Everything in Moderation Diet Fuels Weight Gain

Posted 12/08/2015 | By HealthCorps

It makes sense to eat everything in moderation, since you’ve probably heard that rigorous, strict diets may not achieve long-term weight loss and better health. In fact, restrictive diets can end up making you feel deprived. Very strict diets often cut out whole food groups and are not sustainable in the long term. Though these types of diets may result in rapid weight loss, the dieter will more likely regain all the weight or even more weight than was initially lost.

The problem with the philosophy of eating most foods in moderation is that the word moderation has a range of interpretations. Having sweets once or twice a day may be “moderation” for you, while a dietician may have intended you to define moderation as eating sweets once or twice a week.

A recent PLOS study looked at moderation in the context of “eating many dissimilar foods,” and the results suggest that a diet filled with variety may actually be linked to lower diet quality and worse metabolic health. Despite the fact that eating in moderation has been an accepted recommendation for supporting weight loss and improved health, there has not been serious scientific research to back the recommendation. Researchers from The University of Texas Health Science Center at Houston (UTHealth) and the Friedman School of Nutrition Science and Policy at Tufts University decided to use metrics to evaluate the true impact of a diet with principles of moderation, on metabolic health.

With data extrapolated from the Multi-Ethnic Study of Atherosclerosis, a study of whites, blacks, Hispanic-Americans and Chinese-Americans in the United, the researchers looked at diet diversity in terms of:

• The number of different foods eaten in a week
• The distribution of calories between all the diverse foods
• The differences among the many foods chosen in terms of fiber, sodium, trans fat and other nutrition parameters

The researchers then evaluated how the diversity impacted waist size after a five year period, and risk of developing diabetes after a ten year period. Waist size has been identified as an important indicator of central fat or adiposity and state of metabolic health.

Food count or the number of different types of food in the diet did not seem to impact waist size or metabolic health, though it was noted that when there was an extremely high amount of food diversity, central weight gain did occur. Also noted was the fact that the more the diversity of foods, the more likely that the diet being followed was of poorer quality. These individuals tended to eat less fruit and vegetables and more unhealthy foods like processed meats (now associated with a higher risk of cancer), desserts and soda.

At the ten year mark, the diet filled with diversity and higher quality food was linked to a 25% lower risk of developing Type 2 diabetes. Findings also suggested that Americans with the healthiest diets typically eat a small range of foods, most of which would be classified as healthy. This finding is really in direct opposition of the “eat in moderation” principles, which seem to be linked to a high variety of foods.

The take away message seems to be that if you’re really trying to lose weight and improve your health, you should choose to mostly eat a balanced diet of select, mostly high quality foods, and then eat some treats with limited frequency. The Mediterranean Diet and the DASH diets would both be ideal choices for this goal.

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