Science on Weight and Health

Every once in a while I come across enlightening and useful scientific studies which speak directly to actions that disregulated eaters can take to become healthier. Smart people use scientific conclusions (as opposed to irrational thinking or profit-driven marketing) to guide their actions to change behavior . Here are summaries of two studies and their take-away messages which I hope will help you move toward your health goals.

  • “Nighttime Light Exposure as a Risk Factor for Obesity Through Disruption of Circadian and Circannual Rhythms” (McFadden et al., Am J Epidemiol. 2014; 000(00):000–000)

Abstract: “Nighttime Light Exposure as a Risk Factor for Obesity Through Disruption of Circadian and Circannual Rhythms” reports findings on the relationship between light exposure at night and obesity from a cross-sectional study of United Kingdom women. Their research extends findings from a previous study with elderly participants by including a larger sample size of over 100,000 women and a broader age range of 16 years or older. The findings are consistent with animal studies showing that prolonged light exposure leads to weight gain. Humans’ circadian, circannual, and metabolic regulatory systems evolved to be adaptive in environments that were quite different from those faced in modern industrial society. Technology has allowed exposures to levels and timing of light, nutrient intake, and physical activity never before possible. This commentary discusses how nighttime light exposure can increase the risk of obesity and metabolic syndrome by disrupting circadian and circannual rhythms.

The take-away: Turn down lights, including TVs and computers before bedtime and sleep in a darkened room. Good slumber and sleep habits are key to “normal” eating.

  • “Metabolic response to a 6-week aerobic exercise training and dieting in previously sedentary overweight and obese pre-menopausal women: A randomized trial” (Journal of Sport and Health Science, P. Wiklund, M.Alen, E. Munukka, S.M. Cheng, B. Yu, S. Pekkala, S. Cheng. DOI: 10.1016/j.jshs.2014.03.013).

Abstract: The aim of this study was to compare 6 weeks short-term moderate intensity aerobic exercise and dieting on serum metabolomics and cardio-metabolic risk factors in pre-menopausal women. The results indicate that small weight loss does not produce measurable health benefits, whereas short-term regular aerobic exercise can improve glucose and lipid metabolism even in the absence of weight loss in previously sedentary overweight and obese women.

The take-away: To improve your health, you’re better off putting energy into short-term regular aerobic exercise than in trying to shed pounds. Think health, not weight.



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