New Research on Weight Loss

Sometimes when you hear about a new piece of research that has been published you wonder how they ever got the funding to look into something so whacky or something that just seems like common sense.  But there have been a few interesting papers published recently on weight loss.
Dr David Hall of the US National Institutes for Health and his colleagues have published research in The Lancet about realistic rates of weight loss ( ).  In their report they say that general advice has been that if you cut 500 calories from your daily diet or burn them off through exercise you can expect to lose 1lb (0.5kg) of weight every week.  However, they say, that it takes longer to lose weight and a year of dieting will result in only half the amount of weight that experts currently predict.  Because of that, many people give up because they have unrealistic expectations.
An unusual study by Ohio State University has shown that a socially active lifestyle can dramatically speed up weight loss through the burning of fat in mice ( .  The team found that relatively small changes in the physical and social living environment of the mice can alter vast amounts of white fat to brown fat which is easier to burn off.  Professor During said that “it is not the size of your social network, but its depth and complexity, and your level of engagement with that network, that counts.”
Radio 4’s ‘All in the Mind’ programme on 5 October, featured research by Dr David Neill of the University of South Carolina into the effect of bad eating habits.  Their research studied habitual popcorn eaters at a cinema.  They found that participants ate out of habit, regardless of the freshness of the popcorn.  The habit can be broken by asking the participant to eat with their non-dominant hand, that is, if they normally eat with their right hand, change to their left hand.  That change, known as a ‘pattern interrupt’ in neuro-linguistic programming (NLP), gives the participant a chance to make the conscious decision about whether they want to carry on eating.
So what are the implications if you want to lose weight?  Firstly, set yourself realistic weight loss targets and stick at it – healthy eating is for life not just for New Year’s resolutions.  Having an active social life with lots of face to face interactions is good for your emotional health and will help you to lose weight.  And finally, you can break harmful eating habits by making small changes like eating with your non-dominant hand or moving snacks to a new drawer or cupboard in the kitchen.