The To Your Health column covers health advice topics on yo-yo dieting, exercise, long-term relationships, organ donations, sensitive skin and liver health.
Health Advice: Yo-Yo Dieting, Long-Term Relationships and Liver Health
When it concerns the fitness of body, mind or spirit, the editors at American Health are there with health advice, staying on top of up-to-date research, separating fads from facts, and helping you preserve and improve life's most precious gift—your good health. Here are just a few items culled from their current and upcoming issues, one of which concerns the danger of gaining back lost pounds.
We are a nation of "yo-yo" dieters with 31% of
American women dieting at least once a month. Yet,
Northwestern University researchers report that men who
showed the greatest up-and-down weight swings also had the
highest risk of sudden death from coronary heart disease.
Gaining and relosing weight can also distort the
weight-regulation system. The more diets you go on, the
harder it is to lose weight, because—when you cut
calories—your basal metabolic rate, used for routine
maintenance functions like breathing and cell repair
(65% to 70% of the body's total energy
use), drops measurably within 24 hours and can
decline a full 20% within two weeks. This is one
reason dieters often reach a plateau some weeks into the
diet, finding the same caloric intake no longer produces
weight loss. Your body also adapts to dieting by making
your body more efficient at fat storage, and this change
can persist even if you regain your lost weight.
In addition, people on crash diets or ones low in protein
can lose a substantial amount of muscle. Then, if they gain
the weight back, they may regain less muscle and more fat.
Yo-yo dieting also appears to increase the desire for fatty
foods. (In animal experiments at Yale, when given a choice
of carbohydrate, protein or fat, rats, after dieting,
preferred fat for a period of time.) Weight cycling also
tends to shift fat from the thighs or hips to the abdomen,
and research has shown that fat above the waist raises the
risk of heart disease and diabetes more than fat below the
Which brings us to that age-old question: Is it better to
have lost and gained than never to have lost at all? The
best approach to this complex issue is to eat a low-fat,
high-complex-carbohydrate diet and get regular aerobic
exercise. Permanent weight loss is the goal (who wants to
do this again), so select a program that will help
change your lifestyle. Even if you've been a yo-yo dieter
in the past, don't despair; you can still take control of
your weight. It may just require a little more patience and
effort this time around—and, most of all, a
determination to maintain that hard-earned loss.
How Far, Not How Fast
"Distance is more important than pace," say Dr. Terry
Kavanagh, a cardiologist at the Toronto Rehabilitation
Center, after comparing the cholesterol profiles of two
groups of runners averaging seven- and 10-minute miles and
walkers taking 16 minutes to cover a mile. All
exercisers lowered overall cholesterol levels equally and
improved the proportion of high-density lipoproteins (HDLs,
the "good" protective cholesterol), provided they covered
the same distance. The most significant changes occurred
beyond 12 miles a week, whether walking or running.
A study of long-term relationships found that the longer a
couple had been together, the closer their scores of math
and vocabulary tests became. But, because of economic
factors, husbands influenced their wives' intelligence more
than wives influenced their husbands', since a smart wife
may not earn enough to improve her husband's lifestyle
(hence mind), while intelligent husbands, who are apt to be
well-off, often have extensive opportunities for
self-improvement. In yet another study of couples' recent
and long-ago photos, it was discovered that spouses even
grow to look like one another. What's more, the couples who
looked most alike were the happiest.
A Bit of Yourself
According to a Gallup poll, only one of five Americans who
are aware of organ donation have signed an organ donor
card, but all you need are two witnesses and the
appropriate form. You can sign on the back of most driver's
licenses, or you can get a donor card free from your local
Eye Bank or Red Cross or the United Network for Organ
Sharing (Richmond, VA). Even
with a signed card, hospitals will want to obtain family
consent before organs can be removed, so tell your loved
ones how you feel. For more information on organ donation,
or to locate a donor support group in your area, contact
the American Council on Transplantation, Alexandria, VA.
Less Is Best
Folks with sensitive skins complain of dryness, itching,
burning or eruptions—or all of the above. "The best
way to handle skin," says Albert Kligman, University of
Pennsylvania dermatology professor, "is to leave it alone.
He urges such people to list their skincare
products—cleansers, moisturizers and makeup—and
why they use each one. If a product or step can be
eliminated, Kligman advises to do so.
A Cirrhosis Cure?
In just-released results of a 14-year study, colchicine, a
widely available drug used to treat sufferers from gout,
actually doubled the survival rate of patients with
cirrhosis. What's more, two cirrhosis patients were found
to have normal livers after several years of colchicine
treatment. Hepatic scar tissue in seven others had reversed
to the point that drug therapy was no longer judged
necessary by medical experts.