Posted July 2, 2011
Dietitians have known for years that eating potato chips isn’t healthy, nor are french fries, hot dogs and bologna.
But now a study shows that such foods also put pounds on faster.
A person who eats one serving of potato chips a day may gain 1.7 pounds every four years, according to a report from Boston’s Brigham and Women’s Hospital involving 120,000 adults. The study included men and women ranging in age from 33 to 60 who were of normal weight when research began.
A daily serving of french fries was associated with an extra 3.4 pounds every four years. Also, a daily serving of soda, processed meat or red meat added one more pound.
“There is a lot more obesity associated with eating fast food and processed foods,” said Beth Cecil, a registered dietitian at Owensboro Medical Health System’s HealthPark. “It’s the salt and fat in those products. The salt can promote high blood pressure, and you’ll retain water as a result.”
The study also suggested that some foods appeared to fight weight gain. For each daily serving of yogurt the study participants ate, they gained almost one pound less than expected over a four-year period. And for each daily serving of fruit and nuts, they gained about a half-pound less over the same period.
In short, while the weight gain from chips and processed food doesn’t seem like much, it’s harder getting control of the weight issue as a person ages. Also, once establishing a habit of eating junk food and not exercising, the habit is harder to break the older a person gets. Finally, unhealthy eating can have other effects on the body, not just an extra few pounds.
The study, which appeared in last week’s New England Journal of Medicine, also seemed to contradict conventional wisdom that people should just eat less of everything to maintain a healthy weight.
Cecil said people may not eat fruit, nuts and yogurt for a variety of reasons. For one thing, fast food is easy to grab and eat on the go. Buying fresh fruit may be a little more expensive, and it may take a little longer to prepare, such as cutting up a cantaloupe or skinning an apple or orange.
“We tell people canned or frozen fruit is good, too, provided it’s unsweetened,” she said.
“The study seems to go against what dietitians have been telling people — everything in moderation. It’s not like we’re telling people to eat junk food. I would rather see people get away from processed food, but I’d like to see some follow-up to this study.”
The study also reported that those who increased their exercise gained as much as 1.76 fewer pounds than expected.
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