For decades we’ve been told how important it is to exercise if we want to lose weight—but we may not be getting the whole story. While staying active plays an important role in disease prevention and overall health, it turns out it is not the main factor in the fight against obesity. That title is reserved for sugar, according to a new report.
The report, published in the British Journal of Sports Medicine, points out that sugar and carbohydrates are the biggest culprits contributing to the sharp rise in obesity among Americans and those in similarly developed countries—and that even vigorous exercise will not offset the consequences of a high-sugar diet.
To make their case, researchers called attention to the fact that while obesity rates have skyrocketed in the last 30 years, our physical activity levels have remained pretty much the same. In other words, we’re not doing anything drastically different, but we’re still getting heavier. What has changed, however, is our diet—mainly the overload of sugar-laden processed foods introduced in the last few decades. The excess sugar and carbs pose a bigger risk than alcohol, tobacco use, and a lack of exercise combined, says the report.
Study authors spotlight the need to do a better job of educating consumers about the dangers of a high-sugar diet and, if possible, eliminating the perception that we can eat whatever we want as long as we exercise enough. Once again, we are reminded that the quality of the calories we eat is just as important—if not more so—than the quantity.
The bottom line is this: the body does not need nearly as much sugar as it gets from the Standard American Diet. Still, Americans consume at least 37 teaspoons of sugar daily (including the hidden sugars from starchy carbohydrates), which studies show can alter the balance of healthy bacteria in the gut and actually cause us to hold on to excess weight. By breaking free of our sugar addiction, we may be able to turn the tables on obesity and move toward a healthier future.
You already know probiotics play an important role in supporting optimal digestion and health.‡ But with so many products to choose from, what factors are important when it comes to choosing an effective ? Here are a few quick basics:
- Look at the culture count to determine the strength or potency of a probiotic. Culture count refers to the total amount of live, friendly bacteria cultures in a single serving. Most experts recommend at least 15 billion live cultures or CFUs (colony forming units) daily to make an impact on your health.‡ However, because research is showing more is better, you may benefit from more depending upon your age or specific concerns.‡ Total live cultures will often be determined at time of manufacture, but very few remain at full strength through their expiration date. Look for a high-quality probiotic that displays potency on the label at time of expiration, not manufacture.
- Pay attention to the number of strains. The strains, or specific types of probiotics, plus the culture count of each should be listed on the label. Over 1,000 strains of beneficial bacteria can be found in the human gut, so it makes sense to choose a probiotic supplement that reflects this natural diversity.
- Look for lots of Ls and Bs. When you scan the label of a good probiotic you will see strains that begin with Ls and Bs, such as Lactobacilli and Bifidobacteria. A good trick to differentiate these is that the L strains are more native to the little (small) intestine and the B strains are generally found in the big (large) intestine, or colon. Look for lots of Ls and Bs because each person’s body utilizes certain probiotic strains differently than others.
- Choose delayed-release capsules. While probiotics are also utilized in the upper digestive tract, the majority of bacterial populations exist in the lower small and large intestines. So how do the good bacteria get all the way down there? Probiotics must travel through the harsh stomach environment and be delivered to the intestines to colonize. Delayed-release capsules are engineered to remain intact through the stomach and begin dissolving in the intestines, where they are needed most.
A probiotic supplement, when delivered to the right place, with the right amount of cultures and strains, can help promote digestive health and bowel regularity as well as support immune health.‡ Be sure to read the label so you know you are giving your body the probiotic it needs.