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5 Foods That Make You Fat, 5 That Don't

Harvard Researchers Identify Foods Linked With Weight Gain Over Time, Foods Linked With Less Weight Gain

Deciphering the Findings continued...

Changes in diet had the strongest link to weight gain. However, the researchers also found that those who slept 6 to 8 hours a night gained less than those who slept less than 6 or more than 8. Weight gain was also linked with changes in the amount of television viewing and changes in physical activity.

''Small differences add up over time," Mozaffarian says. He sees that as both ''a danger and an opportunity." If you don't pay attention, he says, the pounds can pile on quickly. "If you do pay attention, a handful of changes could add up in a beneficial way," he says.

He is not suggesting people completely avoid foods linked with weight gain. "If someone wants to eat some of the foods on the list associated with weight gain, as long as they eat a lot of other foods that are not associated with weight gain, and exercise, and not watch a lot of TV, that would be OK," he says.

Mozaffarian reports receiving honoraria from Unilever, Aramark, and other food-related companies for speaking on diet-related topics.

Avoiding Weight Gain With Age: Perspective

The study provides some good support for factors other experts have assumed are linked with weight gain, says Connie Diekman, RD, director of university nutrition at Washington University in St. Louis. She reviewed the study but was not involved in it.

Diekman says that among the most interesting findings is that the lower the intake of fruits, vegetables, whole grains, nuts, and yogurt, the more significant the weight gain. That result jibes with the recommendation in the Dietary Guidelines to shift food intake to more plant foods.

Another important finding, she tells WebMD, is that "a shift in calorie intake of as little as 50 to 100 calories a day may be all it takes to gain or lose weight."

Advice? "I'd encourage consumers to think about one portion you can cut down on each day or one 10-minute walk you can add to your day. These small steps can then become the steps on the path you need to make more changes to achieve, and maintain, a healthier weight."

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