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Insight Into the Fat Fight

by the Social Diary Health Columnist Ruth S. Jacobowitz
Column #1, January 1st, 2006

Society has definitely taken a turn to the left where our health is concerned. We're castigated daily in the news about our obese society,particularly our obese children. Diet companies rise up as the next low calorie weight-loss hope, many of them make big bucks, and then go out of business. As their clients' weight goes back up, their bottom lines go down.

Is their some magic bullet lurking somewhere to solve this weighty problem? I no longer think so. It was at The Mt. Sinai Medical Center in Cleveland that what ultimately became Optifast was developed. It started out as help and hope for diabetics and patients with high blood pressure. Quietly and scientifically, it was created by two renowned men of science.Then a patient who shed 321 pounds in 365 days sold his story to one of the tabloids and the fat was in the fire. In print, on television and radio throughout the world, the fat and the not so fat clamored for the product,
which became known as Optifast once it was purchased by Sandoz Pharmaceuticals.

This liquid protein drink that totally replaced food was an overnight commercial sensation and although patients lost tons of weight, the secret for keeping the weight off remained illusive. In fact, there is a joke in my family that when one person loses weight, the pounds lost do not disappear into thin air-the pounds simply stick onto someone else. I wasn't really pondering this weighty subject, this being a NewYear and all, until I met an old friend at a party recently. He was slim, trim and handsome. He had done the same on Optifast about two years ago only to return to his former avoirdupois---pound for pound and then some. Here he was again lithe and lean so naturally I complimented him and asked how he did it.

"Gastric bypass," he said. "I've already lost 80 pounds and have just 20 more pounds to lose."I said, "You and Al Roker both look great." Then I remembered a former Optifast devotee who went on television showing how many times his belt could encircle his waist. I think it went three
times around. And then before long he filled out the belt again. A few years later, he, like my
friend that I saw a few evenings ago, underwent stomach stapling, as we called it then. He again lost a lot of weight, but soon learned how to eat around the staples and today is as heavy as he always was
in between diets and surgical procedures.

My point is, I am not sure we can defeat our genetic disposition for carrying weight and I'm not sure we should. A new study by researcher John Phelan, PhD, an evolutionary biologist at UCLA, that appeared in Ageing Research Reviews, shows that drastically cutting calories for rats greatly boosts longevity but probably does not do the same for people. In a recent news release, Dr Phelan says, "The same result has been found in fish, spiders, and many other species. If it works for them, some thought, it should work for us; I'm here to tell you it doesn't."

What the researchers are writing about in terms of longevity is not giving up a chocolate or two or just making your diet leaner. The rats caloric restriction was so severe that they could no longer reproduce-maybe that led to longer lives. But according to the researchers, "To undergo decades of calorie restriction, suffering chronically reduced fertility and increased hunger for the sake of a much smaller proportionate increase in longevity than is seen in rodents seems unappealing and ill-advised."Dr. Phelan states, "My advice about food is be sensible, and don't be a fanatic about it..." He notes that "these findings are not an invitation to throw calorie caution to the winds, since obesity often brings health risks."

* Ruth S. Jacobowitz is an award-winning medical writer, dynamic lecturer, columnist and former vice-president of a teaching hospital in Cleveland, Ohio. The Estrogen Answer Book, is her fifth women’s midlife health book. She is also author of 150 Most-Asked Questions About Menopause; 150 Most-Asked Questions About Osteoporosis; and 150 Most-Asked Questions About Midlife Sex, Love, and Intimacy.

Her first novel, Final Acts, a medical/legal thriller was published in September, 2004.

Ruth’s engaging and informative lectures have taken her all over the world. She educates men and women about how they age and empowers them to take charge of their own health. Her books are published in 14 languages. She has been on 48 Hours, Today, CBS This Morning, Donahue, Leeza, America’s Talking, Food Television Network, People are Talking as well as on local television news and talk programs and in the New York Times, Washington Post, Vanity Fair, Newsweek, and on National Public Radio.

Visit Ruth at her website www.ruthjacobowitz.com .

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