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Dr. Zorba Paster: Low fat? Low carb? The trick, as always, is moderation

Since we doctors have been on the low-fat bandwagon, Americans have grown – and I don’t mean height-wise. I recently had a visit from a Tibetan physician who said he got off the airplane in Chicago and wondered why people were so overweight.

My first thought was cheap, inexpensive calories. A Big Mac meal at McDonald’s, including that 20-ounce Coke, is 1,200 calories for under $6. That’s more than half the calories you need for the day. It’s cheap, but it’s not healthy.

Researchers from Harvard published a comprehensive review from randomized trials (that’s the gold-standard type) looking at more than 65,000 people, finding that there was no difference between low-fat and high-fat diets when it came to weight loss one year out.

So what does this mean for you? If you think low-fat is better than high-fat, or vice versa, both can work. It’s a matter of picking what’s right for you.

Many people put on an average of 3 to 5 pounds from the holiday season until spring, and then they only shed about 2 of those pounds. The result is creeping obesity, year by year.

So I have three suggestions using this latest data.

First, when you have treats passed to you at work, don’t just automatically say, “No, thank you,” thinking that’s the healthy response. If it’s homemade by your best friend, take a bite and then save the rest for later.

When you look at that buffet, think about what you really want to eat. Grab a small plate – a salad or cake plate would be best – and fill it up. Then go back for a second serving if you wish. That way, you’ll consume less and get to go back for seconds.

And if you like carbs, go for carbs – just limit them. If you like fat, go for fat – but limit it. And overall, you still have to limit what you consume, or you’ll continue to grow more than you want.

Stay well.

Dr. Zorba Paster is a family physician, professor at University of Wisconsin School of Medicine and Public Health, and host of the public radio program “Zorba Paster on Your Health,” which airs at noon Wednesdays on 91.1 FM, and noon Sundays on 91.9 FM. His column appears twice a month in The Spokesman-Review. He can be reached at askzorba@doctorzorba.com. He loves mail.


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