Friday, September 27, 2013

Don't believe everything the doctor tells you...

Just call me the mythbuster, since I seem to be doing a lot of that lately.

In a recent segment of The Dr. Oz show, low-calorie sweeteners were linked to weight gain and the average consumer use of the products was completely exaggerated. Fortunately, several experts are already bashing the piece, saying it presents inaccurate claims while ignoring the vast body of scientific research that supports the use of sugar substitutes in weight loss and maintenance efforts.

According to a prepared statement from the Calorie Control Council, numerous studies reveal that the consumption of low-cal sweeteners does NOT lead to an increase in hunger or weight gain.

"What I have seen in my 35 years of clinical practice is that low-calorie sweeteners do help people control their weight when they are used along with a balanced diet and regular exercise," said Robyn Flipse, a registered dietitian and nutrition expert. "But low-calorie sweeteners are only one tool - and unfortunately, not all consumers of diet drinks and low-calorie sweeteners are living a healthy lifestyle."

In addition to linking low-cal products to weight gain, the segment also misrepresented the use of sugar substitutes.

"Intervention studies have been conducted over the past few decades, and uniformly show that when artificial sweeteners are introduced into the diet (usually in a "blinded" fashion, so the subjects don't know it), fewer sugars and calories are ingested and body fat content and body weight are reduced," said Dr. John Fernstrom, a professor of psychiatry and pharmacology at the University of Pittsburgh School of Medicine. More from Dr. Fernstrom can be found here.

I'm really perplexed over all of the confusion over whether low-cal sweeteners are a friend or foe to folks trying to control calories. A 2012 study in the International Journal of Obesity concluded the consumption of low-cal beverages increases dietary restraint, a key aspect of successful weight maintenance. And this Pediatrics study revealed that overweight children could prevent further weight gain simply by walking another 2,000 steps a day and reducing their calorie intake by 100. This was done by replacing sugary beverages with those sweetened with sucralose. Click herehere and here for more research.

 A sugar-free diet can help shrink the waistline over time. According to this calorie savings calculator, switching from a regular 8-ounce cola to a sucralose-sweetened variation could save 100 calories each day - and result in a loss of up to 15 pounds throughout the year. And a blueberry muffin baked with sucralose can shave 80 calories from your daily intake. Not bad, ey? Either way, you will find that making small changes and turning to low-calorie foods and beverages sweetened with sucralose can have a huge impact on weight over the course of the year.

Look, the safety and benefits of low-cal sweeteners - and the products that contain them - have been reaffirmed time and again by the American Diabetes Association, the American Dietetic Association and others. So until research proves otherwise, I'm going to continue eating and drinking products sweetened with sugar substitutes. Take that, Dr. Oz!

Wednesday, September 18, 2013

Vacation, all I ever wanted...

Don't be haters, but guess where I'm heading to on Saturday? Germany and Austria, baby! Yup, I'm finally returning to Europe after a more than decade absence. My fiance's brother lives in Stuttgart, so we're taking advantage of that opportunity and going out to visit. And it's by total happenstance that we're going smack dab in the middle of Oktoberfest (shah right!) Although we're still working out the itinerary, we plan to spend several days in Munich, before heading to Salzburg and Vienna, then closing out the two-week trip with stops throughout the Bavarian region of Germany. For those wondering, yes, I plan to drink plenty of beer and wine and eat lots of bratwurst, spatzle and wiener schnitzel. Although that means I'll most likely come back to the states lugging a few extra pound around my waistline, come on...it's Europe, people! On the flip side, we'll be doing a LOT of walking and hiking, so the damage might not be too bad. And I plan to eat all healthy foods and work out like a madwoman when I'm back in the ATL. 

Any of you been to Germany and/or Austria? If so, any recommendations on places we must visit or attractions we must see? Currently on my bucket list, but in no particular order: check out some castles, tour a concentration camp, watch the opera, visit the salt mines, drink at Oktoberfest, buy a dirndl and see some of the Sound of Music locations. I know, I know...I'm a cheesebum. But I love me some Sound of Music. 

Anyhoo, for all of you who sit by jealously as I enjoy my trip, here is a low-calorie variation of one of Austria's most famous menu items. 

Sacher Torte

And just because, here is one of my favorite scenes from Sound of Music. Enjoy!