Tag Archives: obesity

Diet Drinks Shown Superior to Water For Weight Loss and Weight Control

Diet soda or water?

Diet soda or water?

I have been highly criticized for advocating the use of diet drinks (artificially sweetened zero-calorie drinks) and artificial sweeteners, and I’ve been maligned for contradicting claims that diet drinks actually interfere with permanent weight loss, adversely affecting metabolism and increasing hunger. Now there’s solid scientific proof that validates what I’ve been saying. New research published in the February 2016 scientific journal Obesity confirms that diet drinks are an effective tool for permanent weight loss.

A team of researchers from the University of Colorado, University of Florida and Temple University followed 303 overweight and obese people for a year, half of them instructed to drink at least 24 ounces of water per day (but no diet drinks) and half of them instructed to drink at least 24 ounces of diet drinks per day. At the end of the year, the researchers concluded that diet drinks were “superior for weight loss and weight maintenance” and that they “can be an effective tool for weight loss and maintenance within the context of a weight management program.”

For years I have strongly recommended diet drinks, along with the behavioral techniques I used for my own 140 pound loss, now maintained for 30 years. I and my patients have reported that diet drinks are a big help for permanent weight loss and been scolded for it. But we were right all along.

Among the findings:

1) During the initial 12-week weight loss period, the diet drinkers lost over 50% more than the water drinkers.

2) During the 40-week maintenance period, the water drinkers regained more than twice as much as the diet drinkers, so that at the end of the study, the diet drinkers lost almost 3 times as much as the water drinkers, and avoided the big regain.

3) Waist circumference in both groups decreased, but the diet drinkers lost significantly more girth than the water drinkers.

4) The diet drinkers experienced a significant reduction in systolic blood pressure while the water drinkers saw no change.

5) Subjects in the water group reported feeling significantly more hunger while the diet drink group reported no increase in hunger.

These results debunk the theories that diet drinks somehow cause weight gain instead of weight loss and that they interfere adversely with metabolism or increase hunger.

All study participants engaged in the same comprehensive cognitive-behavioral weight loss intervention, but half followed instructions to drink 24 ounces of diet drinks per day, and half followed instructions to drink water instead. The diet drinkers could drink more than that if they wanted (water too), and the water drinkers could drink more water, but not diet drinks. A computer-generated randomization schedule assigned participants to the groups, stratified by sex, to assure equal distribution of women and men to each group.

Both groups attended meetings that were led by registered dietitians or clinical psychologists and were instructed on behavioral weight loss strategies. The meetings and program that both groups followed were exactly the same, except for the difference of diet drinks. They attended 12 weekly meetings at first, during the weight loss period of their study, followed by 9 monthly meetings during the maintenance portion. Examples of topics include self-monitoring, portion sizes, reading food labels, physical activity and insights into weight loss maintenance from the National Weight Control Registry.

I want to emphasize that I encourage drinking lots of water to all my readers and patients but advise using diet drinks as a substitute for all soft drinks. Water is the most important of the six essential nutrients and consuming copious amounts of water is essential to good health.

I also want to emphasize that diet drinks or any of the products, medications or procedures I have advocated are not, by themselves, a “magic bullet” for weight loss or weight control. Behavioral change, accomplished by application of an eclectic blend of behavioral therapy technique, is the only “miracle cure” that exists, if personal change and permanent weight loss is thought to be a miracle. However, there are many tools in the tool box of success in permanent weight loss, and diet drinks are one of the most important.

William Anderson is a Licensed Mental Health Counselor who specializes in weight loss, eating disorders and addictions. He solved his own long-time weight problem, losing 140 pounds 30 years ago and has kept it off since. He is the author of The Anderson Method.

Obesity’s Link to Cancer

(Note: This article first published in The Huffington Post)

Does being overweight increase your risk of getting cancer? Does losing weight reduce that risk? The answer to both questions is a resounding yes. In some cases, the risk is over 50 percent greater. I had no idea the link was so strong, and it turns out that more than 50 percent of Americans are not aware there is any link at all. I am so glad I solved my obesity problem 30 years ago. I knew it probably kept me from getting heart disease and diabetes but I was not aware of such a strong link to cancer.

In the winter 2016 issue of Your Weight Matters, the magazine of the Obesity Action Coalition, Taraneh Soleymani, M.D., teaches us that next to smoking, keeping one’s self at a healthy weight is the most important thing an individual can do to reduce the risk of cancer. If we didn’t have enough reasons to lose weight before, we now have probably the biggest reason ever, preventing cancer.

What kinds of cancers are linked to obesity, and how much greater is the risk?

Dr. Soleymani shocks us with the report by the American Institute for Cancer Research that states that 50 percent of colon and rectal cancers can be prevented by maintaining a healthy weight, balanced diet and physical activity. Half of these cancers are caused by the obesegenic lifestyle that we’ve adopted. Just as shocking, 38 percent of breast cancers, 69 percent of throat cancers, 24 percent of kidney cancers and 19 percent of pancreatic cancers are preventable through healthy weight management. If we are looking for the cure to cancer, here’s the preventive solution: lose the obesity.

Why does being overweight or obese make it easier to get cancer?

As it turns out, your excess fat is not just an inert mass of fuel you’ve stored. It is living active tissue that acts like an organ, manufacturing hormones (our body’s self-made “natural” drugs) that act on the rest of your body, in this case, making it more vulnerable to the generation and growth of cancer. Research reported by The Obesity Society, as well as Dr. Soleymani, points out that it produces chemicals that stimulate (cancer) cell growth, increase the overall inflammation in your body, which is associated with increased cancer risk, and produces excess amounts of estrogen, high levels of which have been associated with the risk of breast, endometrial, and some other cancers. Being obese is like having a factory in your body polluting you with cancer-causing chemicals every day. But get rid of the excess fat, problem solved.

What can we do to get rid of the increased risk of getting cancer?

Fortunately, there is no mystery to the solution. We need to lose the excess weight. And there is no mystery to that either. We need to develop a way of living so that we habitually take in fewer calories than we burn, so that we burn off the fat instead of storing it up. We need to learn new behavior, and instead of dieting, develop new habits of eating what we like in a way that makes us healthy. That’s done through behavior therapy. Believe me, it can be done.

William Anderson is a Licensed Mental Health Counselor who specializes in weight loss, eating disorders and addictions. He solved his own long-time weight problem, losing 140 pounds 30 years ago and has kept it off since. He is the author of The Anderson Method.