Breakfast Walnut

I’ll Have a Handful of Magic Weight Loss Walnuts, Please

Women’s Health summed up a bunch of sensational headlines recently: “Eating this one food might be the trick to losing weight.” That one food, of course, is magic walnuts. And the headlines flowed from some perfectly valid research. There’s just one tiny problem. Weight loss was not the subject of the research. In fact, the researchers found no change in weight.

Many a Slip Twixt the Brain and the Hips

This research, led by Olivia Farr and Dario Tuccinardi, was all about understanding the effect of walnuts on brain function and hunger. It was well-controlled and randomized. They did find an effect on hunger and how the brain responds to food cues. But the study was short-term, just 5 days. It was small, only ten patients.

None of that means it was a bad study. But it’s definitely not a weight loss study. So blasting out headlines about weight loss, based on this study alone, is simply stupid.

Hunger is important, but it’s just one piece of a very complex puzzle describing how your body stores fat and regulates your weight. Short-term observations often don’t predict long term outcomes. The body constantly adapts and changes in unpredictable ways. When you lose weight, your body is really good at finding it.

Bummer?

The impulse to believe in magic is natural – especially when confronting a difficult challenge. Wouldn’t it be nice if magic walnuts really worked to make you lose weight? But the best bet is to lean on real knowledge about obesity and how to work toward better health. That might mean that diet and exercise can help you lose a bit of weight and keep it off. It might mean that an obesity medicine physician can help you lose a bit more. Or it might mean that your best option is bariatric surgery.

Two things are certain. Magic won’t solve the problem. And one size does not fit all.

Click here for the study and here for the absurd reporting published by Women’s Health.

Breakfast Walnut, photograph © Peter Trimming / flickr

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August 24, 2017

3 Responses to “I’ll Have a Handful of Magic Weight Loss Walnuts, Please”

  1. August 24, 2017 at 11:34 am, Allen Browne said:

    Amen – “Magic won’t solve the problem. And one size does not fit all.”

  2. August 25, 2017 at 4:49 am, Mary-Jo said:

    Whoops — the CWC funded the study. I actually think there should be some checks in place prohibiting popular media outlets — mags, websites, social sites — from being able to cherrypick these types of special-interest ‘research’ studies to mislead the public. And it’s a bit naive (or is it?) to think that popular news outlets wouldn’t use such a publication to tout some ‘miracle’ use for the very product the research sponsor produces and sells.

    Sorry, I’m getting grumpier and grumpier with each passing decade of this nonsense cluttering up our senses!

    .

  3. August 25, 2017 at 6:08 am, Ted said:

    Yes, Mary-Jo, the CWC provided funding. But the science was solid, and the conclusions in the paper were careful and conservative. The disinformation came when health reporters stretched their conclusions way beyond what the science could support.