Over the last several decades, the American waistline has been expanding relentlessly. But obesity is not only a problem in our country; it has now spread around the world. We explore the causes and possible cures for global obesity.

Nutrition scientists have been debating the best diet for weight loss for decades, but there have been little data to help determine which approach is best. Researchers pitted low-fat and low-protein approaches in a well-controlled two-year study and found that the diet that works is the one you can stick with. Results were published in The New England Journal of Medicine.

Guests: Barry Popkin, PhD, is the Carla Steel Chamblee Distinguished Professor of Global Nutrition. He is Professor of Nutrition at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill and directs the University’s Interdisciplinary Center for Obesity. His book is titled: The World Is Fat: The Fads, Trends, Policies, and Products That Are Fattening the Human Race. The photo is of Dr. Popkin.

Frank Sacks, MD, is Professor of Nutrition at the Harvard School of Public Health. He was the lead investigator on “Comparison of Weight-Loss Diets with Different Compositions of Fat, Protein, and Carbohydrates”


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  1. Faye

    Check out the Weston A. Price Foundation. They follow a diet of the nonindustrialized people. You can find them online.www.westonaprice.org

  2. Brenda

    Great program!!!

  3. erj

    I have lost over 50 lbs by following a Mediterranean diet. Great food, nice balance and great spices. To do this I broke the food groups into four categories.
    Protiens, Carbs, Fats and Free Food. The key to making this work is properly categorizing the foods into these groups.
    In the Fats are alcohol, whole, 2 or 1 per cent milk or yogurt, hamburger, sausage (I don’t eat anything with Trans Fat) Tahini, Peanut Butter, whole egg, grape seed oil, olive oil. This means that any of those items are to be controlled in the diet. If you drink you have to eat a lot less due to the way the food is metabolized in the body, not what the label says.
    Free foods are raw vegetables (not corn or peas) and whole grain with no or minimal processing. Processed whole grain is sugar and processed as sugar in the body. So, whole oats (I eat everyday) is a free food but instant oats are not free — they are sugar.
    The difficulty I have with the study and the “star” going on products is that they will not discuss how the product will behave once it is in the body. A no salt, low fat pretzel or cracker made from whole grain will receive a star but it will be very bad for you and you will get fat from eating it.

  4. clw in Chapel Hill

    The previous reviewer seems not to have read the article; here’s the citation:
    The results say: “By 2 years, weight loss remained similar in those who were assigned to a diet with 15% protein and those assigned to a diet with 25% protein (3.0 and 3.6 kg, respectively); in those assigned to a diet with 20% fat and those assigned to a diet with 40% fat (3.3 kg for both groups); and in those assigned to a diet with 65% carbohydrates and those assigned to a diet with 35% carbohydrates.”
    Although the majority of undernourished people subsisted largely on carbohydrate calories in the past, does it seem likely they have become obese in recent decades because they are eating substantially more of the same carbohydrates than they ate previously? In the interview with Barry Popkin, he said obesity is a global the problem caused by the great increase in consumption of sugared drinks. This would indeed be a carbohydrate effect.

  5. John

    Barry Popkin, author of The World is Fat, is on the first 2/3 of the 3-18-09 program. I found him disappointingly unbalanced. He puts most of the blame on sweet drinks (which undoubtedly deserve condemnation) but never mentions refined carbohydrates as a major cause of obesity. He stated as though it is established fact that all calories are equal and that all that matters is reducing calories. That hypothesis is in fact controversial and hotly debated.
    The last third of the program with Frank Sacks was also disappointing. The bottom line of his study seemed to be that all of the diet options worked equally well (or badly) since most of the people didn’t stay on any of the diets but “drifted back” toward their normal way of eating.
    I’m suspicious that both of these guys have an agenda to avoid acknowledging the roll of carbohydrates in obesity.

  6. H J Levitt

    It is a shame that this “study” has been misrepresented in both the poplular press and here by the Graedons. All 3 of the diets were in fact high carb with the actual amount of carbs consumed higher than the original high targets. This study proves that you can lose weight in the short run by cutting calories but will regain it if it is high carbs. The recent Israeli study showed excellent results which lasted longer with low carbs. Incidentally, the best results of the recent study were in the lowest carb group even though it was high carbs

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