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Nutrition

Medical News Today: Fats or carbs: What causes obesity?

Too many carbohydrates or too much fat? Opinions as to which parts of our diets are likely to cause obesity are split. A recent study takes a closer look at the effects of diet on weight and health.
unhealthful foods and measuring tape
Does a diet that is too rich in fats or too rich in carbs lead to obesity?

Earlier this year, Medical News Today reported on a study that pitted the potential benefits of the low-carb diet against those of the low-fat one.

The scientists asked which type of diet would be best for shedding excess weight.

Their conclusion? In essence, that it is hard to tell.

Both have pros and cons; some people may benefit more from laying off the fats, whereas others may see better results by sticking to a low-carb dietary plan.

Both carbs (which are a primary source of glucose, or simple sugar) and fats have been blamed for increasing a person's likelihood of facing obesity, and studies keep debating these points, so the argument is far from settled.

Recently, the view that an excessive carb intake may be the main dietary cause of obesity has had more traction, though some researchers have questioned this.

In a paper now published in the journal Cell Metabolism, researchers from two institutions — the Institute of Genetics and Developmental Biology at the Chinese Academy of Sciences in Beijing and the University of Aberdeen in the United Kingdom — have once more turned the cards, suggesting that we should look once more to fatty foods.

Sugar intake had no impact on weight

In what they think is the largest study of its kind to date, lead researcher Prof. John Speakman and team worked with mice to test the effects of three macronutrients – carbohydrates, fats, and protein — on body fat accumulation.

The scientists turned to the murine model because, as they explain, asking human participants to follow one type of diet and evaluating them for very long periods of time is extremely tricky.

But looking at rodents — which have similar metabolic mechanisms — could offer crucial clues and workable evidence.

Mice belonging to five different genetically engineered strains were assigned to one of 30 various types of diet, including variations on their content of fat, carbs, and protein.

The mice were kept on their respective diets for a period of 3 months — which counts as 9 years would for humans.

Throughout this time, they were assessed for changes in body weight and body fat content, to see which of the mice would end up becoming overweight.

The scientists found that only an excessive intake of fats increased adiposity (body fat content) in mice, while carbohydrates — including up to 30 percent of calories derived from sucrose — had no impact.

Moreover, a combined fatty and sugary diet did not increase body fat more than a fatty diet did on its own.

As for protein intake, the research team says that there was no evidence that it affected the intake of other macronutrients or the amount of body fat.

And why does the intake of fat lead to obesity? The researchers believe that fats “appeal” to the brain's reward system, stimulating a craving for an excessive amount of calories, which then determines weight gain.

“A clear limitation of this study,” as Prof. Speakman explains, “is that it is based on mice rather than humans.”

“However, mice have lots of similarities to humans in their physiology and metabolism, and we are never going to do studies where the diets of humans are controlled in the same way for such long periods.”

So the evidence it provides is a good clue to what the effects of different diets are likely to be in humans.”

Prof. John Speakman

Nutrition

The Meal Delivery Kit That Accommodates (Almost) Every Trendy Dietary Plan

Tempted to try a meal kit service but not sure there’s one that will work for your diet? We have good news. If you hate chopping but love healthy, fresh foods, Green Chef is here to save the day. The meal service is particularly good for those doing keto or paleo but who have zero time to fuss with complicated recipes. And Green Chef also happens to be the first certified organic and gluten-free meal kit company in America.

The company breaks up its meal plans by diet: carnivores (meat and seafood meals), omnivores (a mix of meat, seafood, and vegetarian meals), vegetarian, gluten-free, paleo, vegan, and keto. (Currently, there’s no Whole30 plan, but according to Green Chef executive chef Dana Murrell, that could change. “We’re always following new diets and health trends,” she says.) Pricing is based on the plan you choose and whether you choose two or four servings, but the price range is roughly $11 to $15 per serving. And it’s available throughout the mainland US. (Sorry, Hawaii and Alaska!)

Green Chef is tailor-made for beginners. Yes, the “Green” in the name means fresh and healthy, but it also means “novice.” “We’ve developed gourmet dinners that even beginners can cook with ease. We do the prep work in advance from the diced veggies like onions to the signature pre-made sauces,” Murrell explains.

Green Chef chops, mixes, and blends everything for you ahead of time. The only downside: freshness can get sacrificed in the process. In our package, some ingredients (like onions) looked a little wilted, but other starchier vegetables like potatoes were fine. We ordered the gluten-free plan, and it pleasantly surprised us. The package included three (two-serving) meals:

  1. honey-mustard salmon with a kale, carrot, and orange salad and a sweet potato mash
  2. steak and black-rice ramen bowl with rainbow carrots, edamame, corn, ginger, and sesame seeds
  3. veggie-stuffed crepes with sweet-potato-mushroom filling, dill sauce, and a kale salad

These meals can be easily tackled in about 20-30 minutes — certainly more efficient than ordering take-out or eating out. Taking out the prep work made the cooking and assembling part fun and effortless, and the recipes surprised us with their bright and bold flavors and satisfying portions. One thing to consider: Given that the ingredients are packed and shipped, you do really have to cook those meals quickly to keep the ingredients at their peak, so know your schedule and plan ahead! (And since you can’t pick the specific meals each shipment, this isn’t the meal plan for picky eaters.) But that aside, we would highly recommend Green Chef. It’s is a lot more time-, health-, and cost-efficient than delivery, takeout, or even attempting a from-scratch recipe.

What are some of your favorite meal kits? Let us know on Twitter!

Brit + Co may at times use affiliate links to promote products sold by others, but always offers genuine editorial recommendations.

(Photos via Green Chef)

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Nutrition

7 New Keto Cookbooks That You Need to Get, STAT

Keto Cookbooks for 2018 | Brit + Co

Cookbookmarked! is our new series where we review the latest cookbooks from the foodie influencers you follow. Check back often to find out which new releases are worth your hard-earned cash and the recipes you should try first from each.

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It's safe to say that the ketogenic craze isn't going anywhere — the high-fat, low-carb diet is gaining popularity (and converts) day by day. And if you're on the keto diet and finding yourself running out of meal inspo, we've got you covered with a list of keto cookbooks coming out from now until 2019.

For more keto meal inspiration and recipes, follow us on Pinterest.

Brit + Co may at times use affiliate links to promote products sold by others, but always offers genuine editorial recommendations.

Our Latest In Books

👋 See Ya Later!

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Nutrition

Medical News Today: Full-fat dairy may actually benefit heart health

Popular belief has it — and even some governmental authorities on nutrition agree — that we should avoid full-fat dairy products due to their high content of saturated fats. But, a new study boldly challenges these claims.
illustration of dairy products
Full-fat dairy products may actually be good for cardiovascular health.

Whole-fat dairy does not raise cardiovascular risk. Conversely, some fats present in certain dairy products might even keep stroke and heart disease at bay.

This is the main takeaway of a recent study led by Dr. Dariush Mozaffarian, from the Friedman School of Nutrition Science and Policy at Tufts University in Boston, MA.

With their findings, Dr. Mozaffarian and team challenge not only popular opinions, but also the stance of governmental organizations such as the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) and the U.S. Department of Health & Human Services.

The two bodies advise people to avoid full-fat dairy due to its impact on cholesterol levels. The saturated fats found in whole-fat dairy products, warn the USDA, raise levels of low-density lipoprotein (LDL) cholesterol, also known as the “bad” kind of cholesterol.

In time, high LDL cholesterol may lead to cardiovascular conditions such as atherosclerosis or coronary artery disease.

However, the new study turns the idea that full-fat dairy is bad for you on its head. The surprising findings were published in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition.

Marcia Otto, who is an assistant professor in the Department of Epidemiology, Human Genetics, and Environmental Sciences at the University of Texas Health Science Center at Houston, is the first and corresponding author of the paper.

Dairy fat may prevent heart disease, stroke

To study the effect of dairy on mortality risk and cardiovascular health, Dr. Mozaffarian and team examined over 2,900 U.S. seniors, aged 65 and above.

The researchers measured the participants' blood plasma levels of three fatty acids contained by dairy products at the beginning of the study in 1992, 6 years later, and then 13 years later.

Associations with “total mortality, cause-specific mortality, and cardiovascular disease (CVD) risk” were examined.

During the 22-year follow-up period, 2,428 of the participants died. Of these deaths, 833 were due to heart disease.

However, none of the three fatty acids examined correlated with the risk of total mortality. In fact, high circulating levels of heptadecanoic fatty acid were associated with a lower risk of death from heart disease.

Also, adults with higher levels of fatty acids overall were 42 percent less likely to die from stroke, revealed the analysis.

Dietary guidelines should be revised

According to the study's corresponding author, the findings suggest that current dietary guidelines need to be amended.

The 2015–2020 Dietary Guidelines for Americans issued by the Office of Disease Prevention and Health Promotion recommend the consumption of “fat-free and low-fat (1 percent) dairy, including milk, yogurt, cheese, or fortified soy beverages (commonly known as ‘soymilk').”

However, Otto disagrees. “Consistent with previous findings,” she says, “our results highlight the need to revisit current dietary guidance on whole fat dairy foods, which are rich sources of nutrients such as calcium and potassium.”

“These are essential for health not only during childhood but throughout life, particularly also in later years when undernourishment and conditions like osteoporosis are more common,” adds the researcher.

[D]airy fat, contrary to popular belief, does not increase [the] risk of heart disease or overall mortality in older adults. In addition […], the results suggest that one fatty acid present in dairy may lower risk of death from cardiovascular disease, particularly from stroke.”

Marcia Otto

She adds, “Consumers have been exposed to so much different and conflicting information about diet, particularly in relation to fats,” and she highlights the fact that “a growing body of evidence” suggests that dairy fat is actually good for you.

“It's […] important to have robust studies, so people can make more balanced and informed choices based on scientific fact rather than hearsay,” Otto concludes.

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