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Thursday, June 23, 2011

Want to lose weight? Eat nuts.

Today I read this interesting study:

"Potato chips may be the most dangerous food for your hips, according to a study that lays out weight-associated foods by the pound.

Roughly half of the average 3.35 pounds a healthy, nonobese American gains over four years could be chalked up to eating more potato chips over time (1.69 lb per additional serving per day), Dariush Mozaffarian, MD, DrPH, of Brigham and Women's Hospital and Harvard Schools of Medicine and Public Health, and colleagues found.

Other food strongly associated with weight gain in the prospective longitudinal results reported in the June 23 issue of the New England Journal of Medicine included:
  • Potatoes at 1.28 lb
  • Sugar-sweetened beverages at 1.00 lb
  • Unprocessed red meats at 0.95 lb
  • Processed meats at 0.93 lb
Four-year weight loss was most associated with intake of:
  • Yogurt at -0.82 lb
  • Nuts at -0.57 lb
  • Fruits at -0.49 lb
  • Whole grains at -0.37 lb
  • Vegetables at -0.22 lb

All the above values are per serving added per day to the diet over four years and all were significant at P≤0.005."
I'm not surprised by the list of foods associated with weight loss (vegetables, news flash!), but I am surprised at how high yogurt scored. That makes me think that there is a bacterial reason for weight loss - a concept that has been considered by scientists in the past few years. I am surprised that unprocessed red meat landed in the top foods for weight gain. I didn't think anything unprocessed would be in the list - but I suppose it's an example of too much of a good thing. We do eat an enormous amount of red meat - quarter pounder burgers, 16 ounce steaks, pot roast.

Thoughts? Did any of the foods listed here surprise you?

Primary source: New England Journal of Medicine
Source reference:
Mozaffarian D, et al "Changes in diet and lifestyle and long- term weight gain in women and men" N Engl J Med 2011; 364: 2392-2404.


  1. What an interesting thing to read! Potatoes in general surprised me-- a baked potato isn't bad, but I suppose most potato consumption is in the form of chips and fries.

  2. Darn it. I love potato chips!!

    The meat thing doesn't surprise me at all. Not only do North Americans eat A LOT of red meat, the meat is also really fatty because of the way livestock is fed here. That's why I think not only unprocessed meat but organic, grass-fed meat is best!

    Nuts surprise me a little bit because they are so high in fat/calories even though they are good-for-you fat/calories. But everything in moderation I suppose!

  3. Interesting - the one's in the loss category dont' surprise me, those all seem to be associated with good foods to eat.

    If I do have potato chips, I try to have baked chips, so that I'm not inhaling a bunch of fat, and they still taste okay to me.

  4. I see correlation, not causation.

    Seems like there are a lot worse foods out there for weight gain, but because they're not as popular (like the significant percentage of grocery store shelf space dedicated to potato chips) they don't make the list.

  5. I practically live on the 2nd group. While I'm definitely not fat, I'm sure the few extra lbs that I carry around are the direct result of too many nuts. Yum! (along with the dark chocolate)

  6. naw, none listed surprise me. but damn.. where's the fun? ;-(


  7. I am sort of surprised by unprocessed red meat - I thought processed meat was more of the culprit. And potatoes sort of surprised me, too.

  8. The only one that surprised me was the red meat. I mean, I knew it was associated with heart problems...but I guess you are right. I am not taking portion size into consideration.

    I love nuts. However, even an excess of those can cause a large calorie excess.

    As far as Yogurt goes, I was going to buy some today, but a tiny serving has about 23 carbs! I wonder if the one in the study was plain or with fruit? (I am also surprised that cottage cheese didn't make the good list)

  9. I AM SO GLAD, that nuts are EXPENSIVE because I am cheap, so I only buy a little bit of them in the bulk section at W.F., again... because I am cheap, keeps the wallet full and pants fitting good :)

  10. Nooooo I love my potato chips!!

  11. I know the heavy statistical lifting is supposed to unmask correlation problems, but... I bet that yogurt is a marker for a generally positive lifestyle (weight-wise, if not overall) and red meat is a marker for a generally 'devil-take-the-hindmost' approach to health.

    Tom Maguire

  12. All good comments but please note that the study does not point to causation but specifically states that foods were ASSOCIATED (correlation) with weight gain. Interpretation is an entirely different matter!

  13. Hey--I couldn't reply by email to your comment, so I wanted to let you know here: I've never run Chickamauga before! But I heard from a few friends that it's a great course out in nature. Hardly any cheering crowds though, if you like that. I'd love to meet you if you decide to run it!!