Diet & Weight Loss

A healthy weight is an important element of good health. How much you eat—and what you eat—play central roles in maintaining a healthy weight or losing weight. Exercise is the other key actor.

For years, low-fat diets were thought to be the best way to lose weight. A growing body of evidence shows that low-fat diets often don't work, in part because these diets often replace fat with easily digested carbohydrates.

Hundreds of diets have been created, many promising fast and permanent weight loss. Remember the cabbage soup diet? The grapefruit diet? How about the Hollywood 48 Hour Miracle diet, the caveman diet, the Subway diet, the apple cider vinegar diet, and a host of forgettable celebrity diets?

The truth is, almost any diet will work if it helps you take in fewer calories. Diets do this in two main ways:

  • getting you to eat certain "good" foods and/or avoid "bad" ones
  • changing how you behave and the ways you think or feel about food

The best diet for losing weight is one that is good for all parts of your body, from your brain to your toes, and not just for your waistline. It is also one you can live with for a long time. In other words, a diet that offers plenty of good tasting and healthy choices, banishes few foods, and doesn't require an extensive and expensive list of groceries or supplements.

One diet that fills the bill is a Mediterranean-type diet. Such a diet—and there are many variations—usually includes:

  • several servings of fruits and vegetables a day
  • whole-grain breads and cereals
  • healthy fats from nuts, seeds, and olive oil
  • lean protein from poultry, fish, and beans
  • limited amounts of red meat
  • moderate wine consumption with meals (no more than two glasses a day for men; no more than one a day for women

A Mediterranean-style diet is a flexible eating pattern. People who follow such diets tend to have lower rates of heart disease, diabetes, dementia, and other chronic conditions.

Diet & Weight Loss Articles

Cancer and diet: What’s the connection?

Much research has suggested that certain foods and nutrients may help prevent—or, conversely, contribute to—certain types of cancer. While it is not 100% certain that consuming more or less of certain foods or nutrients will guarantee cancer protection, science has found that processed meats, high-glycemic-index foods, calcium, and antioxidant-rich foods may have the greatest influence on a person’s risk.  (Locked) More »

Fatty liver disease and your heart

Up to one-third of adults in the United States have nonalcoholic fatty liver disease (NAFLD). A leading cause of chronic liver disease, NAFLD appears to increase the risk of heart disease independent of diabetes and high blood pressure. A fat-afflicted liver releases inflammatory compounds and other substances that might promote fatty buildup within the arteries (atherosclerosis) and make blood more likely to clot, both of which may boost the risk of heart attack and stroke. Exercise (even without weight loss) can improve NAFLD; so can a healthy diet and medications such as cholesterol-lowering statins.  (Locked) More »

The Nutrition Facts label finally gets a makeover

Upcoming changes to the Nutrition Facts panel may help consumers choose more nutritious foods and drive the food industry to make products healthier. One important update is the inclusion of added sugars, because excess sugar in the diet can contribute to heart disease. Other label changes may help stem weight gain, which raises the risk of heart disease. Some serving sizes will change to more closely reflect what people typically consume, and the number of calories per serving will be easier to read.  More »

How much water should you drink?

You probably know that it's important to drink plenty of fluids when the temperatures soar outside. But staying hydrated is a daily necessity, no matter what the thermometer says. Unfortunately, many of us aren't getting enough to drink, especially older adults. "Older people don't sense thirst as much as they did when they were younger. And that could be a problem if they're on a medication that may cause fluid loss, such as a diuretic," says Dr. Julian Seifter, a kidney specialist and associate professor of medicine at Harvard Medical School. Water keeps every system in the body functioning properly. The Harvard Medical School Special Health Report 6-Week Plan for Health Eating notes that water has many important jobs, such as: More »

Should I know my percentage of body fat?

Body fat percentage provides valuable information about your overall risk for diseases like heart disease and diabetes, but determining your body mass index and measuring your waist size offer easy the best tools for estimating total body fat.  (Locked) More »

Weight-loss surgery: Moving into new dimensions?

About one in 10 women and one in 20 men in the United States are considered extremely obese and may qualify for weight-loss (bariatric) surgery. These surgeries can dramatically improve type 2 diabetes and other problems linked to heart disease. The growing use of the term “metabolic surgery” for these procedures reinforces their importance for improving health, not just body size. Gastric bypass, once the most popular surgery, has the best results for both weight-loss results and improving type 2 diabetes. But it is being increasingly replaced by the less-invasive gastric sleeve procedure. (Locked) More »

Cutting calories offers benefits for normal and overweight adults

 Reducing daily calorie intake by 25% may improve health-related quality of life even in people who are not overweight, according to a new study. After two years following a specific diet plan, subjects lost an average of 16.7 pounds, compared with less than a pound in control subjects. They also had better mood, less tension, greater general health, higher sexual drive, and better quality of sleep.  More »