The Diet Detective: Healthy Tips for a Healthy Life

Trying to Cut Down on Doctor's Visits?

James McIntosh, a Canadian researcher and professor in the Department of Economics at Concordia University, found that obese individuals visit the doctor more frequently than regular smokers who are at a healthy weight.  He believes that obesity is a more serious health problem than smoking, because we already know how bad smoking is for our health.

According to his research, if obesity were not a factor, doctor visits would decrease by 10 percent.  McIntosh believes that one solution could be economic incentives. "Just as smokers have higher life insurance premiums, people who are obese could also be made to pay more for health insurance. The complication is that obesity tends to be more prevalent among people with low income, making this solution difficult to implement."

More: 7 Heart-Healthy Habits

When You Eat Does Matter—So Eat While You're Active

The best time to consume those high-calorie foods is during periods of activity, not when you're lounging around watching TV, according to researchers at the Academic Medical Center of the University of Amsterdam in the Netherlands.

The researchers "gave rats either rodent chow or chow plus either saturated fat or a sugar solution. One group was allowed to consume the diets freely whereas the other groups were only allowed to eat either the fat or sugar during their inactive period. They found that rats consuming all of their sugar solution in the inactive period gained more weight than rats consuming all their sugar solution during the free period even though their total caloric intake was the same. They also gained more weight than rats consuming the saturated fat solely during the inactive period. The greater body weight gain in rats consuming sugar in the inactive period was associated with less heat production."

More: How to Refuel After a Hard Workout

Too Much Fat in Your Diet = Worse Sleep

Researchers from the University of Minnesota and Veterans Affairs Medical Center, Minneapolis, found that prolonged exposure to a high-fat diet reduces the quality of sleep. The researchers measured "24-hour sleep and wake states after rats consumed a high-fat diet for eight weeks. Compared to rats that consumed a standard laboratory chow, the rats on the high-fat diet slept more, but sleep was fragmented. The increased sleep time of the rats on the high-fat diet occurred mainly during the normally active phase of the day, resembling excessive daytime sleepiness observed in obese humans."  

The researchers believe that the disruptive sleep cycle results from a decrease in sensitivity to a brain chemical called orexin, which is important for stabilizing sleep and wake states.

More: 3 Reasons to Eat More Fat

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