Diet and Weight Loss

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Easy hacks to understand new terms on food labels

Heidi Godman
Heidi Godman, Executive Editor, Harvard Health Letter

As the variety of foods available in supermarkets has grown, new terminology has also proliferated. Definitions of food terms vary depending on the farm, manufacturer, and federal or state rules, but this guide offers quick explanations of common food terms, along with some context for why certain types of food may or may not be worth buying.

Does drinking diet soda raise the risk of a stroke?

Julie Corliss
Julie Corliss, Executive Editor, Harvard Heart Letter

While a study suggests that people who drink a diet soda or more per day may be at higher risk for stroke, there are other factors that could account for these results. Regardless, it’s wise to limit any food with artificial sweetener.

Ketogenic diet: Is the ultimate low-carb diet good for you?

Marcelo Campos, MD
Marcelo Campos, MD, Contributor

While there may be valid reasons to follow a ketogenic diet in the short term (weight loss, blood sugar control), it’s difficult to maintain and could cause other health issues.

Could artificial sweeteners be bad for your brain?

Robert H. Shmerling, MD
Robert H. Shmerling, MD, Faculty Editor, Harvard Health Publications

While diet soda and other types of artificially sweetened drinks may not have calories, research is suggesting that those who drink them regularly may be at higher risk for stroke or dementia.

Eat only every other day and lose weight?

Monique Tello, MD, MPH
Monique Tello, MD, MPH, Contributing Editor

Following an alternate-day fasting diet seems like it might be a good way to lose weight, but it’s difficult to stick to such an eating pattern because the cravings on fasting days can be uncomfortable, and research found that higher LDL cholesterol is a concern.

Diet not working? Maybe it’s not your type

Robert H. Shmerling, MD
Robert H. Shmerling, MD, Faculty Editor, Harvard Health Publications

Blood type diets, which maintain that food choices and fitness routines should be based on a person’s blood type, were first popularized over two decades ago, but in that time no firm scientific evidence to support the claims has emerged.

Cracking the coconut oil craze

Julie Corliss
Julie Corliss, Executive Editor, Harvard Heart Letter

The health benefits of coconut oil remain unproven and there is no evidence that consuming it lowers the risk for heart disease. Results of studies of populations in parts of India, Sri Lanka, the Philippines, and Polynesia who consume large amounts of coconut must be tempered with the fact that these traditional diets include more healthful fish, fruits, and vegetables than the typical American diet. That said, it’s fine to enjoy foods prepared with coconut oil provided they are occasional treats.

Eat better, live longer

Robert H. Shmerling, MD
Robert H. Shmerling, MD, Faculty Editor, Harvard Health Publications

With a study showing that 400,000 cardiovascular-disease deaths could be prevented each year with dietary changes, it’s time to consider adopting a healthier eating approach. Limiting unhealthy foods is a good start, but it’s also important to eat more healthful foods.

5 habits that foster weight loss

Julie Corliss
Julie Corliss, Executive Editor, Harvard Heart Letter

The hardest part of weight loss is making healthy choices part of your daily routine without constantly feeling as if you’ve deprived yourself of something. We offer five proven strategies to help you shed pounds based on the experiences of people who have lost weight and kept it off.