Diet and Weight Loss

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.

Weight loss that works: A true story

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

When there are so many articles, books, and TV pitches on how to lose weight, how do you know what works and what’s a gimmick? When life is busy and you don’t want to completely give up the joys of the occasional treat, what’s a person to do. This story combines science and a physician’s personal experience to shed light on the basics of how to really lose weight.

Confessions of a breakfast skipper

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

While most of us have heard that breakfast is the most important meal of the day, there is debate about the importance of breakfast continues. Research findings on breakfast and weight loss are inconsistent and inconclusive. And a recent study suggests that eating breakfast may not matter as much as has been previously believed, and skipping breakfast is fine for some people. But we probably haven’t heard the final word on this topic.

Attention shoppers: Be wary of health claims on food packaging

Beverly Merz
Beverly Merz, Executive Editor, Harvard Women's Health Watch

The term “healthy” has evolved greatly in the quarter century it has been used in the food industry. Despite recent updates in food labeling, which aim to create more well-informed consumers, inaccuracies remain in packaged foods with “healthy” claims. A closer look at nutrition data on packages can help you ensure you’re getting what you pay for.

What is prediabetes and why does it matter?

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

Considering the range and severity of health problems caused by diabetes, the focus on treating prediabetes in order to prevent it from becoming diabetes is sensible, and a large study found that it is possible. A healthy diet and adequate physical activity can help most people side step this condition. For some, medication is also necessary.

There’s no sugar-coating it: All calories are not created equal

Celia Smoak Spell
Celia Smoak Spell, Assistant Editor, Harvard Health Publications

The view that calories are calories regardless of their source has been shown to be outdated. Foods with a low glycemic index are better because they tend to raise blood sugar more slowly, and they are also more likely to be healthier foods overall. By choosing the low-glycemic foods and thus the minimally processed foods, people can lose more weight, feel fuller longer, and remain healthier.

Activity tracker may not be the key to weight loss

Nandini Mani, MD
Nandini Mani, MD, Contributing Editor

A recent study found that using an activity tracker, in addition to a careful diet and increased exercise, may not help people lose weight or keep it off. The reasons why are unclear and further studies are needed to determine how, if at all, these devices might aid in weight loss.

Less than 1 in 10 teens gets enough exercise: What this means for them and says about us

Claire McCarthy, MD
Claire McCarthy, MD, Faculty Editor, Harvard Health Publications

Teens don’t exercise enough, and with a third of U.S. adults classified as obese, it’s important that exercise is encouraged in children and teens. Starting healthy habits when they’re young keeps kids healthy into adulthood. Studies show that obese adults rarely lose the weight, so it’s better to keep the weight off in the first place. A lot has to do with our biology but also our lifestyle, and we can change the latter. So let’s get our children and teens moving.