Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...

Sleep Deprivation is Strongly Linked to Obesity

>> Saturday, October 30, 2010

I'm sure that everyone reading this blog will be familiar with the phenomenon of sleep deprivation - it is something that all of us have experienced, and for some of us, it plagues our daily lives. It turns out that the effect of sleep deprivation goes much farther than just feeling tired; it can actually have a profound effect on body weight and the risk of obesity.

Dr Jean-Phillipe Chaput, a Canadian colleague of mine who also spent time researching at the Department of Nutrition at the University of Copenhagen, Denmark, is an expert in the area of sleep research. For the scientists among you, he provides an excellent video presentation (the website is from Denmark, but Dr. Chaput's presentation is in English - just press play to watch the video. References to the data below can also be located in Dr Chaput's presentation.)

Along with the epidemic of obesity, we have seen a decrease in the overall amount of sleep we get. According to the National Sleep Foundation, the proportion of young adults getting less than 7 hours of sleep per night was 16% in the year 1960; in 2001, this number increased to 37%.

A study from Quebec showed that children with short sleep were more than 3 times more likely to be overweight, and this association was stronger than other risk factors examined such as parental obesity, television viewing time, and physical activity. Amongst adults age 18-65, the same association was found, with short sleepers (5-6 hours) being 3.8 times more likely to be obese than adults sleeping 7-8 hours per night. Again, this risk factor was stronger than the association of obesity with high fat intake in the diet or physical inactivity. It should also be noted that too much sleep is also associated with obesity; the sleep duration with the lowest body mass index in adults is at 7.7 hours per night.

One obvious factor responsible for this association is that we are simply awake for more hours where we may be inclined to eat. More hours awake equates with a longer period of time per day where we are exposed to our toxic environment that pushes food at us everywhere we look. We may also be more inclined to eat during these extra waking hours due to the activities we undertake during those late night hours - often sedentary activities such as computer time or TV, which often results in snacking on unhealthy foods.

However, the story is much more complex than simply being awake for more hours in a day.

There are several hormonal variations with decreased sleep: we see lower leptin levels (a hormone that normally tells us we feel full and also works to stimulate energy expenditure). We also see higher levels of the hunger hormone, ghrelin, in shorter sleepers, thereby increasing the sense of hunger and desire to eat. Some studies also suggest that the stress hormone, cortisol, increases with shorter sleep duration.

There is also evidence to suggest that decreased sleep may decrease basal metabolism; for example, it has been found that there is a decrease in core body temperature with acute sleep deprivation (lower body temperature being associated with a lower basal calorie burn). We also see a decrease in fidgeting and other behaviours such as our body posture when we are sleep deprived, resulting in a lower calorie burn. Think of how you sit when you are well rested - perhaps sitting in a straight backed chair while you work - versus when you are exhausted, you may be more inclined to assume a more relaxed pose on the couch. These differences may be small, but they matter! Also on the energy expenditure side of the equation, we are less likely to engage in active physical activity when we are tired.

For individuals who struggle with their weight, and also for prevention of weight gain, it is important to include a good night's sleep as part of the overall management approach. The optimum amount of sleep appears to be between 7-8 hours for an adult - be sure to set this as a lifestyle priority!

Dr Sue Pedersen © 2010

Follow me on Twitter for daily tips! @drsuepedersen


Lemon Parmesan Broccoli!

>> Saturday, October 23, 2010

Here is a great way to shake up your broccoli! Broccoli on its own is a Free Veg, meaning that you can eat it in generous amounts without taking in many calories (it's only 30 cal per cup!). It is not quite free with the addition of a little bit of Lite Parmesan... but it's pretty darn close!


  • 6 cups of broccoli (about 4 heads)
  • 1 lemon
  • 3 tbsp light powdered Parmesan cheese
Cut your broccoli into florets. The broccoli needs to be dry - if you wash it, be sure to dry it thouroughly. Arrange in a 9x13" baking dish.

Zest your lemon and finely chop the pile of zest you get. Chop your lemon in half.

Spray broccoli briefly with an aerosol sprayer such as Pam (a great alternative to oil!). Add a bit of salt & pepper to taste, and squeeze the juice of one half of your lemon on the broccoli. Put your dish of broccoli in a preheated oven at 400C for 20-25 mins. The goal is for the tips of the broccoli to be a little crispy, but not burned.

Remove from oven, sprinkle with the lemon zest, squeeze the juice from your other half of lemon all over the broccoli and top with the parmesan cheese. Return to the oven for 1-2 mins until the parmesan melts, then serve!

Makes 6 servings. Per serving:
  • 50 cal
  • only 1g fat!

Dr Sue Pedersen © 2010

Follow me on Twitter for daily tips! drsuepedersen


Benefits to Barley and Buckwheat? The Low Glycemic Index Diet

>> Saturday, October 16, 2010

Amongst the plethora of weight loss strategies that abound out there, the Low Glycemic Index Diet is touted as yet another way to 'guarantee' substantial weight loss. Let's debulk the mystery - is this fact or fiction?

The Glycemic Index of a particular food refers to the rapiditiy with which the sugars (carbohydrates) in that food are absorbed into our bloodstream. Technically speaking, it is defined by the incremental rise in blood sugar after ingestion of 50 grams of a particular carbohydrate, compared to 50 g of a reference food, which is usually white bread. White bread has arbitrarily been set to have a glycemic index (GI) of 100. A low GI food has a GI of less than 55, while a high GI food has a GI of more than 70.

There has been much controversy as to whether a low GI diet actually results in weight loss. Overall, studies show that a low GI diet is NOT particularly effective, resulting in a 2 lb weight loss over the course of 6-12 months, with a 10-15 GI difference between diets. As low GI diets are usually also high fiber diets, it may actually be the higher fiber content of the low GI diet that is responsible for any weight loss that is seen, as fiber helps to keep us feeling fuller longer, therefore resulting in a lower caloric intake overall.

For diabetics, however, glycemic index is a very important consideration, as a lower GI diet helps to control the rise in blood sugar that is often seen after eating. Having said that, however, the glycemic index has its limitations, as it tells us nothing about the quantity of carbohydrate, only about the quality of carbohydrate.

Therefore, it is not only the glycemic index, but also the Glycemic Load that is important. The Glycemic Load is defined as the GI of a food, multiplied by the number of grams of carbohydrate in a serving of that food, thereby capturing both the quality AND quantity of carbohydrate intake. In other words, if you consume a low GI food (eg brown rice, GI=50) but a large quantity of it (resulting in a high Glycemic Load), the quantity of carbohydrates can contribute not only to a post meal glucose rise, but also to significant weight gain. Thus, it is important to exercise portion control in order to limit the Glycemic Load of a meal.

To improve diabetes control, and to assist in weight maintenance, a few important tips are as follows:

1. Switch up your high Glycemic Index foods for lower GI foods. Examples are to exchange white bread, pasta, or rice, for brown. Try incorporating some interesting carbohydrate alternatives such as pearl barley (pictured above, GI=25-33), lentils (GI 21-30), or buckwheat (GI=50-54).

2. Exercise portion control to limit your Glycemic Load!

3. Balance your meal: including protein, a small amount of fat, or a more acidic content to your meal decreases the Glycemic Index of your meal overall, and can decrease post meal blood sugars by as much as 20%!

Dr Sue Pedersen © 2010

Follow me on Twitter for additional tips and pearls! drsuepedersen


Thriving Through Thanksgiving!

>> Friday, October 8, 2010

The Canadian Thanksgiving long weekend is here! It's a fantastic opportunity to get together with family and friends to enjoy some quality time, rest and relaxation. Along with the gatherings, and in line with tradition, we can also expect to see tables heaped with delectable food and seasonal treats. Here are some tips to help your waistline and healthy lifestyle program survive the holiday!

1. Portion Control. Naturally, all of us will want to participate in enjoying the delicious treats on offer this weekend. Avoiding the pumpkin pie completely is an option, but it may also leave you with a 'bad taste' (so to speak) in your mouth, as depriving yourself completely on a special holiday can result in resentment for your diet plan, and make it less likely that you'll stick with it in the long term. On a special occassion, consider allowing yourself that special treat in a smaller portion (eg half the usual size), so that you can enjoy that special something in moderation.

For those of you who are calorie counting: 1/6 of an 8" comercially prepared pumpkin pie (109g per slice) contains about 229 calories, though this can certainly vary substantially depending on the recipe.

2. Use a Smaller Plate. Studies show that the larger the plate we serve our meals on to, the larger the number of calories that are consumed. This is simply due to the fact that more food can be accomodated on a larger plate - no one likes the look of a plate that does not appear full. Consider using a portion control plate such as The Diet Plate to help you portion your meal components appropriately, or alternatively, grab a lunch plate to serve up your meal and forgo the larger dinner plate.

3. Pass on the Sauces (or Dip the Tip). Salad dressings and gravies are two examples of high calorie additions to a meal. There are 130 calories in one tablespoon of oil, for example - that is over 10% of the total daily caloric intake recommended for the typical woman who is trying to lose weight - and nothing has actually been eaten yet! A salad dressing that contains a lot of oil can therefore add a lot of calories to your day. Gravies are another big offender, as it is very difficult to know how much fat or how many calories they contain, and they are often prepared with the fat drippings from the bird or roast being prepared.

An alternative to skipping the sauces completely is to have a small bowl of the sauce on the side, in which you can dip the tip of your fork before piercing the food. That way, you still get the taste sensation, without a heap of accompanying calories.

4. Festive Foul: Remove the Skin! Poultry, such as turkey, is often served at Thanksgiving dinners, and is actually a very healthy, protein rich, low fat food source. The skin of a bird, however, can be crispy and delicious but also contains a lot of calories from fat (particularly for duck or chicken). Removing the skin will cut your calories substantially. Also, go for the white meat rather than the dark meat to ensure you are getting the leanest meat possible (for example, there are 20% more calories in dark turkey meat than in light meat).

5. Take Only One Serving, and Eat Slowly! The festive family gatherings are much like a buffet-type meal: the food sits on the table for the duration of the meal, and it is accepted (and in many cases, expected!) to take several helpings. Eating slowly is a great way to combat the tendency to take twice. Fullness hormones first take effect after 10-15 minutes, so be sure to give yourself at least 15 minutes after you finish your first helping before you consider a second - most often, you'll find that you have changed your mind and no longer need the additional serving. Eating slowly also means that you are likely to still have food on your plate when second helpings are offered; this enables you to politely say that you are not ready for seconds yet, without affending your hosts. By the time others are finished their second helping, you will be finished your first, and the fact that you didn't go back for seconds will be unlikely to register!

Happy Thanksgiving!!

Dr Sue Pedersen © 2010

Follow me on Twitter for additional tips and pearls! drsuepedersen


Video Blog: The New Nordic Diet!

>> Sunday, October 3, 2010

On a research trip to Denmark this week, Dr Sue took the opportunity to bring you to the research supermarket where an innovative new diet called the New Nordic Diet is being studied. In an interview with Sanne Poulsen, PhD student at the Department of Human Nutrition, University of Copenhagen, we learn about the New Nordic Diet Study, which compares the effects of this diet with the traditional Danish diet on body weight, body composition, and cardiovascular risk factors.

The New Nordic Diet focuses on healthy foods that are cultivated in Scandinavia, such as whole grains (rye, barley, oats), berries, root vegetables, and fish. There is also an emphasis on choosing foodstuffs that are produced in an environmentally sustainable fashion.

Thanks to my friend Brian at for technological support!

Dr Sue Pedersen © 2010

Follow me on Twitter for additional tips and pearls! drsuepedersen



I am excited that you have arrived at my site, and I hope you are too - consider this the first step towards a Healthier New You!! As a medical doctor, Endocrinologist, and obesity specialist, I am absolutely passionate about helping people with weight management. Though there is certainly no magic cure for obesity, there IS a successful treatment plan out there for you - it is all about understanding the elements that contribute to your personal weight struggle, and then finding the treatment plan that suits your needs and your lifestyle. The way to finding your personal solution is to learn as much as you can about obesity: how our toxic environment has shaped us into an overweight society; the diversity of contributors to obesity; and what the treatment options out there are really all about. Knowledge Is Power!!

Are you ready to change your life? Let's begin our journey together, towards a healthier, happier you!!

  © Blogger templates Palm by 2008

Back to TOP