A healthy lifestyle’s actual impact on long-term weight gain

Reaching and maintaining a healthy body weight is a challenge for some people. The means used to succeed include doing more physical exercise on a daily basis and eating a healthy diet. But are there specific factors associated with long-term weight gain or weight loss?

Reaching and maintaining a healthy body weight is a challenge for some people. The means used to succeed include doing more physical exercise on a daily basis and eating a healthy diet. But are there specific factors associated with long-term weight gain or weight loss?

Researchers studied a group of over 120,000 Americans who were healthy and not obese at the beginning of the study. The longest follow-up period lasted 20 years (from 1986 to 2006). The relationships between changes in lifestyle factors and weight variations were evaluated every four years.

Within each four-year period, the researchers noted an average weight gain of 1.4 kg among the participants. They also observed that the individuals who had increased their daily intake of certain foods had gained weight. For example, the greatest weight gain was associated with eating potato chips (0.8 kg), potatoes (0.6 kg), sweetened beverages (0.5 kg), unprocessed red meats (0.4 kg) and processed meats (0.4 kg). Conversely, eating certain foods was associated with weight loss: 0.1 kg for vegetables, 0.2 kg for whole grains, 0.2 kg for fruits, 0.3 kg for nuts and 0.4 kg for yogurt. Other lifestyle factors were also associated with weight change: physical activity (average loss of 1.76 kg), alcohol use (gain of 0.2 kg per drink per day), smoking (gain of 2.3 kg among recent quitters), sleep (more weight gain for those who sleep less than 6 or more than 8 hours per night) and television watching (gain of 0.1 kg per hour per day).

Having been conducted over a long period and involving a large number of participants, this study therefore confirms that the recommendations of being more active, eating better and getting enough sleep really do have an impact on long-term weight gain.

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