat by about 100 calories per day. This is a small number of calories but, in the context of a low calorie weight loss diet or a dedicated weight maintenance plan, even 100 calories per day adds up over time.

However, this increase in basal metabolism by itself without reducing calorie intake and increasing physical activity will not make you lose body weight. Achieving this modest degree of energy expenditure requires 2-3 cups of green tea daily.

Q:  How many cups of tea do you recommend drinking daily for general optimal health benefits? In your opinion, what diseases do you feel are the most promising to benefit from tea drinking?

A:  Observational studies and clinical trials show a dose-response effect of tea up to ~5 cups daily, so drinking 1 cup is more healthful than drinking none, drinking 2 is better than 1, drinking 3 is better than 2, etc. The strongest and most consistent evidence of a health benefit for tea is lowering the risk of cardiovascular disease and stroke. The evidence (in humans) on preventing cancer is mixed. Exciting new evidence is emerging about potential benefits of tea on arthritis, cognitive performance and neurodegenerative diseases, dental caries, bone health and osteoporosis, immune responsiveness, and more.

My advice is that if you don’t drink tea, drink a cup; if you drink a cup now, drink 2; and so on. Also, drink whatever kind of tea(s) you like best and drink it freshly brewed, preferably stronger than weaker (to obtain a higher concentration of tea flavonoids).