November, 2015

Science Confirms: “Fat Shaming” Just Makes Things Worse

There has been a lot of talk about “fat shaming” on the internet in the past few weeks. This was sparked by a couple of viral videos, one serious and the other a (bad) joke, that harshly criticised overweight people. Some believe that making overweight people feel ashamed of their weight or eating habits actually helps motivate them to lose weight. However, nothing could be further from the truth. Psychologists have done a lot of research on this, and the evidence is very clear. Fat shaming does NOT motivate people, but makes them feel terrible about themselves and actually causes them to eat more and gain more weight.

What is Fat Shaming?

Fat shaming involves criticizing and harassing overweight people about their weight or eating, in order to make them feel ashamed of themselves. Apparently, some people believe that making overweight people feel ashamed of themselves will motivate them to change their behavior so they start eating less, exercising more and finally start to lose weight. Others are just horrible human beings, plain and simple. Horrible people often feel comfortable saying things over the internet that they would not say in real life. In the majority of cases, the people who do this are skinny. They have never had to struggle with a weight problem themselves and don’t understand what it is like. There are actually entire communities on the internet where people gather in order to make fun of overweight people. Often it turns into downright group harassment. A high-profile example is Reddit’s fatpeoplehate forum, which was recently closed down because their members would storm pages and videos from overweight people in order to harass them. Research shows that a very large percentage of discussions about obesity on social media, especially Twitter and Facebook, are of a fat shaming nature. This often turns into downright harassment and cyberbullying – especially against women.

Whatever your opinion of fat shaming is, the research is very clear that stigma and discrimination against overweight people causes major psychological harm and makes the problem worse.

Bottom Line: Fat shaming is the act of criticizing and harassing overweight people about their weight or eating behavior. It is often justified as a means to motivate people, but research shows that it has the opposite effect.

Fat Shaming Causes Overweight People to Eat More

When people are discriminated against, it causes stress and makes them feel bad. In the case of overweight people, this stress can drive them to eat more calories and gain even more weight. In a study of 93 women, exposure to weight stigmatizing information made overweight women, but not normal weight women, eat more calories and feel less in control of their eating. In another study, this time in 73 overweight women, those who watched a stigmatizing video ate 3 times as many calories (302 vs 89) afterwards compared to women who watched a non-stigmatizing video. This is supported by numerous studies showing that “fat shaming” in any shape or form causes overweight people to become stressed and end up eating more calories and gaining more weight.

Bottom Line: Many studies show that weight discrimination (like fat shaming) causes stress and leads overweight people to eat more calories.

Weight Discrimination is Linked to Increased Risk of Obesity

Many observational studies have looked at weight discrimination and the risk of future weight gain and obesity. In one study of 6,157 people, non-obese participants who experienced weight discrimination were 2.5 times more likely to become obese over the next few years. Additionally, this study found that obese people who experienced weight discrimination were 3.2 times as likely to remain obese over the next few years. This shows that fat shaming is certainly NOT likely to motivate people to lose weight. Another study in 2,944 people found that weight discrimination was linked to a whopping 6.67 times greater risk of becoming obese.

Bottom Line: Many observational studies show that weight discrimination is linked to weight gain and a drastic increase in the risk of becoming obese.

Fat Shaming Has Various Harmful Effects on Obese People

The harmful effects of fat shaming go beyond just increased weight gain, which is serious enough as it is.

Here are some other harmful effects that are supported by studies:

  • Depression: People who are discriminated against due to weight are at higher risk of depression and other mental issues (no surprise there).
  • Eating disorders: Fat shaming is linked to an increased risk of eating disorders, such as binge eating disorder.
  • Reduced self-esteem: Fat shaming is linked to reduced self-esteem.
  • Others: By causing stress, weight gain, increased cortisol levels and mental problems, weight discrimination may raise the risk of all sorts of chronic diseases.

Looking at the literature, the research is very clear that fat shaming harms people, both psychologically and physically.

Bottom Line: Weight discrimination can cause depression, eating disorders, reduced self-esteem and raise the risk of all sorts of mental problems.

Can Fat Shaming Literally Kill People?

As mentioned above, studies show that weight discrimination is linked to increased risk of depression. For example, one study found that those who had experienced weight discrimination were 2.7 times as likely to become depressed. There are also numerous studies showing that depression is very common among people who are obese, especially in extreme obesity. As is common knowledge, one of the consequences of depression is suicide. In a study of 2,436 people, extreme obesity was associated with 21 times greater risk of suicidal behaviour and 12 times greater risk of suicide attempts. Could fat shaming drive a vulnerable and depressed obese person to suicide? It’s a speculative leap, but it seems plausible. Fat shamers are not only making obese people gain more weight and making them feel horrible, they may literally be killing them.

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The Dark Side of Iron – Why Too Much is Harmful

Iron is an essential mineral. However, like many other nutrients, it is harmful in high amounts. In fact, iron is so toxic that its absorption from the digestive tract is tightly controlled. For the most part, this minimizes the harmful effects of excess iron. It is when these safety mechanisms fail that health issues arise. This article discusses the potentially harmful effects of consuming too much iron.

What is Iron?

Iron is an essential dietary mineral, mostly used by red blood cells. It is a crucial part of hemoglobin, a protein found in red blood cells. Hemoglobin is responsible for delivering oxygen to all of the body’s cells. There are two types of dietary iron:

  • Heme iron: This type of iron is only found in animal foods, mostly in red meat. It is absorbed more easily than non-heme iron.
  • Non-heme iron: Most dietary iron is in the non-heme form. It is found in both animals and plants. Its absorption can be enhanced with organic acids, such as vitamin C, but is decreased by plant compounds like phytate.

People who get little or no heme iron in their diet are at an increased risk of iron deficiency. Many people are iron deficient, especially women. In fact, iron deficiency is the world’s most common mineral deficiency.

Bottom Line: Iron is an essential dietary mineral that plays an important role in transporting oxygen throughout the body. Iron deficiency is common among women.

Regulation of Iron Stores

There are two reasons why iron levels are tightly regulated within the body:

  • Iron is an essential nutrient that plays a role in many basic body functions, so we must get a small amount.
  • High levels of iron are potentially toxic, so we can’t get too much.

The body regulates iron levels by adjusting the rate of iron absorption from the digestive tract. Hepcidin, the body’s iron-regulatory hormone, is responsible for keeping iron stores in balance. Its main function is to suppress the absorption of iron. Basically, this is how it works:

  • High iron stores -> Levels of hepcidin increase -> Iron absorption decreases.
  • Low iron stores -> Levels of hepcidin decrease -> Iron absorption increases.

Most of the time, this system works quite well. However, a few disorders that suppress hepcidin production can lead to iron overload. On the other hand, conditions that stimulate hepcidin formation may cause iron deficiency. Iron balance is also affected by the amount of iron in our diet. Over time, diets low in iron may cause a deficiency. Likewise, an overdose of iron supplements may cause severe iron poisoning.

Bottom Line: The rate of iron absorption from the digestive tract is tightly regulated by the hormone hepcidin. However, several iron overload disorders may disrupt this fragile balance.

Iron Toxicity

Iron toxicity can be either sudden or gradual. Many serious health problems may be caused by accidental overdoses, taking high-dose supplements for a long time, or chronic iron overload disorders. Under normal circumstances, very little free iron circulates in the bloodstream. It is safely bound to proteins, such as transferrin, which keep it from causing harm. However, iron toxicity can significantly increase the levels of “free” iron in the body. Free iron is a pro-oxidant – the opposite of an antioxidant – and may cause damage to cells. Several conditions may cause this to happen. These include:

  • Iron poisoning: Poisoning can occur when people, usually children, overdose on iron supplements.
  • Hereditary hemochromatosis: A genetic disorder characterized by excessive absorption of iron from food.
  • African iron overload: A type of dietary iron overload caused by high levels of iron in food or drinks. It was first observed in Africa, where homemade beer was brewed in iron pots.

Acute iron poisoning happens when people overdose on iron supplements. Single doses as low as 10–20 mg/kg may cause adverse symptoms. Doses higher than 40 mg/kg require medical attention. Similarly, repeated high-dose iron supplementation may cause serious problems. Make sure to follow the instructions on iron supplements, and never take more than your doctor recommends. Early symptoms of iron poisoning may include stomach pain, nausea and vomiting. Gradually, the excess iron accumulates in internal organs, causing potentially fatal damage to the brain and liver. The long-term ingestion of high-dose supplements may gradually cause symptoms similar to iron overload, which is discussed more below.

Bottom Line: Iron toxicity refers to the harmful effects of excess iron. It may occur when 1) people overdose on iron supplements, 2) take high-dose supplements for too long or 3) suffer from a chronic iron overload disorder.

Iron Overload

Iron overload refers to the gradual build up of too much iron in the body. It is caused by the body’s regulatory system failing to keep iron levels within healthy limits.

For most people, iron overload is not a concern. However, it is a problem for those who are genetically predisposed to excessive absorption of iron from the digestive tract. The most common iron overload disorder is hereditary hemochromatosis. This leads to the build up of iron in tissues and organs. Over time, untreated hemochromatosis increases the risk of arthritis, cancer, liver problems, diabetes and heart failure. The body has no easy way to dispose of extra iron. The most effective way to get rid of excess iron is blood loss. Therefore, menstruating women are less likely to experience iron overload. Likewise, those who donate blood frequently are at lower risk. If you are prone to iron overload, you can minimize the risk of health problems by:

  • Reducing your intake of iron-rich foods, such as red meat.
  • Donating blood regularly.
  • Avoiding taking vitamin C with foods that are rich in iron.

However, if you have not been diagnosed with iron overload, reducing your iron intake is generally not recommended.

Bottom Line: Iron overload is characterized by excessive amounts of iron in the body. The most common disorder is hereditary hemochromatosis, which may lead to many health problems. This is not a concern for most people.

Iron and Cancer Risk

There is no doubt that iron overload may lead to cancer in both animals and humans. It appears that regular blood donation or blood loss may reduce this risk. Observational studies suggest that a high intake of heme iron may increase the risk of colon cancer. Clinical trials in humans have shown that heme iron from supplements or red meat may increase the formation of cancer-causing N-nitroso compounds in the digestive tract. The association of red meat and cancer is a hotly-debated topic. Although there are some plausible mechanisms explaining this link, most of the evidence is based on observational studies.

Bottom Line: Iron overload disorders have been linked with an increased risk of cancer. Studies also suggest that heme-iron may raise the risk of colon cancer.

Iron and Risk of Infection

Both iron overload and iron deficiency appear to make people more susceptible to infection.

There are two reasons for this:

  • The immune system uses iron to kill harmful bacteria, so some amount of iron is needed to fight infections.
  • Elevated levels of free iron stimulate the growth of bacteria and viruses, so too much iron can have the opposite effect and increase the risk of infections.

Several studies indicate that iron supplementation may increase the frequency and severity of infections, although a few studies found no efects. People with hereditary hemochromatosis are also more susceptible to infections. For patients at a high risk of infection, iron supplementation should be a well-grounded decision. All potential risks should be taken into account.

Bottom Line: Iron overload and high-dose iron supplementation may increase the risk of infection in certain individuals.

Take Home Message

In short, iron can be dangerous in high quantities. However, unless you have an iron overload disorder, you generally do not need to worry about getting too much iron from your diet. Iron supplementation is another story. It benefits those who suffer from iron deficiency, but may cause harm in those who are not iron-deficient. Never take iron supplements unless recommended by your doctor.

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How Much Vitamin D is Too Much? The Surprising Truth

Vitamin D toxicity is extremely rare, but does occur with extreme doses. It usually develops over time, since extra vitamin D can build up in the body. Nearly all vitamin D overdoses result from taking high amounts of vitamin D supplements. It is almost impossible to get too much vitamin D from sunlight or food. This is a detailed article about vitamin D toxicity and how much of it is considered to be too much.

Vitamin D Toxicity — How Does it Happen?

Vitamin D toxicity implies that vitamin D levels in the body are so high that they cause harm. It is also termed hypervitaminosis D. Vitamin D is a fat-soluble vitamin. In contrast to water-soluble vitamins, the body has no easy way of getting rid of fat-soluble vitamins. For this reason, excessive amounts may build up inside the body. The exact mechanism behind vitamin D toxicity is complicated and isn’t fully understood at this point. However, we know that the active form of vitamin D functions in a similar way as a steroid hormone. It travels inside cells, telling them to turn genes on or off. Usually, most of the body’s vitamin D is in storage, bound to either vitamin D receptors or carrier proteins. Very little “free” vitamin D is available. However, when vitamin D intake is extreme, the levels can become so high that there isn’t any room left on the receptors or carrier proteins. This may lead to elevated levels of “free” vitamin D in the body, which may travel inside cells and overwhelm the signalling processes affected by vitamin D. One of the main signalling processes has to do with increasing the absorption of calcium from the digestive system. As a result, the main symptom of vitamin D toxicity is hypercalcemia – elevated levels of calcium in the blood. High calcium levels can cause various symptoms, and the calcium can also bind to other tissues and damage them. This includes the kidneys.

Bottom Line: Vitamin D toxicity is also termed hypervitaminosis D. It implies that vitamin D levels in the body are so high that they cause harm, leading to hypercalcemia and other symptoms.

Blood Levels of Vitamin D: Optimal vs. Excessive

Vitamin D is an essential vitamin, and almost every cell in your body has a receptor for it. It is produced in the skin when it is exposed to sun. The main dietary sources of vitamin D are fish liver oils and fatty fish. For people who don’t get enough sunlight, vitamin D supplements can be important. Vitamin D is very important for bone health, and has also been linked with immune function and protection against cancer.

Guidelines for blood levels of vitamin D are as follows:

  • Sufficient: 20–30 ng/ml, or 50–75 nmol/L.
  • Safe upper limit: 60 ng/ml, or 150 nmol/L.
  • Toxic: Above 150 ng/mL, or 375 nmol/L.

A daily vitamin D intake of 1000–4000 IU (25–100 micrograms) should be enough to ensure optimal blood levels for most people.

Bottom Line: Blood levels in the range of 20–30 ng/ml are usually considered sufficient. The safe upper limit is considered to be about 60 ng/ml, but people with symptoms of toxicity usually have levels above 150 ng/ml.

How Much Vitamin D is Too Much?

Since relatively little is known about how vitamin D toxicity works, it is hard to define an exact threshold for safe or toxic vitamin D intake.

According to the Institute of Medicine, 4000 IU is the safe upper level of daily vitamin D intake. However, doses up to 10,000 IU have not been shown to cause toxicity in healthy individuals. Vitamin D toxicity is generally caused by excessive doses of vitamin D supplements, not by diet or sun exposure. Although vitamin D toxicity is a very rare condition, recent increases in supplement use may lead to an increase in reported cases. A daily intake ranging from 40,000–100,000 IU (1000–2500 micrograms), for one to several months, has been shown to cause toxicity in humans. This is 10-25 times the recommended upper limit, in repeated doses. Individuals with vitamin D toxicity usually have blood levels above 150 ng/ml (375 nmol/L). Several cases have also been caused by errors in manufacturing, when the supplements had 100-4000 times higher amounts of vitamin D than stated on the package. The blood levels in these cases of toxicity ranged from 257–620 ng/ml, or 644–1549 nmol/L. Vitamin D toxicity is usually reversible, but severe cases may eventually cause kidney failure and calcification of the arteries

Bottom Line: The safe upper limit of intake is set at 4000 IU/day. Intake in the range of 40,000–100,000 IU/day (10-25 times the recommended upper limit) has been linked with toxicity in humans.

Symptoms and Treatment of Vitamin D Toxicity

The main consequence of vitamin D toxicity is a buildup of calcium in the blood, called hypercalcemia. Early symptoms of hypercalcemia include nausea, vomiting, diarrhea, constipation and weakness. Excessive thirst, an altered level of consciousness, high blood pressure, calcification in the kidney tubes, kidney failure or hearing loss may also develop. Hypercalcemia caused by regularly taking high amounts of vitamin D supplements may take a few months to resolve. This is because vitamin D accumulates in body fat, and is released into the blood slowly. Treating vitamin D intoxication includes avoiding sun exposure and eliminating all dietary and supplemental vitamin D. Your doctor may also correct your calcium levels with increased salt and fluids, often by an intravenous saline.

Bottom Line: The main consequence of vitamin D toxicity is hypercalcemia, with symptoms including nausea, vomiting, weakness and kidney failure. Treatment involves limiting all vitamin D intake and sun exposure.

Large Doses Can be Harmful, Even Without Symptoms of Toxicity

Large doses of vitamin D can be harmful, even though there may not be immediate symptoms of toxicity.

Vitamin D is very unlikely to cause severe symptoms of toxicity right away, and symptoms may take months or years to show up. This is one reason why vitamin D toxicity is so difficult to detect. There have been reports of people taking very large doses of vitamin D for months without symptoms, yet blood tests revealed severe hypercalcemia and symptoms of kidney failure. The harmful effects of vitamin D are very complex. High doses of vitamin D can cause hypercalcemia without toxicity symptoms, but can also cause toxicity symptoms without hypercalcemia. To be safe, you should not exceed the 4,000 IU (100 mcg) upper limit without consulting with a doctor or dietitian.

Bottom Line: Vitamin D toxicity usually develops over time, and the harmful effects are very complex. Large doses may cause damage, despite a lack of noticeable symptoms.

Does the Intake of Other Fat-Soluble Vitamins Change The Tolerance for Vitamin D?

It has been hypothesized that two other fat-soluble vitamins, vitamin K and vitamin A, may play important roles in vitamin D toxicity. Vitamin K helps regulate where calcium ends up in the body, and high amounts of vitamin D may deplete the body’s stores of vitamin K. A higher vitamin A intake may help prevent this from happening by sparing the vitamin K stores. Another nutrient that may be important is magnesium. It is one of the nutrients needed for improved bone health. Taking vitamin A, vitamin K and magnesium with vitamin D may therefore improve bone function and reduce the chances of other tissues becoming calcified. Keep in mind that these are just hypotheses, but it may be wise to make sure you are getting enough of these nutrients if you are going to supplement with vitamin D.

Bottom Line: If you are supplementing with vitamin D, then it may be important to also ensure sufficient intake of vitamin A, vitamin K and magnesium. These may reduce the risk of adverse effects from a higher vitamin D intake.

Take Home Message

People respond very differently to high doses of vitamin D. Therefore, it is hard to evaluate which doses are safe and which are not. Vitamin D toxicity can have devastating health effects, which may not show up until months or even years after starting to take high doses. Generally, it is not recommended to exceed the upper limit of safe intake, which is 4000 IU (100 micrograms) per day. Larger doses have not been linked with any additional health benefits, and may therefore be completely unnecessary. An occasional high dose of vitamin D is sometimes used to treat a deficiency, but always consult with your doctor or dietitian before taking a large dose. As with many other things in nutrition, more does not always equal better.

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11 Myths About Fasting and Meal Frequency

Intermittent fasting has become immensely popular in recent years. This is an eating pattern that cycles between periods of fasting and eating. However, there are still all sorts of myths surrounding this topic. This article debunks the 11 most common myths about fasting, snacking and meal frequency.

1. Skipping Breakfast Will Make You Fat

“Breakfast is the most important meal of the day.” There is an ongoing myth that there is something “special” about breakfast. People believe that breakfast skipping leads to excessive hunger, cravings and weight gain. Although many observational studies have found statistical links between breakfast skipping and overweight/obesity, this may be explained by the fact that the stereotypical breakfast skipper is less health-conscious overall. Interestingly, this matter was recently settled in a randomized controlled trial, which is the gold standard of science. This study was published in 2014 and compared eating breakfast vs skipping breakfast in 283 overweight and obese adults. After a 16-week study period, there was no difference in weight between groups. This study shows that it doesn’t make any difference for weight loss whether you eat or don’t eat breakfast, although there may be some individual variability.

However, there are some studies showing that children and teenagers who eat breakfast tend to perform better at school. There are also studies on people who have succeeded with losing weight in the long term, showing that they tend to eat breakfast. This is one of those things that varies between individuals. Breakfast is beneficial for some people, but not others. It is not essential and there is nothing “magical” about it.

Bottom Line: Eating breakfast can have benefits for many people, but it is not essential. Controlled trials do not show any difference between eating and skipping breakfast for the purpose of weight loss.

2. Eating Frequently Boosts Your Metabolism

“Eat many, small meals to stoke the metabolic flame.”

Many people believe that eating more meals leads to increased metabolic rate, so that your body burns more calories overall. It is true that the body expends a certain amount of energy digesting and assimilating the nutrients in a meal. This is termed the thermic effect of food (TEF), and amounts to about 20-30% of calories for protein, 5-10% for carbs and 0-3% for fat calories. On average, the thermic effect of food is somewhere around 10% of the total calorie intake. However, what matters here is the total amount of calories consumed, not how many meals you eat. Eating six 500-calorie meals has the exact same effect as eating three 1000-calorie meals. Given an average thermic effect of 10%, it is 300 calories in both cases. This is supported by numerous feeding studies in humans, showing that increasing or decreasing meal frequency has no effect on total calories burned.

Bottom Line: There is no difference in calories burned if you eat more frequently. Total calorie intake and macronutrient breakdown is what counts.

3. Eating Frequently Helps Reduce Hunger

Some people believe that snacking helps prevent cravings and excessive hunger. Interestingly, several studies have looked at this, and the evidence is mixed. Although some studies suggest that more frequent meals lead to reduced hunger, other studies find no effects, and yet others show increased hunger levels. One study that compared 3 high-protein meals to 6 high-protein meals found that 3 meals were actually better for reducing hunger. That being said, this may depend on the individual. If snacking helps you experience fewer cravings and makes you less likely to binge, then it is probably a good idea. However, there is no evidence that snacking or eating more often reduces hunger for everyone. Different strokes for different folks.

Bottom Line: There is no consistent evidence that eating more often reduces overall hunger or calorie intake. Some studies even show that smaller, more frequent meals increase hunger.

4. Many, Smaller Meals Can Help You Lose Weight

Frequent meals do not boost metabolism (increase calories out). They also do not seem to reduce hunger (reduce calories in). If eating more frequently has no effect on the energy balance equation, then it shouldn’t have any effect on weight loss. In fact, this is supported by science. Most studies on this do show that meal frequency has no effect on weight loss. For example, a study in 16 obese men and women did not find any difference in weight, fat loss or appetite when comparing 3 and 6 meals per day. However, if you find that eating more often makes it easier for you to eat fewer calories and less junk food, then perhaps this is effective for you. Personally I find it to be ridiculously inconvenient to eat so often, making it even harder to stick to a healthy diet. But it may work for some people.

Bottom Line: There is no evidence that changing your meal frequency helps you lose more weight. Most studies show that there is no difference.

5. The Brain Needs a Constant Supply of Glucose

Some people believe that if we don’t eat carbs every few hours, that our brains will stop functioning. This is based on the belief that the brain can only use glucose (blood sugar) for fuel. However, what is often left out of the discussion is that the body can easily produce the glucose it needs via a process called gluconeogenesis. This may not even be needed in most cases, because your body has stored glycogen (glucose) in the liver that it can use to supply the brain with energy for many hours. Even during long-term fasting, starvation or a very low-carbohydrate diet, the body can produce ketone bodies from dietary fats. Ketone bodies can provide energy for part of the brain, reducing its glucose requirement significantly. So, during a long fast, the brain can easily sustain itself using ketone bodies and glucose produced from proteins and fats.

It also makes no sense from an evolutionary perspective that we shouldn’t be able to survive without a constant source of carbohydrate. If that were true, then humans would have become extinct a long time ago. However, some people do report that they feel hypoglycemic when they don’t eat for a while. If this applies to you, then perhaps you should stick to a higher meal frequency, or at least ask your doctor before changing things.

Bottom Line: The body can produce glucose to supply the brain with energy, even during long-term fasts or starvation. Part of the brain can also use ketone bodies for energy.

6. Eating Often and Snacking is Good For Health

It is simply not “natural” for the body to be constantly in the fed state.

When humans were evolving, we had to endure periods of scarcity from time to time. There is evidence that short-term fasting induces a cellular repair process called autophagy, where the cells use old and dysfunctional proteins for energy. Autophagy may help protect against aging and diseases like Alzheimer’s disease, and may even reduce the risk of cancer. The truth is that fasting from time to time has all sorts of benefits for metabolic health. There are also some studies suggesting that snacking, and eating very often, can have negative effects on health and raise your risk of disease. For example, one study found that, coupled with a high calorie intake, a diet with more frequent meals caused a greater increase in liver fat, indicating that snacking may raise the risk of fatty liver disease. There are also some observational studies showing that people who eat more often have a much higher risk of colorectal cancer.

Bottom Line: It is a myth that snacking is inherently good for health. Some studies show that snacking is harmful and others show that fasting from time to time has major health benefits.

7. Fasting Puts Your Body in “Starvation Mode”

One common argument against intermittent fasting is that it can put your body in “starvation mode.” According to the claims, not eating makes your body think it is starving, so it shuts down its metabolism and prevents you from burning fat. It is actually true that long-term weight loss can reduce the amount of calories you burn. This is the true “starvation mode” (the technical term is adaptive thermogenesis). This is a real effect, and can amount to hundreds of fewer calories burned per day. However, this happens with weight loss no matter what method you use. There is no evidence that this happens more with intermittent fasting than other weight loss strategies. In fact, the evidence actually shows that short-term fasts increase metabolic rate. This is due to a drastic increase in blood levels of norepinephrine (noradrenaline), which tells the fat cells to break down body fat and stimulates metabolism. Studies show that fasting for up to 48 hours can actually boost metabolism by 3.6-14%. However, if you fast much longer than that, the effect can reverse and metabolism can go down compared to baseline. One study showed that fasting every other day for 22 days did not lead to a decrease in metabolic rate, but the participants lost 4% of their fat mass, which is impressive for a period as short as 3 weeks.

Bottom Line: It is false that short-term fasting puts the body in “starvation mode.” The truth is that metabolism actually increases during fasts of up to 48 hours.

8. The Body Can Only Use a Certain Amount of Protein Per Meal

There are some who claim that we can only digest 30 grams of protein per meal, and that we should eat every 2-3 hours to maximize muscle gain. However, this is not supported by science. Studies do not show a difference in muscle mass if you eat your protein in more frequent doses. The most important factor for most people is the total amount of protein consumed, not how many meals it is spread over.

Bottom Line: The body can easily make use of more than 30 grams of protein per meal, and it is not necessary to get protein in your body every 2-3 hours.

9. Intermittent Fasting Makes You Lose Muscle

Some believe that if we fast, that our bodies will start burning muscle and using it for fuel. It is true that this happens with dieting in general, but there is no evidence that this happens more with intermittent fasting than other methods. In fact, some studies even suggest that intermittent fasting is better for maintaining muscle mass. In one review study, intermittent calorie restriction caused a similar amount of weight loss as continuous calorie restriction, but much less reduction in muscle mass. There was also a study that had participants eat the same amount of calories as they were used to, except in one huge meal in the evening. These people lost body fat and actually had a modest increase (almost statistically significant) in their muscle mass, along with a bunch of other beneficial effects on health markers. Intermittent fasting is also popular among many bodybuilders, who find it to be an effective way to maintain high amounts of muscle with a low body fat percentage.

Bottom Line: There is no evidence that fasting causes more muscle loss than conventional calorie restriction. In fact, some studies show that intermittent fasting may be beneficial for holding on to muscle mass while dieting.

10. Intermittent Fasting is Bad For Your Health

Some people think that fasting can be downright harmful, but nothing could be farther from the truth.

Numerous studies show that intermittent fasting, and intermittent calorie restriction, can have incredibly impressive health benefits. For example, intermittent fasting changes the expression of genes related to longevity and protection against disease, and has been shown to prolong lifespan in test animals. It also has major benefits for metabolic health, such as improved insulin sensitivity, reduced oxidative stress and inflammation, and a reduction in various risk factors for heart disease. It may also be good for brain health by boosting levels of a brain hormone called brain-derived neurotrophic factor (BDNF). This may be protective against depression and various other brain problems.

Bottom Line: Some think that fasting is harmful, but this is the opposite of the truth. Short-term fasting actually has powerful benefits for your body and brain.

11. Intermittent Fasting Makes You Overeat

Some claim that intermittent fasting won’t cause weight loss, because it causes you to overeat during the eating periods. This is partly true. After a fast, people automatically tend to eat a little bit more than if they hadn’t been fasting. In other words, they compensate for the calories “lost” during the fast by eating more during the next few meals. However, this compensation isn’t complete. One study showed that people who fasted for a whole day only ended up eating about 500 extra calories the next day. So they expended about 2400 calories during the fasting day, then “overate” by 500 calories the day after. The total reduction in calorie intake was then 1900 calories, which is a very large deficit for only 2 days. Intermittent fasting reduces overall food intake while boosting metabolism. It also reduces insulin levels, increases norepinephrine and boosts human growth hormone as much as 5-fold. Because of these factors, intermittent fasting makes you lose fat, not gain it. According to a 2014 review study, fasting for 3-24 weeks causes body weight loss of 3-8%, and a 4-7% decrease in belly fat. In this study, intermittent fasting caused 0.55 pounds of weight loss per week, but alternate-day fasting caused weight loss of 1.65 pounds per week. The truth is, intermittent fasting is one of the world’s most powerful tools to lose weight. Saying that it makes you overeat, go into “starvation mode” and end up gaining weight is the exact opposite of the truth.

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Red Wine: Good or Bad?

The health benefits of red wine have been debated for some time. Many believe that a glass each day is a valuable part of a healthy diet, while others think wine is somewhat overrated. Studies have repeatedly shown that moderate red wine consumption seems to lower the risk of several diseases, including heart disease. However, there is a fine line between moderate and excessive intake. This article takes a detailed look at red wine and its health effects.

What is Red Wine and How is it Made?

Red wine is made by crushing and fermenting dark-colored, whole grapes. There are many types of red wine, which vary in taste and color. Common varieties include Shiraz, Merlot, Cabernet sauvignon, Pinot noir and Zinfandel. The alcohol content usually ranges from 12–15%. Consuming moderate amounts of red wine has been shown to have health benefits. This is mainly due to its high content of powerful antioxidants. The alcohol in wine is also believed to contribute some of the benefits of moderate wine consumption

Bottom Line: Red wine is made by fermenting dark-colored, whole grapes. It is high in antioxidants, and drinking moderate amounts has been shown to be good for health health.

The French Paradox and Antioxidants

Red wine is often believed to be responsible for the “French paradox.” This phrase refers to the observation that the French have low rates of heart disease, despite consuming a lot of saturated fat and cholesterol. Some experts believed that red wine was the dietary agent protecting the French population from the harmful effects of these nutrients. However, new studies have shown that dietary cholesterol and saturated fat do not cause heart disease when consumed in reasonable amounts. The true reason behind the good health of the French is probably the fact that they eat more whole foods and live overall healthier lifestyles.

Bottom Line: Some people believe that red wine is responsible for the good health of the French population and that it is the main explanation for the French paradox.

Red Wine Contains Powerful Plant Compounds and Antioxidants, Including Resveratrol

 Grapes are rich in many antioxidants. These include resveratrol, catechin, epicatechin and proanthocyanidins. These antioxidants, especially resveratrol and proanthocyanidins, are believed to be responsible for the health benefits of red wine. Proanthocyanidins may reduce oxidative damage in the body. They may also help prevent heart disease and cancer.

Resveratrol is found in grape skin. It is produced in some plants, as a response to damage or injury. This antioxidant has been linked with many health benefits, including fighting inflammation and blood clotting, as well as reducing the risk of heart disease and cancer. Resveratrol can also make test animals live longer. However, the resveratrol content of red wine is rather low. You would have to consume several bottles per day to reach the amount used in the animal studies. This is not recommended, for obvious reasons. If you’re drinking wine just for the resveratrol content, then getting it from a supplement may be a better idea.

Bottom Line: The powerful plant compounds in red wine have been linked with many health benefits, including fighting inflammation, reducing the risk of heart disease and cancer, and extending lifespan.

Red Wine May Lower the Risk of Heart Disease, Stroke and Early Death

Small amounts of red wine are linked to more health benefits than any other alcoholic beverage. There seems to be a J-shaped curve that explains the relationship between wine intake and the risk of heart disease. People who drink approximately 150 ml (5 oz) of red wine a day seem to be at about a 32% lower risk than non-drinkers. However, higher intake increases the risk of heart disease dramatically. Drinking small amounts of red wine may reduce the risk of heart disease by helping to retain the “good” HDL cholesterol in the blood. Oxidative damage and the oxidation of the “bad” LDL cholesterol may also be reduced by up to 50%. Some studies indicate that populations already at a high risk of heart disease, like the elderly, may benefit even more from moderate wine consumption.

Furthermore, drinking 1–3 glasses of red wine per day, 3–4 days of the week, may reduce the risk of stroke in middle-aged men. One study also showed that consuming 2–3 glasses of dealcoholized red wine per day may lower blood pressure. Many studies have shown that moderate wine drinkers are at a lower risk of death from heart disease, compared to non-drinkers or beer and spirit drinkers.

Bottom Line: Drinking 1–2 glasses of red wine each day may lower the risk of heart disease and stroke. However, high amounts may increase the risk.

Other Health Benefits of Drinking Red Wine

Red wine has been linked with several other health benefits, many of which are attributed to its potent antioxidants.

Red wine consumption is linked to:

  • Reduced risk of cancer: Studies have shown that moderate wine consumption is linked with a decreased risk of several cancers, including colon, basal cell, ovary and prostate cancers.
  • Reduced risk of dementia: Drinking 1–3 glasses of wine per day has been linked to a reduced risk of dementia and Alzheimer’s disease.
  • Reduced risk of depression: A study of middle aged and elderly people showed that those who drank 2–7 glasses of wine per week were less likely to become depressed.
  • Reduced insulin resistance: Drinking 2 glasses per day of regular or dealcoholized red wine for 4 weeks may reduce insulin resistance.
  • Reduced risk of type 2 diabetes in women: Moderate red wine consumption has been linked with a reduced risk of developing type 2 diabetes in women.

It seems clear that moderate amounts of red wine can be good for you. However, there are also some important negative aspects to consider, which are discussed below.

Bottom Line: Moderate red wine consumption may reduce the risk of several cancers, dementia and depression. It may also increase insulin sensitivity and reduce the risk of developing type 2 diabetes in women.

Negative Health Effects of Drinking Too Much Alcohol

While a moderate amount of red wine may provide health benefits, consuming too much alcohol can cause devastating health effects.

These include:

  • Alcohol dependence: Drinking alcohol regularly may become out of control and lead to alcoholism.
  • Liver cirrhosis: When more then 30 grams of alcohol (about 2–3 glasses of wine) are consumed each day, the risk of developing liver disease increases. End-stage liver disease, called cirrhosis, is life threatening.
  • Increased risk of depression: Heavy drinkers are at a much higher risk of depression than moderate or non-drinkers.
  • Weight gain: Red wine contains twice the amount of calories as beer and sugary soft drinks. Excessive consumption may therefore contribute to high calorie intake and make you gain weight.
  • Increased risk of death and disease: Drinking a lot of wine, even only 1–3 days a week, may increase the risk of diabetes in men. High alcohol intake has also been linked with an increased risk of premature death.

Bottom Line: An excessive intake of alcoholic beverages may cause alcohol dependence, liver cirrhosis and weight gain. It may also increase the risk of depression, disease and premature death.

Should You Drink Red Wine? If Yes, How Much?

If you like drinking red wine, there is no need to worry unless if you are exceeding the recommended amount.

In Europe and America, moderate red wine consumption is considered to be:

  • 1–1.5 glasses a day for women.
  • 1–2 glasses a day for men.

Some sources also recommend having 1-2 alcohol-free days each week. Keep in mind that this refers to total alcohol intake. Drinking this amount of red wine in addition to other alcoholic beverages could easily put you in the range of excessive consumption. If you have a history of substance abuse, then you should probably avoid wine and any other alcoholic beverage completely. Also be very careful if you have a family history of alcoholism.

Bottom Line: Moderate intake of red wine is defined as 1-2 glasses per day. It is also recommended that you have at least 1–2 days a week without alcohol.

Take Home Message

Despite red wine being linked with some health benefits, none of them are worthy of encouraging alcohol consumption. There are many other effective ways to improve your health that don’t require you to consume something that can be harmful. However, if you are already drinking red wine, then there’s no need to stop (unless you’re drinking too much). As long as you don’t drink more than 1-2 glasses per day, then it should only be doing you good.

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