Snooze yourself thinner
Drinking red wine, nibbling nuts and having a lovely long sleep may not seem like the ideal recipe for weight loss - but they could be just the tonic.
Several recent studies from respected universities have suggested that such eating and drinking - in moderation, of course - along with a good night’s sleep, might help people trying to shed the pounds, in combination with the calorie-counting and exercise.
The most recent study, from Washington University last month, found that sleeping more than nine hours a night may suppress genetic influences on body weight, such as obesity genes.
Sleeping less than seven hours a night was associated with increased body mass index (BMI) and greater genetic influences on BMI.
The study’s principal investigator Nathaniel Watson explains: “It may be that extended sleep is protective by suppressing expression of obesity genes.
“Our study suggests that the longer you sleep, the more effect environmental factors such as meal type, timing, and physical activity levels, have in determining your body weight.
“How much sleep people need is individual, but in general, more sleep is good.” Watson also points out that a short sleep is associated with comfort eating.
If comfort eating includes a few calorie-packed nuts, it might not be as sinful as you’d imagine. Last month, researchers from America’s Louisiana State University found that people who regularly ate just a handful of tree nuts - such as almonds, Brazil nuts, cashews, hazelnuts, pistachios and walnuts, had lower body weight, BMI and waist circumference compared to those who didn’t eat them. Their findings echo those of a recent Barcelona University study which found that eating just an ounce of nuts a day was linked to higher levels of the ‘happiness hormone’ serotonin, which helps decrease appetite. Dr Matthew Capehorn, clinical director of the National Obesity Forum, said: “Nuts are calorie-dense but they’re high in protein, which makes you feel fuller for longer. So if you’ve got the willpower to not just keep scoffing nuts, it’s a really good snack - a small handful will keep you full until your mealtime.”
A glass of red
Similarly, a recent study has shown that a compound in red wine may help people lose weight - but at around 125 calories per glass, over-indulgence will clearly have the opposite effect. Research from Purdue University in the US suggests the compound Piceatannol, from red grape seeds and skin, blocks an immature fat cell’s ability to develop and grow. Paul Gately, a professor of Exercise and Obesity at Leeds Metropolitan University and director of the weight management service MoreLife, points out that hopes of a magic weight loss solution in a glass of wine may be a little premature. “I think there’s lots of research like this that shows the potential of a magic bullet but much more research needs to be done. I think it’s unlikely it will be an obesity solution now or any time soon.”
Gately points out that instead of searching for non-existent magic weight loss solutions, people who want to get slim should look at their whole lifestyle, as well as changing their diet and exercising.
“They need to take a step back and create an organised and structured routine,” he says.
“If your life is disorganised and chaotic, you’re more likely to reach for convenience foods.” Dr Capehorn advises that you either change your environment or what you eat.“Have a bottle of water and an apple instead of a sugary cup of tea and a biscuit with your mates at work.”
When to eat
While there has been huge debate as to whether the time you eat meals has a bearing on whether you put on or lose weight, reviews of all the studies have shown
that when the timing of when you eat makes no difference. “There’s lots of talk about eating an early breakfast stimulating your metabolism, for example,” Dr Capehorn says.
“However, it doesn’t stimulate your metabolism any more than eating your first meal of the day at any other time. The more research that’s done, the more it’s suggested that when you eat doesn’t really matter - it’s all about the calories you consume each day in relation to how many calories your body’s burning.”