Americans' Growing
Waistline -18% Citizens
Are Obese

By Rob Schoenbaum
Fox News Online
This past week, experts convened at the annual meeting of the North American Association for the Study of Obesity in Charleston, S.C., to discuss the best strategies for winning this bulging battle.
Experts reiterate what most people know but secretly hope isn't true: "There is no magic bullet for the treatment of obesity today in terms of medications," said Dr. Sam Klein, a professor of medicine at Washington University in St. Louis. "Right now, the cornerstone for treating obesity is trying to change lifestyle by decreasing calorie intake and increasing physical activity."
This is the dreaded truth for many dieters: Work is required. A serious effort to modify eating habits and pump up the exercise routine must be made in order to lose weight. Other researchers fleshed out this treatment philosophy with the following findings.
The Sweet Truth
Sugar intake really has nothing to do with overweight, according to two studies presented at the conference. It's a common misconception that obesity is caused by an overdose of sweets, and doctors explained why.
In one study, researchers at Michigan State University measured the body mass index (weight divided by height) of almost 16,000 adults. Then they asked the people to provide information on the amount of sugar, fat, carbohydrates and calorie intake.
Obese men and women in the study consumed not only fewer total calories than their thinner counterparts, but had a lower percentage of calories from sugars and carbohydrates. They did, however, consume a higher percentage of their calories from fat.
Researchers concluded that fat and sugars work like a seesaw: As fat intake rose, so did the BMI. But as sugar intake went up, BMI fell.
At Georgetown University, researchers examined data from a USDA survey of how closely people follow the food guide pyramid.
"Added sugars have a minimal negative effect on consumption of most of the food groups and nutrients," reported lead researchers Dr. Maureen Storey and Dr. Rich Forshee. However, they found, added alcohol did have a significant negative impact on diet quality.
Behavior Therapy
The importance of a change in lifestyle was highlighted by two different studies.
In the first one, conducted by researchers at Brown University School of Medicine, men and women logged on to an Internet-based program where they submitted daily diaries listing their calorie and fat intakes as well as the exercise they had completed. They could get support for their weight loss through an online bulletin board and once a week, a behavior therapist would give them e-mail feedback.
After just three months, these subjects lost an average of nine pounds and shed 2.5 inches off their waistlines, while the control group - which did not have access to the support and feedback - lost only three pounds and 1 inch of waistline on average.
Similarly, a group of obese women who participated in a behavior-modification group in addition to taking the weight loss drug Meridia lost more weight after six months than those who just used the medication.
These women, who took part in a study conducted by researchers at the University of Pennsylvania School of Medicine, were assigned to group behavior-modification sessions. They also were encouraged to consume 1,200 to 1,500 calories per day, burn about 1,500 calories per week in physical activity and keep records of their food intake.
This added component of the program more than doubled the size of participants' weight loss. "Taking a dual approach (of behavior modification and medication) is better than a single approach," said lead researcher Thomas Wadden.
You've Got to Move It, Move It
An increasing in exercise does lead to weight loss, experts agree " as long as it,s accompanied by decreases in calories.
But even if picking up exercise doesn,t lead to dropped pounds, it makes a major difference in a person,s health, said Dr. Steven Blair of the Cooper Institute in Dallas, Texas. Blair reviewed several studies that show how exercise provides health benefits for overweight people.
"Overweight or even obese individuals who are fit have a much lower death rate than normal-weight individuals who are unfit," Blair said.

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