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Study Looks At Connection Between Eating Behaviors And Weight Loss

With more than one third of the American population considered to be obese, weight loss is a popular and important issue, especially among women. A study has shown that postmenopausal women who increased their consumption of fruits and vegetables while decreasing their intake of desserts, sugar-sweetened drinks, meat, and cheese are more likely to control and maintain their weight over time.

Dr. Bethany Barone Gibbs, an assistant professor in the Department of Health and Physical Activity at the University of Pittsburgh and lead author of the survey, said this information comes from a review of a previous study.

“Over the four years, some women did very well, lost a lot of weight, some women didn’t lose weight, some women gained weight,” Barone Gibbs said. “So we looked at what behavior changes, eating behavior changes, predicted long-term weight loss versus weight gain and short- and long-term weight loss and weight gain.”

Researchers analyzed changes in the eating habits and weight loss of 465 overweight and obese women. They were previously enrolled in Pitt’s Women on the Move through Activity and Nutrition (WOMAN) study which was conducted from April 2002 to June 2008. In this study, they were surveyed once after the first six months and again at the study’s conclusion.

The women were randomly assigned to either a lifestyle-change intervention group or a control group. Those in the intervention group met regularly with nutritionists, exercise physiologists and psychologists while those in the control group were offered occasional seminars that focused on women’s health in general.

Barone Gibbs said consumption of fried food and eating out while increasing fish consumption showed interesting patterns of weight loss.

“Those three behaviors were associated with short term weight change, six months, so if you cut out some of those foods or increase your fish intake, they were associated with six month weight change, but they were no longer associated with 48-month weight change,” Barone Gibbs said.

Participants who increased their intake of fruits and vegetables and decreased their consumption of meats and cheeses were found to be more successful with long-term weight loss. Barone Gibbs said while this seems obvious, it proved to be detrimental to some women in their weight loss goals.

“It didn’t associate with six month weight change, and so some people who start to do that and don’t see a quick result may be discouraged, but it looks like maybe the effect is slower, but more sustainable,” Barone Gibbs said.

She said she would like to conduct similar studies in the future to confirm the findings among younger women and men as well. The secondary results from the study will be published in the September issue of the Journal of the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics.