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Personal Health Latest in Weight-Loss Research and More


By Nancy Johnston Hall

Which Diet is Best for Losing Weight—Low Carb or Low-Fat?

Bottom line: it’s a draw.

In a recent, well-designed study at Stanford University, published in February in the Journal of the American Medical Association, both types of diets worked equally well. Study participants were told to choose high-quality foods but were not given suggested calorie limits. “What’s key was emphasizing that these were healthy low-fat and low-carb diets,” said Christopher Gardner, PhD and lead author on the study. “A soda might be low-fat, but it’s certainly not healthy. Lard may be low-carb, but an avocado would be healthier. We made sure to tell everybody, regardless of which diet they were on, to go to the farmers’ market and don’t buy processed convenience food crap. Also, we advised them to diet in a way that didn’t make them feel hungry or deprived—otherwise it’s hard to maintain the diet in the long run.” The Stanford researchers had hoped to learn a way to tailor diet recommendations—“you’ll do best on a low-carb diet …” and so on. But they found that the biological differences they tested, genes and insulin levels, did not tell them who would succeed on one diet or the other. They did learn, however, that whichever diet they were on, those participants who ate the most vegetables and consumed the fewest processed foods, sugary drinks, and unhealthy fats lost the most weight.


Is it safe to drink one diet soda a day?

You may have heard about research linking diet soda to obesity, type-2 diabetes, heart disease, even cancer. Yikes! Diane McKay, PhD, a scientist with the Antioxidants Research Laboratory in Boston, MA, says, “Keep in mind, these studies are observational, which means they can’t be used to show cause and effect. We know from food safety studies that the amount of artificial sweetener you get in one diet soda a day has not been shown to be harmful. So if you’re also eating an overall healthy diet, one diet soda in a day should be safe.”


Should I take a baby aspirin before a plane flight and, if so, when?

Most health experts believe there is a cause and effect between air travel and DVT (deep vein thrombosis or blood clots in the legs.) This is most likely due to sitting in a cramped space for a long time and to the dry cabin air. Prolonged inactivity slows circulation, which can cause small blood clots to form in the legs and feet. The biggest danger of DVT is that a clot will break loose and lodge in one of the arteries supplying blood to the lungs, which can be fatal. If you’re not at risk for bleeding (find out from your doctor), take a baby aspirin (81 mg) half an hour to three hours before a flight. The aspirin thins your blood to help prevent clots. Also, wear loose clothing, exercise your legs and feet in your seat, get up and walk around the plane once an hour or more, and drink at least eight ounces of water every hour or two.


Nancy Johnston Hall is a retired health writer with 40 years of experience. She has a master’s degree in medical journalism. Two years ago, Nancy and her husband became part-time residents of San Miguel de Allende.


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