#326 Media Myths

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Media is a word that has come to mean bad journalism.

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3 New Media Myths About Fat

By Denis Faye

If America could somehow harness the energy it puts into looking for excuses not to exercise into actually exercising, we'd be the fittest nation on earth. But instead, we're a country with a rapidly expanding waistline that takes any opportunity to sit on the couch, watching advertisements and news reports that only enforce our belief that working out is outdated.

Kids Watching TV

Like a codependent boyfriend or girlfriend, the media wants you to hang around, so it tells you what you want to hear. On the contrary, we at Beachbody® like to call it like we see it. With that in mind, we've decided to take some of the "information" you may have seen recently on the evening news and look at it from a fresh perspective.

1. The exercise pill

ScientistIn August, scientists at the Salk Institute near San Diego announced they'd discovered two drugs that mimic the benefits of exercise. The two drugs, Aicar and GW1516, were given to mice. They increased endurance and burned fat, just like cardio, only without the sweat. It's been suggested that the drugs could be used to treat obesity or even give athletes a performance edge. "If you like exercise, you like the idea of getting 'more bang for your buck'," said Professor Ronald Evan, who headed up the study. "If you don't like exercise, you love the idea of getting the benefits from a pill."

That's the part the media got all excited about. What got lost in the hype, though, is that the pill doesn't clear clogged arteries or strengthen tendons and joints needed to support your magically increased jogging stamina. So even if a pill like this can help you look good, you'll still probably drop dead of a heart attack before your time—that is, if your knees don't give out first.

Furthermore, the pills were tested on mice, who have an entirely different physiology from humans. So don't get too excited yet.

2. The Flat Belly Diet

Flat Belly DietPrevention's "Flat Belly Diet" has been all over the news lately, from the papers to Rachael Ray. The diet, which is based on the magazine's own research, centers around monounsaturated fats, or MUFAs as they call them, that theoretically target and blast away belly fat. According to the actual book, exercise is optional but encouraged. There's an entire chapter devoted to a workout plan, but there's still a mixed message happening here, considering that the Flat Belly Diet Web site has "Never Do a Single Crunch" plastered across it in big, purple letters.

The sad thing here is that the eating plan itself is pretty good. It's a 1,600-calorie, Mediterranean diet made up of mostly healthy foods. Sure, you'll lose weight, but it's not because MUFAs are zapping your gut. The "research" for this goofy MUFA theory consisted of 11 people studied over 28 days. Some of the people were on the MUFA diet. The rest were on a high-carb, saturated-fat-rich diet. Of course, the MUFA people lost the most weight, and some of that fat came off the stomach, but that hardly proves anything.

DoctorsDespite this being the extent of the research, The Flat Belly Diet has received almost entirely positive press. The only reportage calling this plan out we could find appeared on the noted medical Web site WebMD. "You can lose weight on The Flat Belly Diet plan," WebMD director of nutrition points out in her review, "but don't be fooled into thinking MUFAs have magic belly-flattening nutrients capable of melting away belly fat."

So if you're going to follow the diet, go for it. It's fine for what it is, but remember, there's no such thing as targeted fat loss.

3. The fat gene

Last year, the press went nuts when British Researchers at Oxford discovered a "fat gene" that promoted obesity in some people. In an oddly defeatist way, this was great news for couch potatoes across the world who assumed that they had this faulty gene. For them, diet and exercise were now, thankfully, futile.

ExerciseBut in a recent issue of the Archives of Internal Medicine, researchers announced that they've found a cure for the fat gene. It's called "exercise." After surveying 700 people in a Pennsylvania Amish community, they discovered that people with the gene who did moderate exercise for 3 to 4 hours a day showed no difference in weight gain from people without the gene.

Daunted by spending a fifth of your day working out? Consider that these people were doing moderate exercise. Given that a hard workout falls under the category of intense exercise, it's relatively safe to say you can get away with doing somewhat less than 3 to 4 hours. Furthermore, the exercise can be cumulative. Take the stairs instead of the elevator. Pull weeds from the garden for a couple minutes when you get home. Chase your kid around. These little things add up quickly.

But most important of all, stop staring at this computer and go Push Play!

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Got something to say? Chat with the writers and other readers this Thursday, October 2nd, at 8:00 PM ET, 5:00 PM PT in the Beachbody Chatroom!

Denis FayeIf you'd like to ask a question or comment on this newsletter article, click here to add a comment in the newsletter review section or you can email us at mailbag@beachbody.com.

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It's All About the O! (Omega-3, that is)

By Aaron Lowe

Arguably, few other nutrients in the human diet are as well researched and accepted as being critical for good health—though so rarely consumed—as omega-3 fatty acids. Eicosapentaenoic acid (EPA) and docosahexaenoic acid (DHA) are as important to our health as they are difficult to pronounce. Without them, our cardiovascular health; fetal and newborn development; and lifelong brain and cognitive health may suffer. In fact, a deficiency in these special fats may lead to higher body fat levels! Most adults, however, don't consume enough of these critical nutrients on a regular basis. So don't let the term "fatty" scare you—some fats are essential to overall health.

Omega-3 Supplements and Salmon

Omega-3 for weight loss?

A recent study published in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition (December 2007) suggests how the addition of just a moderate amount of omega-3s can make a tremendous impact on health.

Overweight PersonResearchers gave volunteers with type 2 diabetes (adult onset) either fish oil supplements or a placebo for 2 months. At the end of the study, significant reductions in total fat mass and the diameter of fat cells beneath the surface of the skin in the omega-3 group (though not the placebo group) were reported by the researchers. The subjects lost fat weight and the remaining fat cells actually shrank in size!

Moreover—and in my opinion more importantly—risk factors for plaque formation in the arteries, such as the ratio of LDL ("bad") to HDL ("good") cholesterol, were significantly lower as a result of omega-3 supplementation. These results indicated considerable cardiovascular benefits for the subjects.

Group StudyIn another study published in the International Journal of Obesity (Volume 31, 2007), 324 men and women were assigned to four groups:

  1. control (sunflower oil capsules, no seafood)
  2. lean fish (3 x 150-gram portions of cod/week)
  3. fatty fish (3 x 150-gram portions of salmon/week
  4. fish oil (DHA/EPA capsules, no seafood)

What the researchers learned at the end of the study was that the inclusion of either lean or fatty fish or fish oil as part of the same energy-restricted diet resulted in 1 kilogram more weight loss after 4 weeks than did a similar diet without seafood or fish oil supplements. The addition of seafood or the fish oil was considered the contributing factor in boosting weight loss over the sunflower or lean fish groups.

Fatty acid sources

FlaxseedMany people consume foods or supplements that claim to be rich sources of omega-3 fatty acids, yet they really aren't getting the benefits that they think they are. Plants, especially nuts and flaxseed, are great sources of one omega-3 fatty acid—alpha-linolenic acid (ALA), but plants, and almost all animal-based foods, are very poor sources of EPA and DHA. The body can slowly convert ALA to EPA and DHA, but regardless of how much ALA people consume, they cannot make enough of the other two to offer health benefits. What all of this really means is that the only effective way to get EPA and DHA in your body in sufficient quantities is to eat food sources that contain them: mainly fatty fish.

The problem with eating fish

FishHealth experts recommend that all adults eat at least two servings of fatty fish every week, and fatty fish like mackerel, sardines, and, everyone's favorite, salmon are the richest sources of EPA and DHA available. As I stated earlier, most of us do not meet that minimum amount, and according to USDA statistics, a great number of adults rarely consume fatty fish at all. To make matters worse, the fatty acid content in fish varies greatly from region to region and only those fish found in cold water, like the Northern Atlantic, have the highest concentrations. If that's not bad enough, the worry of contaminated fish is a genuine concern. For pregnant women, it's a double-edged sword because they are told to eat plenty of fatty fish for the EPA and DHA benefits but are also told not to eat too much fish for fear of heavy metal contamination being transferred to the growing and vulnerable fetus.

Fish oil supplementation is an easy choice

Fish oil supplements are the easiest choice for ensuring that you receive an adequate omega-3 intake every day. Properly formulated and manufactured fish oil supplements will provide the same amount of health-promoting EPA and DHA as a serving of fatty fish. They will also be tested and guaranteed to be pure and free of any harmful contaminants. If they are really state of the art, they'll be produced in a way that minimizes the unpleasant aftertaste.

Beachbody Nutritionals™ has your solution

Core Omega-3™Recently introduced from Beachbody Nutritionals is Core Omega-3™. As part of our Core Nutrition supplement line, it provides all the benefits of eating fatty fish in a convenient supplement so you can ensure you get the nutrition you need without the worry.

Core Omega-3 contains 600 milligrams of EPA and 400 milligrams of DHA—that's a total of 1,000 milligrams of joint, brain, and heart-healthy omega-3 fatty acids. This is the same amount as found in an average serving of salmon. It's sourced from wild, coldwater fish found in the Atlantic, considered the planet's purest source of fish rich in omega-3 oils. For those who have problems "repeating" after taking other fish oil supplements, we utilize a special enteric coating to prevent an unpleasant aftertaste. Finally, Core Omega-3 is guaranteed to be free of harmful polychlorinated biphenyls (PCBs) and heavy metal contaminants. Use it to meet your daily omega-3 needs without the worry or hassle of preparing fresh fish. Use it every day for a lifetime of good health!

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Got something to say? Chat with the writers and other readers this Thursday, October 2nd, at 8:00 PM ET, 5:00 PM PT in the Beachbody Chatroom! Aaron Lowe

If you'd like to ask a question or comment on this newsletter article, click here to add a comment in the newsletter review section or you can email us at mailbag@beachbody.com.

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6 Tips to Slim Down the German Way

By Joe Wilkes

German MealWhen I was asked to write an article for Oktoberfest about healthy German eating, I knew I had my work cut out for me. "Fry a package of bacon until crisp. Reserve drippings for later use." And this was from a recipe for potato salad! If this was a representative recipe of German food, I would think the average life expectancy would be about 45. But on average, Germans live a year longer than Americans. So they must be doing something right.

Muesli, Pumpernickel, Germany, Open-Faced Sandwich, and Hiking

I thought back to when I was an exchange student in Germany in high school. As a teenager, I never paid much attention to what I ate, but I do remember that I dropped about 20 pounds over the year I was there, without even trying. There certainly were some meals that were outside the bacon food group. In fact, when I look back at the German diet and lifestyle, there are numerous lessons we could learn from them.

  1. Rye BreadGo with the grain. Like most Americans, I found my first encounter with German bread a bit alarming. At first glance, it appeared to be some kind of particleboard. Is this what all that IKEA furniture's made of (oh, wait, that's Sweden)? With kernels of grain you could actually see with the naked eye, there was no need to read the label to see if it was, in fact, whole grain—it looked like a vulcanized brick of wheat. But the bread is actually quite tasty, and a few bites in, you remember why the Germans are famed the world over for their pumpernickels and ryes. And unlike the pillowy, chemical-laden white breads of the American bread aisle, a slice of the more substantial German loaf takes longer to chew and fills you up more quickly—two things that help you eat less. Not to mention that it's full of fiber and naturally occurring vitamins, things we inexplicably bleach out of our bread in the U.S.

  2. Open-Faced SandwichHave an open face. Another way the Germans beat the U.S. health-wise is in sandwich preparation. The first thing they do is serve the sandwich open-faced. Half the bread means half the carbs. The other thing they do which saves calories is that they let the bread be the star of the sandwich. A typical Butterbrot-style sandwich consists of a piece of bread, a thin layer of butter, and a slice of Schinken, smoked ham similar to prosciutto. Butter and ham aren't the height of healthy eating, but the key is that the Germans use only enough to provide flavor—something a country that created a sandwich called the Baconator could take a lesson from. Plus, the side dish is usually fresh fruit or pickled vegetables instead of potato chips or fries. And speaking of veggies . . .

  3. Pickled CucumberGet pickled. We're not talking about a late night at the Bräuhaus. Rather, we're talking about all the tasty, low-calorie pickled veggies the Germans excel at making. With their brutal winters, vegetable preservation was a high priority in old German times. The classic pickled cucumber has been around since ancient Mesopotamia, but the Germans have taken pickling to new delicious heights. Polish-style cukes, popular in Germany, are usually pickled in brine, with no vinegar. The Germans also produce a variety of styles incorporating vinegar, garlic, dill, and other herbs and spices. In fact, the word "gherkin" comes from Gürke, the German word for cucumber and pickle. There are other delicious pickled vegetables like beets, tomatoes, and, the German classic, sauerkraut—all with hardly any calories or fat. However, some contain excessive amounts of sodium, which is something to keep an eye on. But as Germans become more and more health conscious, low-sodium versions are popping up all the time.

  4. MuesliClean your colon. As my German grandfather was fond of saying, "There's clean and then there's German clean." And this Teutonic zeal for cleanliness extends to the digestive system. Their fiber-rich diet is probably the biggest key to German health. This stands to reason, since after packing their colons full of sausage and potatoes at lunch, a little roto-rooting action courtesy of whole grains is probably necessary to keep the mail moving. For breakfast, instead of sugary, rainbow-colored cereals, they typically eat whole-gramrain cereals like oatmeal or muesli. They also eat a lot of yogurt, which contains the flora necessary to keep all the pipes clean. (If you decide you're really in a deep-cleansing mood, give the 2-Day Fast Formula® program a try.)

  5. Big LunchDo lunch big. Another healthy habit Germans have is eating their big meal of the day in the middle of the day. The German word for the noontime meal is Mittagsessen, which literally means "eating in the middle of the day." This is usually when the hot entrées and side dishes are consumed, the ones Americans traditionally eat at the end of the day. Their last meal is called Abendbrot—translated as "evening bread"—which usually consists of a piece of bread with cold cuts or something similarly light. Since food is fuel, the earlier you eat it, the more time you have to burn it off. By frontloading their diet, the Germans burn off the lion's share of the calories they consume while performing their everyday activities. And by only having a light dinner, they go to bed on an almost-empty stomach, so the calories eaten don't get stored as fat.

  6. HikingTake a hike. Where the rubber literally meets the road in German health is their penchant for walking and hiking. One of the rude awakenings of my exchange year was the realization that my host parents were not going to drive me anywhere. Where my American high school had a parking lot big enough to accommodate several hundred cars, my German high school had zero parking spaces for students and the longest bike racks I'd ever seen (which were well used by faculty members, as well as students.) Even on the days it rained (which were most of them), I was walking or biking where I needed to go. The family car only came out for road trips or major grocery expeditions. Most adults have a collection of Spazierstöcke, or walking sticks, as recreational walking or mountain hiking is a big part of most Germans' lifestyles. And walking at a brisk pace can burn over 300 calories per hour—that's a bratwurst! Of course, if you really hit the Oktoberfestivities hard, you might do some Turbo Jam® Maximum Results routines—they burn off up to 1,000 calories an hour. That's two beers and two bratwursts you can have!

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Got something to say? Chat with the writers and other readers this Thursday, October 2nd, at 8:00 PM ET, 5:00 PM PT in the Beachbody Chatroom!

Joe WilkesIf you'd like to ask a question or comment on this newsletter article, click here to add a comment in the newsletter review section or you can email us at mailbag@beachbody.com.

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Test Your Seafood IQ!

By Joe Wilkes

October is National Seafood Month. How well versed are you in these facts about our finny friends and food?

  1. MahimahiWhat is another name for mahimahi? Mahimahi is the Hawaiian word for the dorado, or dolphinfish. But fear not, Flipper fans, mahimahi is no relation to our mammalian friend, the dolphin. Mahimahi are a popular game fish, weighing up to 30 pounds. Pole-caught mahimahi are considered a good seafood choice by Seafood Watch, an initiative by the Monterey Bay Aquarium to encourage sustainability of ocean species. Longline-caught mahimahi, like most longline catches, are discouraged because of the additional species (many endangered) caught and killed in the process.

  2. What is the most popular seafood in the U.S.? Shrimp overtook tuna as the most popular seafood in 2001. Shrimp, salmon, and swordfish, in that order, are the most popular seafood served in restaurants. The average American eats about 15 pounds of seafood a year. That's pretty good, but it's nothing compared to the Chinese, who eat 45 pounds a year. Shrimp is high in protein and calcium (although also fairly high in dietary cholesterol).

  3. WhitefishWhat is surimi? Surimi is the Japanese word for "ground meat," although it is used to refer to ground fish. It is typically ground-up whitefish (pollock, tilapia, and cod are popular sources) that is washed and pressed into new shapes. In America, it serves as imitation crab or is used in fish sticks.

  4. What fish is often referred to as "poor man's lobster"? The monkfish, one of the least visually appetizing fish, is one of the tastiest. It can grow to be almost 5 feet in length, and it has a flavor and texture similar to lobster tail. Ironically, according to Seafood Watch, monkfish is on its way to becoming the rich man's lobster, as the species is dwindling, and the sustainability-minded are advised to avoid its consumption. Lobster itself was so plentiful that poor children on the East Coast would be mocked for eating it for lunch and farmers would often grind them up for fertilizer.

  5. Pinot NoirWhat red wine goes best with fish? While gourmets and gourmands would often shudder to think of serving anything but white wine with fish, there is a red wine that goes quite well with fish—pinot noir. Red wine is usually not eaten with fish because of the high level of tannins in red wine, which give it the musty, bitter taste that pairs better with meats. But pinot noir contains lower levels of tannins, making it a tasty addition to a seafood meal. And for the heart-smart, pinot noir still contains high levels of resveratrol, the chemical which is touted for heart health and anticarcinogenic properties. Combine that with the healthy omega-3s in your fish, and you have an incredibly heart-healthy meal. Can't stand fish? You might consider a good omega-3 supplement.

If you'd like to ask a question or comment on this newsletter article, click here to add a comment in the newsletter review section or you can email us at mailbag@beachbody.com.

Check out our Fitness Advisor's responses to your comments in Steve Edwards' Mailbag on the Message Boards. If you'd like to receive Steve Edwards' Mailbag by email, click here to subscribe to Steve's Health and Fitness Newsletter. And if you'd like to know more about Steve's views on fitness, nutrition, and outdoor sports, read his blog, The Straight Dope.

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