Some People Go to Extremes to Lose Weight

SHIRLEY GRIFFITH: This is SCIENCE IN THE NEWS in VOA Special English. I’m Shirley Griffith.


A row of a bookshelf at the Book House at Stuyvesant Plaza in Albany, N.Y., is filled with various diet books


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BOB DOUGHTY: And I’m Bob Doughty. Today, we will talk about diet and weight loss. Exercise is important if you want to get in good shape. But experts say exercise alone is not enough if your goal is to lose weight.

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SHIRLEY GRIFFITH: It is that time of year again! Warm weather has returned to Earth’s northern hemisphere. Summer is a time when people of all ages feel like getting their swimwear and going to the nearest swimming pool or seashore. But first, there is that troublesome little thing called winter weight gain. Many of us gain weight because of inactivity during the winter.

Some people go to extremes to lose that extra weight before going to the beach. In the weight loss industry, there is never a lack of ideas about how to lose weight. Consider the sleeping beauty diet, where you sleep your way to weight loss. You cannot eat if you are sleeping, or so the theory goes. Then there is the tapeworm diet. The tapeworm is said to help people lose weight by eating the food that is stored in their stomach. But first you have to be willing to swallow the little creature. This may be more trouble than many people want.

Strange, new diets, treatments and exercise programs arrive on the market every day. Each one promises to help people lose weight and get a beach beautiful body. The weight loss industry takes in billions of dollars each year, and it is growing.

BOB DOUGHTY: One research company says the weight loss business will be worth more than five hundred eighty billion dollars worldwide by the year twenty fourteen. MarketsandMarkets also says the food and drink market represents the largest part of that growth. It is expected to reach more than three hundred fifty five billion dollars by twenty fourteen.

There is a seemingly endless supply of ideas about how to lose weight. There are low-carbohydrate diets and low-fat diets, diets that limit calories and ones that let you eat as much as you want. And, there are thousands of different kinds of diet pills and programs. So where does one begin? Which one is best?

SHIRLEY GRIFFITH: Experts say there is no single diet plan that works best for everyone. Many experts agree on one thing: that to lose weight, you must use or burn off more calories than you take in. When you eat more calories than your body needs, it stores that extra energy as fat.

Calories are a measure of energy in food. A pound of fat is equal to about four hundred fifty three grams or three thousand five hundred calories. To lose that fat in a week, you have to burn off at least that amount in calories or eat that much less. The best thing to do is to combine both ideas. Eat fewer calories and increase physical activity so that you burn off more.

America’s National Institutes of Health has suggested that women limit calories to no less than one thousand two hundred calories a day without medical supervision. It also says men should have no less than one thousand five hundred calories. Debate continues about the best way to fill those calorie requirements.

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BOB DOUGHTY: For years, eating a diet low in fat was said to be the best way to lose weight. A low-fat diet is one in which less than thirty percent of a person’s daily calorie intake comes from fat.

Dean Ornish developed one of the most popular low fat diets after years of research on ways to control heart disease. His dietary ideas were first published in the medical journal The Lancet in nineteen ninety. The Ornish diet plan became more popular in nineteen ninety-three with the release of his book “Eat More, Weigh Less.”

Dr. Ornish studied the effects of carbohydrates – one of the most important sources of energy for the body. He found that carbohydrates were not to blame for making people fat. Instead, he said, fat makes people fat. He noted that a baked potato is not high in fat, but it becomes fatty when people add sour cream and butter to it.

Dr. Ornish’s diet plan limits daily calories from fat to less than ten percent, with little to no saturated fat or cholesterol. He also suggested that people get seventy to seventy-five percent of their calories from complex carbohydrates, and fifteen to twenty percent from proteins.