Category Archives: Weight Loss

Bariatric Gastric Bypass Linked to Higher Risk of Suicide Attempt

according to an article at MedPageToday.

Steve Parker MD, bariatric surgery

Band Gastric Bypass Surgery

Self-harm emergencies rose by 50% after gastric bypass surgery in the Canadians in this study.

Folks on my diets lose weight without an increase in suicide risk, as far as I know. Click on my name for the diets.

Steve Parker, M.D.

Are Diet Beverages OK When You’re Trying to Lose Weight?

Overweight and obese women who habitually drank diet beverages lost more weight if they substituted water for the diet beverage. Over the course of 24 weeks on a reduced calorie diet, the water drinkers lost an extra 1.2 kg (2.6 lb) compared to those who continued their diet beverage habit.

Furthermore, the researchers found that the water drinkers had healthier values on insulin levels, HOMA-IR (a measure of insulin resistance), and after-meal blood sugar levels.

It was a small study with only about 30 in each experimental group. Whether similar results would be seen in men is unknown to me.

In the past, I’ve advised dieters it’s OK to drink diet drinks in moderation while trying to weight. I may have to revise my recommendations. On the other hand, if diet drinks help keep you happy and on a successful weight-loss journey, they may be helpful. The diet beverage consumers still lost 7.6 kg (16.7 lb) compared with 8.8 kg (19.4 lb) in the abstainers. But diets don’t work, right?

Steve Parker, M.D.

PS: I haven’t read the full text of the article; just the abstract.

PPS: Steven Novella at Science-Based Medicine blog concludes that low energy sweeteners probably help with weight control.

What Really Was William Banting’s Diet?

Banting thought salmon was too fatty

Banting eschewed salmon (too fatty?)

I’ve been reading about Banting’s diet for at least five years. Thanks to Tim Noakes in South Africa, it’s seeing a mini-surge in popularity. William Banting published his Letter on Corpulence in 1863. Eating like him to lose weight is sometimes referred to as “Banting.” It’s one form of a low-carb diet and considered a precursor to the Atkins diet.

Form your own opinion of what William Banting may have eaten by reading these:

In terms of macronutrient calories, here’s my rough back-of-the-envelope synthesis of Banting’s diet:

  • 20–25% carbohydrate
  • 25% protein
  • 20–25% fat
  • 25% alcohol
  • 1800–2000 total calories

For the 200 lb (91 kg) man that Banting was, 2000 calories would almost certainly have been a calorie-restricted diet. Leigh estimated he was eating at least 2800 cals/day at baseline before losing weight. I don’t doubt that.

In summary, Banting drank a lot of alcohol (even more than on the Ketogenic Mediterranean Diet), and ate fairly low-fat, moderately carb-restricted, and relatively high protein. In other words: low cal, low carb, low fat, high protein, high alcohol.

His weight loss, assuming it wasn’t a hoax, came from calorie restriction. Something about that combination of macronutrients apparently allowed him to stick with the program and maintain a 50-lb weight loss. Protein is particularly satiating. Your mileage may vary.

I’m concerned that 25% of calories from alcohol would displace more healthful micronutrients.

Steve Parker, M.D.

PS: William Banting was a distant relative of Frederick Banting, the co-discoverer of insulin in 1921.

Expert Weight-Loss Tips

1.  Record-keeping is often the key to success.

2.  Accountability is another key to success. Consider documenting your program and progress on a free website such as FitDay, SparkPeople, 3FatChicks, Calorie Count (, or others. Consider blogging about your adventure on a free platform such as WordPress or Blogger. Such a public commitment may be just what you need to keep you motivated.

3.  Do you have a friend or spouse who wants to lose weight? Start the same program at the same time and support each other. That’s built-in accountability.

4.  If you tend to over-eat, floss and brush your teeth after you’re full. You’ll be less likely to go back for more anytime soon.

5.  Eat at least two or three meals daily. Skipping meals may lead to uncontrollable overeating later on. On the other hand, ignore the diet gurus who say you must eat every two or three hours. That’s codswallop.

6.  Eat meals at a leisurely pace, chewing and enjoying each bite thoroughly before swallowing.

7.  Plan to give yourself a specific reward for every 10 pounds (4.5 kg) of weight lost. You know what you like. Consider a weekend get-away, a trip to the beauty salon, jewelry, an evening at the theater, a professional massage, home entertainment equipment, new clothes, etc.

8.  Carefully consider when would be a good time to start your new lifestyle. It should be a period of low or usual stress. Bad times would be Thanksgiving day, Christmas/New Years’ holiday, the first day of a Caribbean cruise, and during a divorce.

9.  If you know you’ve eaten enough at a meal to satisfy your nutritional requirements yet you still feel hungry, drink a large glass of water and wait a while.

10  Limit television to a maximum of a few hours a day.

11.  Maintain a consistent eating pattern throughout the week and year.

12.  Eat breakfast routinely.

13.  Control emotional eating.

14.  Weigh frequently: daily during active weight-loss efforts and during the first two months of your maintenance-of-weight-loss phase. After that, cut back to weekly weights if you want. Daily weights will remind you how hard you worked to achieve your goal.

15.  Be aware that you might regain five or 10 pounds (2-4 kg) of fat now and then. You probably will. Don’t freak out. It’s human nature. You’re not a failure; you’re human. But draw the line and get back on the old weight-loss program for one or two months. Analyze and learn from the episode. Why did it happen? Slipping back into your old ways? Slacking off on exercise? Too many special occasion feasts or cheat days? Allowing junk food or non-essential carbs back into the house?

16.  Learn which food item is your nemesis—the food that consistently torpedoes your resolve to eat right. For example, mine is anything sweet. Remember an old ad campaign for a potato chip: “Betcha can’t eat just one!”? Well, I can’t eat just one cookie. So I don’t get started. I might eat one if it’s the last one available. Or I satisfy my sweet craving with a diet soda, small piece of dark chocolate, or sugar-free gelatin. Just as a recovering alcoholic can’t drink any alcohol, perhaps you should totally abstain from…? You know your own personal gastronomic Achilles heel. Or heels. Experiment with various strategies for vanquishing your nemesis.

17.  If you’re not losing excess weight as expected (about a pound or half a kilogram per week), you may benefit from eating just two meals a day. This will often turn on your cellular weight-loss machinery even when total calorie consumption doesn’t seem much less than usual. The two meals to eat would be breakfast and a mid-afternoon meal (call it what you wish). The key is to not eat within six hours of bedtime. Of course, this trick could cause dangerous hypoglycemia if you’re taking drugs with potential to cause low blood sugars, like insulin and sulfonylureas. If you take drugs for diabetes, talk to your dietitian or physician before instituting a semi-radical diet change like this.

18.  One of the bloggers I follow is James Fell. He says, “If you want to lose weight you need to cook. Period.” James blogs at, with a focus on exercise and fitness.

19.  Regular exercise is much more important for prevention of weight regain rather than for actually losing weight.

Steve Parker, M.D.


How Many Years Does Obesity Cut From Lifespan?

Are you tired of this stock photo yet?

Are you tired of this stock photo yet?

MedPageToday has the details. A quote:

In a computer modeling study, very obese men lost just over 8 years of life compared with normal-weight men, and very obese women lost as many as 6 years, Steven Grover, PhD, of McGill University, and colleagues reported online in the Lancet Diabetes and Endocrinology.

They also found that very obese men and women (defined as a body mass index [BMI] of 35 and higher) lost about 19 years of healthy life, defined as living free of chronic disease such as diabetes and cardiovascular disease.

Note that “very obese” in this context has a specific definition: body mass index 35 or higher. Calculate yours.

The number of life years lost to obesity and disease were highest for those who were very obese in young adulthood and presumably stayed obese for years. In other words, becoming very obese at age 60 is not as dangerous as at 25.

I first got interested in weight loss in the 1990s when I had an office-based primary care medical practice. It was obvious that many of the medical problems I was treating were related to years of obesity. Believe me, you’re much better off preventing those problems via diet and exercise.

In the 1990’s, both Dr. Dean Ornish’s vegetarian diet and Dr. Robert Atkins low-carb diet were very popular, and you couldn’t find any two diets that were more polar opposites. And do you remember Susan Powter and her “Stop the Insanity” diet? My desire to lead my patients onto the right path resulted in the first edition of my Advanced Mediterranean Diet.

Click for The Lancet study abstract.

Steve Parker, M.D.

Just What We Needed, Right? Americans Have a New Weight-Loss Drug: Saxenda

Well, it’s not entirely new. It’s liraglutide, which has been available to treat diabetes for a several years, sold in the U.S. as Victoza. Click for my brief review of the drug class for diabetics.

Click for the CBS News report on Saxenda. A snippet:

One clinical trial that involved patients without diabetes found that patients taking Saxenda had an average weight loss of 4.5 percent after one year. Of the people treated with the drug, 62 percent lost at least 5 percent of their body weight. Meanwhile, only 34 percent of those given an inactive placebo had the same result.

Another clinical trial that included patients with type 2 diabetes found that patients had an average weight loss of almost 4 percent after one year. Of those given Saxenda, 49 percent lost at least 5 percent of their body weight, compared to 16 percent of those who were given a placebo treatment.

Click for the FDA’s press release.

Oh, by the way. You have to inject it daily under the skin (subcutaneous). And if you were hoping for a shortcut to weight loss, this isn’t it. You’re still supposed to follow a reduced-calorie diet and exercise regularly.

I’d try The Advanced Mediterranean Diet first.

Steve Parker, M.D.

PS: Full prescribing information.

Laparoscopic Bariatric Surgery: Gastric Bypass Yields Greater Weight Loss But Higher Complications Compared to Banding

Click for details. Try the Advanced Mediterranean Diet first!