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Intellect

Study: Trying to eat less becomes more important to fend off middle-age weight gain

Lots of experts disagree over the seemingly obvious notion of keeping weight off by trying to eat less – a debate that centers on whether the practice backfires, leading to binging and weight gain.

Now a new study shows that practicing restraint becomes more important with age.

Brigham Young University researchers report in the next issue of the American Journal of Health Promotion that the middle-aged women they studied had more than twice the risk of substantial weight gain if they did not become more restrained in their eating.

“Some suggest that restrained eating is not a good practice,” said BYU professor Larry Tucker, the study’s lead author. “Given the environmental forces in America’s food industry, not practicing restraint is essentially a guarantee of failure.”

The study followed 192 middle-aged women for three years and tracked information on lifestyle, health and eating habits. Their analysis revealed that women who did not become more restrained with eating were 138 percent more likely to put on 6.6 pounds or more.

Columbia University researcher Lance Davidson, who was not involved with the analysis, said the findings highlight an important principle of weight management.

“Because the body's energy requirements progressively decline with age, energy intake must mirror that decrease or weight gain occurs,” said Davidson, a research fellow at Columbia’s Obesity Research Center. “Dr. Tucker's observation that women who practice eating restraint avoid the significant weight gain commonly observed in middle age is an important health message.”

Tucker says watching what you eat is not about physical appearance – it’s a direct investment in your health.

“Weight gain and obesity bring a greater risk of diabetes and a number of other chronic diseases,” Tucker said. “Eating properly is a skill that needs to be practiced.”

Professor Tucker’s Tips for Better Eating:

- Record what you eat and how much

- Put less food on your plate

- Eat more fruits and vegetables; 

Writer: Brady Toone

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Photo by Mark A. Philbrick/BYU Photo

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