Baking Soda (Bicarbonate of Soda) May Be What the Doctor Ordered for Rheumatoid Arthritis

An apple a day may keep the doctor away… but a new study also indicates that some baking soda each day may keep the arthritis at bay.

Bicarbonate of Soda

Baking soda, or Bicarbonate of Soda, is often touted for its many uses, ranging from household cleaning to dental care and more.

Now, treating rheumatoid arthritis (RA) may be added to its ever-growing list of purposes.

For your overall health, it’s important to maintain a proper pH balance in your body. An environment that’s too alkaline or too acidic can result in a wide array of health problems and negative physical symptoms.

Experts say baking soda can help alkalize a highly acidic environment in your body. Many holistic and naturopathic doctors, as well as nutritionists, health coaches, and dietitians tout the idea that an alkaline body environment is better than an acidic one.

While that’s true in general, it’s still important to note that being too acidic or too alkaline can result in medical concerns.

In April 2018, the Journal of Immunology medical journal published a study that concluded that drinking water mixed with baking soda could possibly reduce the chances of getting inflammatory conditions

Paul O’Connor, PhD, an associate professor and director of the physiology graduate program at Augusta University in Georgia, was the lead author on the study.

Dr. Connor introduced baking soda to two cases of test subjects. These tests subjects included both healthy humans and rats. Dr. Connor also introduced six human controls.

After two weeks of drinking the baking soda and water mixture, scientists found that their immune cells (macrophages) appeared to change jobs.

Researchers said that the macrophages began to focus on reducing inflammation instead of promoting it.

Essentially, the baking soda acted as a way to naturally stimulate or “turn on” the macrophages’ anti-inflammatory response. Chronic conditions such as rheumatoid arthritis could benefit from these anti-inflammatory properties.

How baking soda works

Baking soda — also known as sodium bicarbonate — appears to tell the body to calm down its autoimmune response. Instead, it helps to strengthen the anti-inflammatory response.

So, cells from the spleen and stomach can tell a faulty immune system that there’s likely no need to turn itself on, only to attack. The baking soda seemed to alert macrophages and mesothelial cells that the body wasn’t under actual attack.

Researchers noted a shift in healthy human subjects from autoimmune and inflammatory actions to anti-inflammatory ones in the stomach, spleen, kidney, and peripheral blood.

The shifting landscape is likely due to an increased conversion of proinflammatory cells to anti-inflammatory, plus the production of more anti-inflammatory macrophages and a shift in regulatory T cells.

This combination of processes drives down the immune response and could potentially help to keep the immune system from attacking its own tissues, which occurs in autoimmune diseases.

How to use baking soda

How much baking soda you should use likely varies from person to person.

In her blog, Julie Hand, a certified holistic health and nutrition counsellor, recommends starting with one-eighth of a teaspoon in a regular size glass of water and then build up to a quarter of a teaspoon.

baking soda

She warns that if you feel short of breath or your heart starts racing, then you’ve overdone it.

People who are in danger of alkalosis wouldn’t benefit from ingesting sodium bicarbonate or further alkalising their body’s pH levels.

This potentially could be an inexpensive, safe, accessible, and effective way to treat conditions such as RA and other autoimmune diseases. You should always talk to your doctor before starting a regimen like this.

“It’s potentially a really safe way to treat inflammatory disease,” O’Connor said in a statement.

That’s not all it has been shown to do, either.

Baking soda has also been used to treat acid reflux. It’s even been studied as a way to potentially help prevent certain forms of cancer.

Michelle Neilly, an integrative nutrition health coach in Pennsylvania, told Healthline that “while there is no fix-all miracle cure out there, there is a reason that home remedies like apple cider vinegar and baking soda have been around for ages.

“This could really help RA patients with inflammation.”

Article taken from www.healthline.com

Simple Steps to Healthy Living – Part 1

We all want to live healthily, right? We all want to know the Simple Steps to Healthy Living. But in our microwave society, where we all want “the quick fix”, the “instant solution”, the “magic pill to cure all”, there are many promises made and proclaimed across the internet that would have us all believing that we can be truly healthy in a matter of weeks.

I don’t want to burst anyone’s bubble, but this way of thinking simply isn’t true. There is no quick solution, plan or programme that can transform your health quickly. There’s a lot of people spending a lot of money trying, but to be truly healthy, with changes that will last for a life-time, well, that takes time and a willingness to make changes.

And those two words, “time” and “changes” will scare off most people reading this article. “I just don’t have the time!”, “I can’t change that much!”, “I don’t like change!”

Yet, for those of you who are still with me, you are reading this because somewhere, inside you, there is a concern about your health. It may not be that you are ill, but rather you know that you need help to live more healthily. Each of us will have our motivations, the key is to use those motivations to give us the momentum to start on a journey towards better health.

So, if you truly want to change your life, for the long-term, then stick with me and we’ll look at the steps you can begin to take that will lead you towards a healthier life – “The Simple Steps to Healthy Living.”

This step by step approach can not only transform your health but the basic principles can help with both natural pain and weight management.

3 PARTS TOGETHER FORM THE WHOLE

As a human being we are intricately formed. There are 3 main facets of our being, that working together, make up who we are –

MIND
BODY
SPIRIT

Our MINDS have the ability to think and reason. Our brains control everything about us, our emotions, our ability to communicate, the movement and rhythms of our bodies. In our minds we hold our dreams, desires and belief systems.

Our BODIES are quite simply amazing. With the ability of movement, controlled by our Brain, even the sky is not our limit.

SPIRIT – For some a contentious issue, but for me there is a part of us that longs to belong to something bigger than ourselves. Our world view can influence our MIND and therefore our thinking, reasoning and action.

A world view or worldview is the fundamental cognitive orientation of an individual or society encompassing the whole of the individual’s or society’s knowledge and point of view. A world view can include natural philosophy; fundamental, existential, and normative postulates; or themes, values, emotions, and ethics.

Wikipedia

Now all 3 are important to truly live a healthy life, but this series is going to concentrate on the MIND and BODY.

So, before you read the next article in “The Simple Steps to Healthy Living” Series here are the first steps on your journey –

  • Find your MOTIVATION! What is it that prompted you to search for articles on improving your health? What is it that you want to change in your life and for what reason?
  • Once you’ve discovered your true MOTIVATION begin to list some of your GOALS for your life. For example, if your MOTIVATION is to improve your health to give you a better quality of life as you grow older, your GOALS may be to travel, visit friends or family abroad etc.
  • Your MOTIVATION and GOALS are incredibly important as they will underpin your determination to find TIME to make the necessary CHANGES to your life. You will re-read them time and time again, so write them down and place them where you will see them regularly.

Look out for Part 2 in “The Simple Steps to Healthy Living” Series.

Mushrooms may ‘reduce the risk of mild brain decline.’

Eating mushrooms more than twice a week could prevent memory and language problems occurring in the over-60s, research from Singapore suggests.

A unique antioxidant present in mushrooms could have a protective effect on the brain, the study found.

The more mushrooms people ate, the better they performed in tests, the study found.

But researchers said it was not possible to prove a direct link between the fungi and brain function.

The National University of Singapore study’s findings were based on 663 Chinese adults, aged over 60, whose diet and lifestyle were tracked from 2011 to 2017.

Over the six-year study, the researchers found that eating mushrooms lowered the chances of mild cognitive impairment, so that roughly nine out of 100 people who ate more than two portions a week were diagnosed, compared with 19 out of 100 among those who ate fewer than one portion.

‘Encouraging’

Mild cognitive impairment (MCI) can make people forgetful, affect their memory and cause problems with language, attention and locating objects in spaces – but the changes can be subtle.

It is not serious enough to be defined as dementia.

The participants in the study were asked how often they ate six different types of mushrooms: oyster, shiitake, white button, dried, golden and tinned.

Mushroom eaters performed better in brain tests and were found to have faster processing speed – and this was particularly noticeable in those who ate more than two portions a week, or more than 300g (10.5oz).

“This correlation is surprising and encouraging,” said assistant professor Lei Feng, the lead study author, from the university’s department of psychological medicine.

“It seems that a commonly available single ingredient could have a dramatic effect on cognitive decline.

“But we are talking about a combination of many factors – tea, green leafy vegetables, nuts and fish are also beneficial.”

The researchers point to the fact that mushrooms are one of the richest dietary sources of ergothioneine – an antioxidant and anti-inflammatory which humans are unable to make on their own.

Mushrooms also contain other important nutrients and minerals such as vitamin D, selenium and spermidine, which protect neurons from damage.

But there is still a long way to go before evidence of a direct link can be established.

Diet and lifestyle factors

This study relied on self-reported information on mushroom intake and other dietary factors, which may not be accurate, the researchers acknowledged.

Dr James Pickett, head of research at Alzheimer’s Society, said: “There are lots of factors that contribute to the development of dementia and it’s estimated that up to a third of cases could be prevented by changes in lifestyle, including diet.

“Dementia is one of the top 10 causes of death, but people can take action to reduce their risk, so it’s important that we base our advice on consistent evidence that’s built up over multiple studies, and don’t get carried away with the findings of any one single study.

“So while eating a diet full of fruit and vegetables, including mushrooms, is a great starting point, our best advice is to also cut down on sugar and salt, be physically active, drink in moderation and avoid smoking.”

The study is published in the Journal of Alzheimer’s Disease.

Read the original article on the BBC website – HERE

Yoga and ways to work it into your daily routine.

It’s no secret that exercise is good for us. Keeping active and moving is great for the health of our bodies. But sometimes it’s hard to incorporate exercise into our daily lives.

Here’s a link to an article on yoga and how it can be worked into your daily routine – Click Here to give it a read

Also take a look at the related article entitled “Why Men Need Yoga More Than Ever”

Eat Your Greens – Cabbage Could Cut Your Risk Of Cancer

It might not be the most Instagrammable of vegetables but the humble cabbage is packed full of anti-cancer chemicals, according to scientists at the Francis Crick Institute.

The researchers found cabbage, a cruciferous vegetable, is good for gut health as well as other vegetables including kale and broccoli and can reduce the risk of bowel cancers because it produces a chemical that is vital to the regeneration of the surface of the bowel.

The researchers studied mice who had a diet high in the chemical alongside mice that did not. The mice with the high-chemical diet were protected from cancer whereas those without showed signs of gut cells dividing uncontrollably – a sign of cancer. 

“Even when the mice started developing tumours and we switched them to the appropriate diet, it halted tumour progression,” Dr Gitta Stockinger, from the team, told the BBC.

But to get the benefit, people should avoid overcooking vegetables, she added. “Make sure they’re not overcooked, no soggy broccoli.”

To follow up on their surprising findings, the scientists are now hoping to do further experiments using human gut biopsies.  

Commenting on the findings Professor Tim Key, Cancer Research UK’s expert on diet and cancer, said: “This study in mice suggests that it’s not just the fibre contained in vegetables like broccoli and cabbage that help reduce the risk of bowel cancer, but also molecules found in these vegetables too.

“This adds to the evidence that a healthy diet, rich in vegetables, is important. Further studies will help find out whether the molecules in these vegetables have the same effect in people, but in the meantime there are already plenty of good reasons to eat more vegetables.” 

Written by Sara Spary for Huff Post – See original article here

New Sleep Study

Weekend lie-ins ‘do not make up for sleep deprivation’, a study suggests

Researchers took two groups of healthy people and limited their sleep to no more than five hours a night.

One group had their sleep restricted for the whole study, while the other was able to catch up at the weekend.

Both groups snacked more at night, gained weight, and showed signs of deteriorating metabolic health, compared to the start of the study.

“In the end, we didn’t see any benefit in any metabolic outcome in the people who got to sleep in on the weekend,” said lead author Chris Depner, an assistant research professor of integrative physiology at the University of Colorado Boulder.

Research has shown that too little sleep can increase the risk of a range of health problems, including obesity and type-2 diabetes, in part by boosting the urge to snack at night and by decreasing insulin sensitivity, or the ability of the body to regulate blood sugar.

For this new study, researchers wanted to find out what happens when people cycle back and forth between a sleep-deprived work week and two days of catch-up.

They took 36 people, aged 18 to 39, and for two weeks kept them in a laboratory, where their food intake, light exposure and sleep were monitored.

Although the numbers may appear small, experts said this was quite a large number of participants for a sleep study of this kind.

Participants were divided into three groups:

  • one was allowed no more than five hours per night over nine nights (sleep-restricted group)
  • the second was allowed no more than five hours for five days followed by a weekend when they could sleep as much as they liked before returning to two days of restricted sleep (weekend recovery group)
  • and a third was allowed plenty of time to sleep – nine hours each night for nine nights (control group)

Both sleep-restricted groups gained a small amount of weight over the course of the study (slightly more than 2.2lbs or 1kg) and became less sensitive to insulin, according to the study, published in the journal Current Biology.

While those in the recovery group saw mild improvements at the weekend (including reduced night-time snacking), those benefits went away when the sleep-restricted work week resumed.

On some health measures, the weekend recovery group had worse outcomes.

Insulin sensitivity declined by 13% in the sleep-restricted group, while in the weekend recovery group it worsened by between 9% and 27%.

One problem was that the people who were given the opportunity to catch up on sleep struggled to do so.

In the end, the recovery group achieved only 66 minutes more sleep on average at the weekend.

‘Regular schedule’

Experts not involved in the research said that although the effects on health shown in the study were small, it was possible that over months and years the impact could become large.

They said the findings reinforced existing advice that it is important to sleep enough during the week, and ideally keep a regular sleep schedule.

But if you are unable to keep to a regular sleep and wake time, it does not mean a lie-in is necessarily bad for you.

The study focused on how sleep restriction and catching up on rest at the weekend affects metabolic health, rather than, for example, mental health or cognitive ability.

Malcolm von Schantz, professor of chronobiology at the University of Surrey, added: “Whilst I think we should urge everybody to work towards a regular schedule if they can, I don’t think we should tell people who don’t have that luxury that they mustn’t sleep in during the weekend.”

Original Article written by Alex Therrien – See it here

A Little Bit of Calm

As a farmer I spend every evening locking my animals away for the night. This evening I noticed that as the sun was dropping below the horizon the sky had turned a beautiful shade of red. I allowed myself a few minutes to soak in the landscape.

The moon was already working it’s way across the sky and was shining brightly. The trees on the hills around, still leafless, were silhouetted against the pale blue background of the sky, like giant sculptures. The air was turning colder, now that the sun had gone, but it smelt fresh and there was a slight hint of wood smoke lingering. The birds were participating in their evening chorus and the haunting cry of a Tawny Owl drifted through the twilight.

I felt at peace, calm and relaxed, enjoying the “show” that was going on all around me, stimulating all of my senses.

This cacophony of sound, sight and smell occurs every day and yet I don’t always notice it. And it’s not just happening where I am. It’s all around each of us, if we only took the time to “PAUSE”.

Learning to be present in the moment is an essential part of living a Healthy Life. It eases worry and stress. It allows us to realise that we are a small part of a much bigger spectacle going on around us. It does us no good to live constantly in the past or in the future.

We need to learn to be fully present NOW.

And as most things I teach in my Healthy Living Online Course, it is a skill that can be learnt, a good habit that can be formed.

Try stopping for just a couple of minutes and allow yourself to be absorbed in your landscape. Let your senses run free, soak it all up, notice everything and allow yourself a little bit of calm.

“Artificially sweetened beverages may not be harmless.”

Below are a couple of interesting articles regarding artificial sweeteners. With obesity rates rising, government has taken the step to tax sugar. But are artificial sweeteners safe to consume. Personally I try to avoid anything with artificial sweeteners, although that’s becoming more difficult. I’ve understood, for many years, that there are hidden dangers in consuming too much sweetener and the articles below are suggesting this may be true.

Diet Fizzy Drinks Could ‘Increase Your Risk Of Stroke And Heart Disease’

Opting for a diet version of your favourite soft drink may seem like the healthiest option, but new research suggests it could increase your risk of stroke, heart disease and even early death.

The large study, involving more than 80,000 women in the US, found that drinking two or more diet drinks a day – including fizzy drinks and fruit-based diet drinks – increased the risk of stroke by 23%.

Compared with women who consumed diet drinks less than once a week or not at all, women who consumed two or more artificially-sweetened drinks per day were also 29% more likely to develop heart disease and 16% more likely to die from any cause.

Diet Fizzy Drinks Could 'Increase Your Risk Of Stroke And Heart

Further analysis showed that some groups of women were most at risk, with those drinking two or more diet drinks a day who were also obese having more than double the stroke risk than others. African-American women also had a higher risk of stroke.

The authors stressed that the study found a link but could not prove that diet drinks cause stroke and heart problems.

Dr Yasmin Mossavar-Rahmani, lead author of the study and associate professor of clinical epidemiology and population health at the Albert Einstein College of Medicine in the Bronx, New York, said: “Many well-meaning people, especially those who are overweight or obese, drink low-calorie sweetened drinks to cut calories in their diet.

“Our research and other observational studies have shown that artificially sweetened beverages may not be harmless and high consumption is associated with a higher risk of stroke and heart disease.”

The research, published in the journal Stroke, included data from 81,714 post-menopausal women (who were aged 50 to 79 at the start of the study) and who were tracked for an average of 12 years. One serving of diet drink was regarded as 355ml.

Dr Mossavar-Rahmani said the study had not looked at individual artificial sweeteners, saying: “We don’t know specifically what types of artificially sweetened beverages they were consuming, so we don’t know which artificial sweeteners may be harmful and which may be harmless.”

In response to the study, The International Sweeteners Association (ISA) said past reviews commissioned by the World Health Organisation found “no evidence that low calorie sweeteners could cause or increase the risk of cardiovascular disease″.

“It is important to highlight that, before being approved for use on the market, low calorie sweeteners are thoroughly tested and regulatory bodies around the world have consistently confirmed their safety and the lack of any negative health effect,” it said. 

Article from Huffpost – Read it here

Artificial Sweeteners In Diet Fizzy Drinks May Be Making You Gain Weight

Opting for a diet fizzy drink may seem like the healthier option, but artificial sweeteners used in the beverages may actually be making you gain weight.

New research has linked certain artificial sweeteners with long-term weight gain and increased risk of obesity, diabetes, high blood pressure and heart disease.

Artificial sweeteners, such as aspartame, sucralose and stevia, are used to make many of the most popular soft drinks and according to researchers, consumption of them is widespread and increasing.

Emerging data indicate that artificial, or nonnutritive, sweeteners may have negative effects on metabolism, gut bacteria and appetite, although the evidence is conflicting, they added.

Artificial Sweeteners In Diet Fizzy Drinks May Be Making You Gain

To better understand whether consuming artificial sweeteners is associated with negative long-term effects on weight and heart disease, researchers from the University of Manitoba’s George & Fay Yee Centre for Healthcare Innovation conducted a  review of 37 studies that followed over 400 000 people for an average of 10 years.

The trials did not show a consistent effect of artificial sweeteners on weight loss.  

In fact, the longer observational studies showed a link between consumption of artificial sweeteners and relatively higher risks of weight gain and obesity, high blood pressure, diabetes, heart disease and other health issues.

“Despite the fact that millions of individuals routinely consume artificial sweeteners, relatively few patients have been included in clinical trials of these products,” said author Dr Ryan Zarychanski, assistant professor at the University of Manitoba.

“We found that data from clinical trials do not clearly support the intended benefits of artificial sweeteners for weight management.”

Lead author and assistant professor Dr Meghan Azad, added: “Caution is warranted until the long-term health effects of artificial sweeteners are fully characterised.” 

Dr Azad’s team at the Children’s Hospital Research Institute of Manitoba is undertaking a new study to understand how artificial sweetener consumption by pregnant women may influence weight gain, metabolism and gut bacteria in their infants.

“Given the widespread and increasing use of artificial sweeteners and the current epidemic of obesity and related diseases, more research is needed to determine the long-term risks and benefits of these products,” she said.

Article from Huffpost – Read it here

Eating More Fruit and Veg Can Boost Your Mood

Now you need to eat TEN-a-day! Adding more fruit and veg to your diet boosts your mood and emotional wellbeing as much as landing a new job, study finds

  • Cutting fruit and veg out of our diet has more of an impact than being widowed
  • Fresh produce is rich in vitamins that lower inflammation linked to depression
  • The study of around 50,000 people was carried out by the University of Leeds

It has long been known that eating plenty of fruit and vegetables is good for our hearts.

But now research suggests filling up on apples, carrots and bananas even gives our mental health a boost.

Adding ten additional portions of fruit and vegetables to your daily diet has the same effect on our emotional wellbeing as going from unemployment into a job, a study found.  

And if you suddenly cut fresh produce out of your diet, your mental health declines more than someone who has just been widowed, scientists say. 

The research was carried out by the University of Leeds and led by Neel Ocean, a research fellow in behavioural economics. 

‘Our findings provide further evidence that persuading people to consume more fruit and vegetables may not only benefit their physical health in the long run, but also their mental wellbeing in the short run,’ the authors wrote in the journal Social Science & Medicine.  

To build on past research that suggested a link between our diet and our mental health, the scientists analysed data from the UK Household Longitudinal Survey collected between 2010 and 2017. 

This survey is made up of information on both fruit and vegetable consumption, as well as mental wellbeing, for around 50,000 people.  

Participants were asked how many portions of fresh produce they usually eat in a given day or week. 

A portion was defined as a piece of fruit, a cup – or fist-sized amount – of raw vegetables or half a cup of cooked vegetables.

To determine their mental-health statuses, the participants completed The General Health Questionnaire, which asked about their happiness levels, self worth and any anxiety.

Results revealed a person’s mental health improves in proportion to the amount of fruit and vegetables they eat each day.

And eating just one extra portion of berries, greens or salad boosts someone’s mental wellbeing by the same amount as walking for an additional ten minutes for seven days over four weeks, the researchers wrote.

Exercise has repeatedly been linked to a happier mood in past studies. 

The study also suggested going from eating lots of fresh produce to cutting your consumption by five portions a day causes the same emotional distress as being diagnosed with a chronic condition. 

And going from no fruit or vegetables to four-to-six portions a day boosts someone’s life satisfaction by the same amount as getting married.    

Although unclear exactly why fresh produce boosts our mental health, past studies suggest beans, oranges and spinach are rich in vitamins E and C, which lower inflammation and ‘internal stress’ associated with depression.

The complex carbohydrates in fruit and vegetables may also boost levels of the feel-good hormone serotonin in the brain. 

Despite the emotional benefits of eating lots of fresh produce, the results further revealed that 78 per cent of the participants consumed fewer than the recommended five-a-day.  

Although those who earned high salaries were the most likely to get their five-a-day, poor fruit and vegetable consumption was observed across participants’ of all incomes.

Being unable to afford fresh produce is therefore not thought to be the cause of a diet lacking in fruit or vegetables. 

Those over 64 were also less likely to get enough fruit or vegetables, which is thought to be due to the elderly eating less in general. 

In keeping with past research, the study also found the female participants ate significantly more fresh produce than the men.  

A HEALTHY DIET AND PLENTY OF EXERCISE PROTECTS AGAINST DEPRESSION 

A healthy diet and plenty of exercise protects against depression, research suggests.

A study of nearly 46,000 people found eating lots of vegetables – while cutting back on fast food – boosts our mental health.

It does not matter if you eat better to lose weight or get more nutrients – the impact on your emotional wellbeing is the same. 

And the effects become stronger when a healthy diet is combined with an active lifestyle. 


The researchers – from the University of Manchester – hope a healthy lifestyle will be considered as a ‘viable treatment to help people with low mood’. 

But the study – published in the journal Psychosomatic Medicine – found eating better has no impact on our anxiety levels. 

Source – The Daily Mail

Dieting Could Make Your Health Worse Not Better

Here’s an interesting, edited edited excerpt of ‘The Truth About Fat’ by Anthony Warner – The Truth About Fat: From the author of The Angry Chef

Why going on a diet and trying to lose weight could make your health worse, not better

Many experts believe we need to rethink everything we know about body size and longevity 

Measures to tackle obesity have met with little success and some experts are suggesting there may be a better way. They have suggested that the pursuit of weight loss is not only incredibly difficult, it might actually be harmful and counterproductive.

So instead of wasting so much time and effort trying to find ways of making everybody thin, perhaps we should just… stop. Maybe some people are fat and we should just leave them to it.

This is a controversial approach. Let’s face it, being extremely overweight is definitely bad for your health and costs healthcare services billions of pounds. To give up on fat would be like giving up on smoking prevention back in the 1970s.

A weight-inclusive approach to healthcare

Health at Every Size (HAES) is a movement that grew out of the beliefs of feminist anti-diet and fat-acceptance campaigns. At its core is the belief that the focus on weight loss is extremely harmful and should be stopped. Now increasing numbers of informed people are adopting some of the principles of the non-diet movements.

The HAES movement encourages a weight-inclusive approach to healthcare, trying to maximise behaviours that improve physical wellbeing, without ever focusing on a patient’s weight. It rejects the notion that BMI, fat or body size is an accurate proxy for health, and this is not too far from the truth.

The movement has spawned an approach to food termed “intuitive eating”. This is based on the idea that people should be encouraged to eat whatever they desire, tuning into their natural hunger signals. Strict eating rules are abandoned in favour of understanding what your body is telling you and developing a better relationship with food.

Taking the stigma out of being fat

It encourages a world that does not stigmatise fat people. Stigma, it claims, is the greatest barrier to fat people being healthy. As a result, size-acceptance movements have been some of the most vocal critics of the “obesity epidemic” narrative. This puts them in conflict with many of the world’s large public health bodies.

But given the failure of most public health interventions to tackle obesity, perhaps a weight-inclusive approach might benefit this field, shifting the focus towards improving health, which is eminently possible, rather than reducing size, which is very difficult.

Laura Thomas PhD is a UK-based registered nutritionist who specialises in Intuitive Eating. She explains that there is great resistance to some of the HAES approaches, partly because of a lack of evidence. She told me: “There is some evidence that intuitive eating can be effective, especially in terms of improving metrics of mental health and normalising eating behaviours but there are lots of unanswered questions. We need more robust trials.”

The downside of restrictive diets

Studies have shown that restrictive weight-loss dieting is associated with binge-eating disorder, bulimia, future weight gain, negative body image, low self‑esteem and depression.

Deb Burgard, psychologist, explains: “Part of the problem is the underlying assumption that we are all meant to be one size. I don’t see the scientific basis for considering a body size a disease – we are not meant to be one size.”

The weight-inclusive movement asserts that categorising a certain range of BMIs as “normal”, is likely to create stigma. And stigma is known to cause many health inequalities, including those frequently associated with obesity and assumed to be caused by fat. People who are oppressed get sick far more frequently.

Studies have shown that the degree to which people are dissatisfied with their weight is related to their risk of developing type 2 diabetes, independent of their BMI. This raises the possibility that the stress caused by telling people they should be thinner than they are is one of the things making them sick.

Most diets don’t help people lose weight

Even for the most well-supported scientific studies, large amounts of weight loss seem hard to attain. Participants in the US Diabetes Prevention Programme (DPP), a four-year experiment to study the effects of lifestyle interventions on the risk of developing type 2 diabetes, received intensive personalised training in behavioural management strategies, physical activity and advice on dietary modification.

Participants achieved an average weight loss of 7kg in the first year, but in long-term follow‑ups, most of this weight had been regained.

The Look AHEAD study was a 10-year programme that went further, offering participants regular access to lifestyle coaches, dietitians, psychologists, doctors and physiologists. But even then, over the long term, only a third of people were able to maintain a weight loss of 5 per cent.

Focusing on wellness, not size

Both failed when it came to long-term weight loss, but they showed improvements to participants’ health. DPP focused on diabetes, pitching lifestyle against a well-known drug therapy, and proved that the lifestyle interventions were far superior. Exercise particularly seemed to have a significant effect, even if initial weight loss was not sustained at all.

The Look AHEAD study was stopped early because it failed to show enough impact on cardiovascular risk, but participants showed improvements in blood pressure, sleep apnoea, visceral fat, depression, kidney problems, physical mobility, the need for diabetes medicines, life quality, knee pain, sexual function and inflammation.

When smoking, excessive alcohol consumption, low fruit and vegetable intake and a lack of exercise are studied, it is no surprise that people doing all those things have high rates of mortality. Combine that with being fat, and the picture looks bad indeed.

Being fat and fit

Anyone fat who eats badly, drinks too much, smokes and rarely gets off the couch is far more likely to die than a thin person doing exactly the same. But research has shown that as these behaviours change, the difference between fat and thin people seems to diminish. For non-smoking, regular exercisers who only drink moderately and eat lots of vegetables, there is no difference in mortality rates between thin and fat groups.

Public health organisations exist to help us be healthy, not to become thin. Anyone who researches, campaigns, writes or works on obesity, food and health should ask themselves this: are we worried about people’s health, or about their silhouettes?

You can find the article here – I News