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A recent study has found that apart from diet, specific lifestyle choices also play a significant role in piling up those pounds. The study has found foods, activity and sleep habits as equal partners in crime.

Apart from diet, lifestyle choices also play a significant role in piling those pounds

The food we eat has always been the focus in our endeavor to lose weight. However, a recent study which appears in the New England Journal of Public Health has found that apart from diet, specific lifestyle choices also play a significant role in piling up those pounds. The study has found foods, activity and sleep habits as equal partners in crime. According to Dr. Dariush Mozaffarian of the Harvard School of Public Health and Brigham and Women's Hospital, the lead author of the study, these lifestyle choices make a big impact upon our weight and overall health.

The researchers investigated 120,877 U.S. women and men participants from three large cohorts who were initially free of chronic diseases and not obese. The study followed them up at intervals of four years over a 20 year period. Over the time, they gained 3.35 pounds on an average during each four year period and had gained about 16.6 pounds at the end of 20 years. Taking into account their daily intake of different dietary components, the maximum weight gain in a four year period was associated with the intake of potato chips (1.69 lb), potatoes (1.28 lb), sugar-sweetened beverages (1.00 lb), unprocessed red meats (0.95 lb), and processed meats (0.93 lb) and was inversely associated with the intake of vegetables (−0.22 lb), whole grains (−0.37 lb), fruits (−0.49 lb), nuts (−0.57 lb), and yogurt (−0.82 lb).

Amount of sleep one gets at night influences changes in weight

Apart from the diet, other lifestyle choices which were found to produce an affect on weight gain includedphysical activity, use of alcohol, smoking, amount of sleep and TV viewing.

The amount of sleep one gets at night influences the changes in weight. It was found that those individuals who slept 6 to 8 hours a night gained less weight as compared to individuals who slept for less than 6 hours or for more than 8 hours.According to Dr. Frank Hu, senior author of the study, instead of focusing only on the number of calories consumed per day, one should focus on overall dietary quality to prevent long term weight gain. He has suggested that to maintain a healthy weight, one should:

  1. Focus on improving the carbohydrate quality by consuming less liquid sugars (like soda) and sweets, and fewer starches (like potatoes) and refined grains (e.g. white bread, white rice, etc).
  2. Eat more of minimally processed food (fruits, vegetables, nuts, etc) and less of highly processed food (processed meats, sugary beverages, etc).

Introducing these healthy eating habits can influence long term weight gain by altering hunger, satiety and insulin levels and by improving food habits regarding potion size and quality of foods and beverages consumed.

Dr. Mozaffarian has stressed on the fact that small dietary and other lifestyle changes can together make a big difference. It is easy to gain weight unintentionally but introducing small lifestyle changes provide a good opportunity to prevent it.

  • “Changes in Diet and Lifestyle and Long-Term Weight Gain in Women and Men”, The New England Journal of Medicine, Dariush Mozaffarian, M.D., Dr.P.H., Tao Hao, M.P.H., Eric B. Rimm, Sc.D., Walter C. Willett, M.D., Dr.P.H., and Frank B. Hu, M.D., Ph.D., June 23 2011, Accessed on July 3 2011
  • Photo courtesy of kaleenxian on Flickr: www.flickr.com/photos/kaleenxian/3430766170/