Why your Jan­uary diet didn’t work

It’s not your fault, doc­tors say, but there’s still lots you can do to shed the pounds

The Province - - LIVE IT! - MARIA LALLY

There are few things more frus­trat­ing than a dry-and-detoxed Jan­uary re­sult­ing in barely a pound or two of weight loss.

Now, re­searchers from the U.K.’s Univer­sity of Ex­eter have found that the fat cells of over­weight peo­ple are in­flamed and scarred.

So peo­ple who are over­weight or obese may strug­gle to lose weight, no mat­ter how much they diet.

“These fat cells are less able to store ex­cess calo­ries, and so may cause fat to move into and wrap around or­gans such as the liver,” says Dr. Kata­rina Kos who worked on the study and is an ex­pert in obe­sity-re­lated disor­ders.

This can lead to peo­ple stor­ing fat within the deep lay­ers of the stom­ach so they have dis­pro­por­tion­ately large tum­mies, which can lead to fatty liver dis­ease, di­a­betes and heart dis­ease.

“We’ve known this for a while,” says Dr. Robert Lustig, an obe­sity ex­pert at the Univer­sity of Cal­i­for­nia.

“Re­searchers have demon­strated that at a cer­tain point, fat tis­sues lose their abil­ity to be able to be reg­u­lated by in­sulin. There very well may be a point of no re­turn.”

Lustig says these find­ings give some re­as­sur­ance to those peo­ple who strug­gle to lose weight.

“For a long time, it’s been thought that over­weight peo­ple can’t lose weight be­cause they’re lazy, or greedy or not re­ally try­ing. But we sci­en­tists know the real story: It re­ally is much harder for them.

“It’s not sim­ply a case of calo­ries in and calo­ries out. Say­ing ‘it’s all their fault they’re fat’ is a ruse and a di­ver­sion pro­mul­gated by the food in­dus­try to as­suage their cul­pa­bil­ity in all of this.”

The world’s obe­sity rate has dou­bled since 1980. The U.S., where Lustig is based, has the high­est rate of obe­sity of high-in­come coun­tries, with 33 per cent con­sid­ered obese.

Of course, over­weight peo­ple can and do lose weight. But the Ex­eter re­search may go some way to ex­plain the count­less stud­ies that show around 95 per cent of di­eters re­gain most, if not all or more, of the weight they lose.

Of­ten, this is due to go­ing back to old eat­ing habits, but could this dam­age to fat cells also be to blame? And if so, what can you do?

“There may be the po­ten­tial for a drug to ‘heal’ scarred fat cells,” says Kos. “Un­til then, stick to con­trol­ling your calo­ries where pos­si­ble. Re­search has also shown a walk af­ter meals may help pre­vent fat cells from scar­ring fur­ther, along with burn­ing ex­tra calo­ries.”

Lustig, a vo­cal and early op­po­nent of sugar who has called for laws to re­strict its use, says there are three ways to help heal your fat cells.

“There’s medicine, diet and ex­er­cise. Sci­en­tists are work­ing on a drug for the obese that was ap­proved for use for asthma in Ja­pan back in the Eight­ies,” he says.

“How­ever, that’s for the se­verely obese. So next comes diet.

“The more over­weight you are, the harder it is to lift the fat out of your fat cells be­cause they’re in­sulin-re­sis­tant.

“So the first thing is to get your in­sulin down. What makes it go up? Re­fined car­bo­hy­drates and white food. That means white bread, rice, pasta, sugar you put in your tea, and so on,” he ex­plains.

“A low-sugar, high-fi­bre diet re­duces in­sulin. So what helps heal dam­aged fat cells and low­ers in­sulin? Get­ting peo­ple off white, pro­cessed food and on to real food. And lastly, ex­er­cise.”

Take the rec­om­mended 10,000 steps a day.

— GETTY IM­AGES/ISTOCKPHOTO FILES

The no­tion that over­weight peo­ple are un­able to lose weight be­cause they’re lazy, or greedy or not re­ally try­ing is ac­tu­ally much more com­plex, ac­cord­ing to sci­en­tists.

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