Answers to Common Nutrition and Weight Loss Questions

Premier Physician Network doctors answer frequently asked questions about Nutrition and Weight Loss.

What is added sugar, and why is it not healthy in food?

Added sugar is sugar added during the making of processed food and drinks, just like you might add sugar to foods you make at home, according to the American Academy of Family PhysiciansOff Site Icon (AAFP).

It is not healthy to consume too much added sugar in foods and drinks because it can cause serious health issues, including out–of-control diabetes, tooth decay, obesity, heart disease, high triglyceride levels and low HDL (good) cholesterol levels, according to the AAFP.

For more about added sugar and its negative effects on the body, talk to your doctor.

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How does the body react to consumed sugar?

Added sugar does not have any nutritional value, and consuming too much added sugar can have serious consequences, including high triglycerides, heart disease, obesity and tooth decay, according to the American Academy of Family PhysiciansOff Site Icon (AAFP).

Also, filling up on food and drinks that have added sugar can keep you from eating and drinking things that will have a positive effect on your health, according to the AAFP.

People who drink a lot of sugar-filled drinks, for example, drink less milk, which provides calcium, protein and vitamins that the body needs to function properly, according to the AAFP.

Talk to your doctor for more information about how consumed sugar affects the body.

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What are some ways people can reduce their sugar intake?

The best way to reduce added sugar in your diet is to avoid foods with excessive added sugar, according to the American Academy of Family PhysiciansOff Site Icon (AAFP).

Limiting and eliminating the following foods and drinks, according to the AAFP, can be a great help:

  • Baked goods
  • Candy and other sweets
  • Processed foods
  • Sugary drinks, including soda and fruit punch

Sugary drinks are the No. 1 offender when it comes to added sugar in foods in American diets, according to the American Heart AssociationOff Site Icon (AHA).

Talk to your doctor about some ways to reduce sugar intake.

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What are empty calories?

Empty calories are calories we get from solid fats or added sugars in food and drinks, according to the U.S. Department of AgricultureOff Site Icon (USDA).

These fats and sugars add few or no nutrients and are only added to foods to make them more appealing.

According to the USDA, some foods and drinks that contain the most empty calories include:

  • bacon
  • cakes
  • cheese
  • cookies
  • donuts
  • energy drinks
  • fruit drinks
  • hot dogs
  • ice cream
  • pastries
  • pizza
  • ribs
  • sausages
  • soda
  • sports drinks

While small amounts of empty calories are OK, eating too many can cause weight gain and is unhealthy, according to the USDA.

For more information about empty calories, talk with your doctor.

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What are liquid calories, and where are they found?

Dr. Allen discusses liquid calories. Click play to watch the video or read the transcript.

 

Liquid calories are calories found in things we drink, according to the U.S. Department of Veteran’s Affairs’ weight management programOff Site Icon (USDVA).

If you’re trying to lose or manage your weight, it’s important to remember that eating calories is a better choice than drinking them, according to the USDVA.

Some types of drinks with liquid calories include:

  • alcohol
  • coffee with sugar
  • fruit drinks
  • lemonade
  • milkshakes
  • punch
  • sports drinks
  • sugary sodas
  • sweet tea

Instead, try drinking more water, unsweetened tea, juice with no sugar added, and low-calorie drinks.

Talk to your doctor for more information about liquid calories.

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What happens to the body when caffeine is consumed?

Caffeine is a stimulant that affects the central nervous system, according to the Food and Drug AdministrationOff Site Icon (FDA).

Though caffeine’s main affect is to make your body feel more awake and alert, according to the FDA, it also can cause the following issues:

  • Dehydration
  • Dependency
  • Dizziness
  • Headaches
  • Heartburn
  • High blood pressure
  • Jittery, shaky feelings
  • Nervousness
  • Rapid heart beat
  • Trouble sleeping
  • Uneven heart rhythm

The effects of caffeine usually last about four to six hours, and can cause an overdose if consumed in extremely high levels, according to the FDA.

For more information about how caffeine affects your body, talk with your physician.

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What foods or drinks contain caffeine?

Caffeine is naturally found in many seeds, leaves and more than 60 types of plants, according to the National Institutes of HealthOff Site Icon (NIH).

Plants that naturally contain caffeine, according to the NIH, include:

  • Coffee
  • Cocoa beans (used in chocolate)
  • Kola nuts (used in many sodas)
  • Tea leaves

Caffeine is often found in processed foods and medications, according to the NIH, including:

  • Candies
  • Chocolate
  • Coffee
  • Energy drinks
  • Gum
  • Many sodas
  • Snacks
  • Tea

Some medications, including over-the-counter pain relievers, diet pills and cold medicines also include caffeine, according to the NIH.

Talk to your doctor for more information about what foods and drinks contain caffeine.

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Can caffeine be consumed safely?

It is safe for adults to consume caffeine, as long as it is consumed in moderation, according to the Food and Drug AdministrationOff Site Icon (FDA).

To keep caffeine at safe levels in the body, doctors recommend limiting intake to no more than 200 mg per day, according to the FDA. Two 5-ounce cups of coffee contains about 200 mg of caffeine, for example.

Every person is different, however, so a lesser amount of caffeine might be a better fit for you. Also, people who are pregnant, breastfeeding and children should be even more cautious of the amount of caffeine they consume, according to the National Institutes of HealthOff Site Icon (NIH).

If you are consuming too much caffeine, try to cut back slowly because caffeine can cause withdrawal symptoms, including headache, tiredness and depression, according to the FDA.

Talk to your doctor for more information about caffeine safety.

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What is lactose intolerance?

Dr. Amin discusses lactose intolerance. Click play to watch the video or read the transcript.

 

Lactose intolerance is a condition that occurs when the small intestine doesn’t make enough of the enzyme called lactase, according to the National Institutes of HealthOff Site Icon (NIH).

The enzyme is needed to digest lactose, which is a type of sugar found naturally in milk and other types of dairy products, according to the NIH.

Lactase is able to break down the milk sugar into two simpler kinds of sugar that can be absorbed into the bloodstream, according to the Food and Drug AdministrationOff Site Icon (FDA).

For more information about lactose intolerance, talk with your doctor.

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Who is at risk for developing lactose intolerance?

Dr. Amin discusses who is at risk for developing lactose intolerance. Click play to watch the video or read the transcript.

 

Lactose intolerance is very common among adults, with about 30 million American adults being diagnosed with some level of lactose intolerance by age 20, according to the National Institutes of HealthOff Site Icon (NIH).

Someone’s ethnic or racial background can make them more or less likely to become lactose intolerant. The condition is most common among people of Asian, African, or Native American descent and among Hispanics and Latinos, according to the NIH.

People of European descent are least likely to be lactose intolerant, according to the NIH.

Babies born prematurely sometimes also can have lactose intolerance, according to the NIH. The condition is hereditary, so most people inherit it from their parents, according to the Food and Drug AdministrationOff Site Icon (FDA).

Talk to your doctor for more information about who is at risk of developing lactose intolerance.

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How is lactose intolerance treated?

Dr. Amin discusses how lactose intolerance is treated. Click play to watch the video or read the transcript.

 

Though there isn’t a specific treatment for lactose intolerance – because there isn’t a treatment to make the body create more lactase enzyme – there are steps you can take to manage lactose intolerance, according to the Food and Drug Administration[Link to http://www.fda.gov/ in a new window with off site icon and 3rd party content disclaimer] (FDA).

Most people with lactose intolerance have different levels of how much lactose their body can tolerate, according to the FDA.

For some people controlling the lactose in their diet could mean limiting the amounts of milk and other dairy products in their diets, according to the FDA. For other people, it could mean eliminating some things completely.

Avoiding or greatly limiting milk in your diet can lead to a shortage of calcium, protein, riboflavin, and vitamin D, according to the National Institutes of HealthOff Site Icon (NIH).

If you are avoiding or limiting milk, you could eat foods with more calcium, such as leafy greens, shrimp, and broccoli, and drink orange juice fortified with calcium and vitamin D. Or, you could talk to your doctor about taking calcium supplements with added vitamin D, according to the NIH.

For more information about treating lactose intolerance, talk to your physician.

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What is food addiction?

Food addiction is a disease that causes someone to lose control of being able to stop eating some kinds of food, according to the Food Addiction InstituteOff Site Icon (FAI).

With food addiction, the body develops chemical dependencies on certain foods, which causes them to overeat these foods, even if they logically know it will have negative consequences, according to the FAI.

For more information about what food addiction is, talk with your doctor.

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Is food addiction a difficult addiction to break?

Like many addictions, food addiction has no permanent cure, and while it can be treated, treatment can be difficult, according to the Food Addiction InstituteOff Site Icon (FAI).

The difficulty and steps to treat food addiction can be different from person to person, depending on how far the addiction has progressed before the patient seeks treatment, according to the FAI.

As opposed to a different kind of addiction – such as smoking – a person can’t choose to quit the addiction altogether, according to the FAI. Because food is needed to live, it can’t be eliminated from a person’s daily routine. Instead, a person with a food addiction has to learn to control their eating behaviors, emotions and decision making about food.

For more information about breaking a food addiction, talk with your doctor.

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Is there a psychological or biological cause for food addiction?

Food addiction can have both biological and psychological causes, according to the Food Addiction InstituteOff Site Icon (FAI).

People with food addictions develop a kind of chemical dependency on certain foods, most frequently foods that are high in sugar, excess fat and salt, according to the FAI.

Genetics can play some role in food addiction, but psychological issues also can cause food addiction, according to the FAI. The addiction can come from not dealing well with emotional issues or using food as a coping mechanism.

Talk to your physician for more information about the causes of food addiction.

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Are there certain ages at which a body’s metabolism slows down?

Dr. Jennewine discusses when the body’s metabolism slows down. Click play to watch the video or read the transcript.

 

As people age, their metabolism slows down.

Starting in your 20s, your metabolism begins to slow down, according to the National Institutes of HealthOff Site Icon (NIH). In your 30s, your metabolism rate slows even more.

Metabolism slows about 5 percent every 10 years after age 40, according to the U.S. Department of Health and Human ServicesOff Site Icon (HHS).

Talk to your doctor for more information about changes in metabolism as you age.

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Why does weight loss seem to be harder as you age?

Dr. Jennewine discusses why weight loss is harder as you age. Click play to watch the video or read the transcript.

 

As people age, their hormones change, which causes their metabolic rate to change, according to Premier Physician Network (PPN) physicians.

As men lose testosterone and women lose estrogen, their metabolism slows, making the weight easier to put on and harder to take off.

Weight management can become more difficult for people in their 20s, but weight loss can become even trickier in your 30s, according to PPN physicians.

For more about why weight loss is more difficult as you get older, talk with your doctor.

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Are there common areas of weight gain in men’s and women’s bodies as they age?

Dr. Jennewine discusses areas of weight gain in men’s and women’s bodies as they age. Click play to watch the video or read the transcript.

 

As people age, it can be more difficult to maintain a healthy weight. Men and women, however, tend to gain weight in different places.

In general, it is more common for women to gain weight in the area of their hips, buttocks, and thighs, according to Premier Physician Network (PPN) physicians.

Men, however, tend to gain and carry their weight in their midsection as belly fat, according to PPN physicians.

For more information about how men and women gain weight differently, talk with your physician.

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What is weight loss medication?

Dr. Allen discusses weight loss medication. Click play to watch the video or read the transcript.

 

Weight loss medications are designed for people who have tried losing weight with diet and exercise alone and have found they need an extra boost, according to Premier Physician Network (PPN) physicians.

Most weight loss medications can help people lose five to 10 pounds but won’t help them to continue losing weight unless they also continue with a diet and exercise routine, according to the National Institutes of HealthOff Site Icon (NIH).

Talk to your doctor for more information about weight loss medication.

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Who is a good candidate for weight loss medication?

The use of weight loss medications might be recommended by your doctor as part of a comprehensive approach to weight loss, according to Premier Physician Network (PPN) physicians.

Weight loss medications can help give a boost to someone who has put in the time and effort to lose weight by making lifestyle changes and incorporating a healthy diet and exercise but is still struggling to lose weight, according to PPN physicians.

For more information about who might need to take weight loss medication, talk with your doctor.

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What is the function of the thyroid, and what role does it play in a person’s health?

Dr. Bethel discusses the function of the thyroid. Click play to watch the video or read the transcript.

 

The thyroid is an essential hormonal gland that plays a major role in many of the body’s functions, according to the National Institutes of HealthOff Site Icon (NIH).

The thyroid’s function is to regulate the body’s metabolism, which affects how fast or slow things occur in the body, such as hair growth, heartbeat, and food excretion, according to Premier Physician Network (PPN) physicians.

The thyroid also controls how fast or slow you burn calories, which in turn affects your weight, according to the Office of Women’s Health[Link to http://womenshealth.gov/about-us/ in a new window with off site icon and 3rd party content disclaimer] (OWH), part of the U.S. Department of Health and Human ServicesOff Site Icon (HHS).

If a person’s thyroid gland is not in control, it can work in extremes, so it is important to try to keep its function in a midrange, according to PPN physicians.

For more information about how the thyroid works and how it affects a person’s health

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What is the link between a person’s thyroid and their weight?

Dr. Bethel discusses the connection between the thyroid and weight. Click play to watch the video or read the transcript.

 

The amount of hormone your thyroid makes affects your weight, according to the National Institutes of HealthOff Site Icon (NIH).

If your thyroid is making too little of the hormone, you have a condition called hypothyroidism, which can cause weight gain, according to the NIH.

If, however, your thyroid is making too much of the hormone, you have a condition called hyperthyroidism, which can cause weight loss, according to the NIH.

These weight changes can be sudden, but typically they happen slowly over time, according to Premier Physician Network (PPN) physicians.

Talk to your doctor for more information about how a person’s thyroid affects their weight.

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How can treatment for thyroid disease help a person’s weight return to normal?

Dr. Bethel discusses how treating a thyroid problem can help with weight. Click play to watch the video or read the transcript.

 

Because the thyroid affects how fast or slow calories are burned, it in turn affects how much someone weighs, according to the National Institutes of HealthOff Site Icon (NIH).

Treating thyroid disease means helping to get thyroid hormone production back at a normal level, instead of excessively high or low, according to the NIH.

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For example, treating an underactive thyroid will increase a person’s metabolism, which will help to burn more calories and cause weight loss, according to Premier Physician Network (PPN) physicians. Treating thyroid disease will also help prevent future weight gain.

For more information about how treating thyroid disease can help a person’s weight return to normal, talk with your doctor.

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How can diet affect arthritis?

Dr. Williams discusses how diet can affect arthritis. Click play to watch the video or read the transcript.

 

Fortunately for people facing arthritis, choosing to follow an arthritis-friendly diet can help, according to the Arthritis FoundationOff Site Icon (AF).

If you have arthritis, avoiding processed foods and saturated fats can help the pain, according to the AF. Instead choose fruits, vegetables, fish, nuts, whole grains, and beans. Having these foods in your diet can help your arthritis, according to the AF, by:

  • Beans – These are full of fiber and phytonutrients, which help lower C-reactive protein (CRP) – an indicator of inflammation found in the blood
  • Fish – This is a good source of inflammation-fighting omega-3 fatty acids
  • Fruits and vegetables – Both are loaded with antioxidants, which act as a natural defense system for the body
  • Nuts – Nuts, along with seeds, have been shown to help improve inflammation
  • Whole grains – These contain fiber, which can help maintain a healthy weight

For more about how diet affects arthritis, talk with your doctor.

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Is it beneficial for a person with arthritis to seek the help of a doctor or nutritionist?

Dr. Williams discusses the benefits of a person with arthritis seeking the help of a doctor or nutritionist. Click play to watch the video or read the transcript.

 

If you have arthritis, it is beneficial to seek the help of a doctor or a nutritionist, both to learn more about your specific condition and also to learn how your diet affects your arthritis, according to Premier Physician Network (PPN) physicians.

By talking to a physician, you can find out which type of arthritis you have – osteoarthritis, degenerative arthritis, or inflammatory arthritis, the PPN physicians say. This is important because the treatment is different for different kinds of arthritis.

Talking with a nutritionist can help you determine what foods to include in your diet to help decrease inflammation, according to PPN physicians. A nutritionist also can let you know which foods to try to avoid.

For more information about seeking help from a doctor or nutritionist about arthritis, talk with your physician.

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Is there any connection between gluten and arthritis?

Dr. Williams discusses the connection between gluten and arthritis. Click play to watch the video or read the transcript.

 

There is no definite answer to whether choosing to follow a gluten free diet will help improve symptoms of arthritis, according to the Arthritis FoundationOff Site Icon (AF).

Premier Physician Network (PPN) physicians say that there currently is no direct connection between gluten and arthritis.

However, there are ongoing studies to see how gluten affects inflammatory diseases other than Celiac disease, PPN physicians say.

To learn more about any connection between gluten and arthritis, talk with your doctor.

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What are the health benefits of eating fish?

Fish are an important part of a healthy diet.

Along with other seafood, fish provide you with protein, vitamin D, and healthy omega-3 fats, according to the Harvard School of Public HealthOff Site Icon (HSPH). 

 Working fish into your diet at least twice a week is a good part of a healthy diet. 

 Talk to your doctor for more information about the health benefits of eating fish.

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How can you safely add fish to your diet? 

You can safely add fish into your diet by making sure you’re eating types of fish that are low in mercury.  

Premier Physician Network (PPN) physicians say the fish and seafood that are safest to eat are: 

  • Canned tuna
  • Catfish
  • Pollock
  • Salmon
  • Shrimp

For more information about how to safely add fish to your diet, talk with your doctor.

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Does it matter how often you eat fish? 

You should eat two servings of fish each week, according to the Harvard School of Public HealthOff Site Icon (HSPH). 

Servings should be 4 to 6 ounces each. 

Adding a healthy amount of fish into your diet has also been shown to decrease your risk of heart disease. 

Talk to your doctor for more information about how often you should eat fish.

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Thanks to Premier Physician Network doctors for answering these common questions about nutrition and weight loss:

Additional Resources

This website provides general medical information that should be used for informative and educational purposes only. Information found here should not be used as a substitute for the personal, professional medical advice of your physician. Do not begin any course of treatment without consulting a physician.

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