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Weight Watchers finally admits that not all calories are equal

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Weight Watchers Finally Accepts Where Calories Come From Matters Too
This article comes from Christian Nordqvist at Medical News Today. Around 20 years after Barry Sears (Zone Diet) first pointed out that where a calorie comes from matters because calories from macro-nutrients; protein, carbohydrate and fat each have different hormonal consequences, weight watchers have also finally admitted – yes he was right, and have bought in a new programme called PointsPlus, which takes this into account in their points allotment. While far from a perfect programme (in my opinion), at least its a step in the right direction and goes towards validating those scientists who took a large number of knocks standing by their beliefs in those early days (Sears, Eades, Atkins etc)

“A 100-calorie apple is now zero points in Weight Watchers PointsPlus plan while 100-calories worth of cookies or potato will clock up points. A recognition that has been around for over a decade with other eating plans, such as The Zone, Atkins and The South Beach diets. It is true that a calorie is a calorie, and how many calories you consume compared to how many you use up each day matter greatly in body weight control, but where those calories come from are extremely important too. Some calories come from foods that fill you up more than others, and some calories come from foods that do not spike insulin levels so much. Some calories come from foods with virtually no nutritional value (empty calories), while others are rich in vitamins and minerals.

All fresh fruits and the majority of vegetables now score zero points in the Weight Watchers new PointsPlus system. Dried fruit and some vegetables, such as potatoes and corn will still have points.

The new PointsPlus System replaces the old Weight Watchers Points Plan. According to Karen Miller-Kovach, Weight Watchers’ chief scientific officer, it is necessary to reflect the latest nutrition science.

Miller-Kovach says the new formula takes into account protein, fiber, carbohydrate and fat content of foods.

Weight Watchers now acknowledges that protein and fiber are crucial in achieving satiety* and warding off hunger.

* Satiety is the condition of being (feeling) full.

The new Weight Watchers system also takes into account how long the body takes to process certain foods and food ingredients into energy.

Miller-Kovach says that as most people do not eat enough fruit and vegetables, they will now have zero points (with the exception of some very starchy vegetables).”

“According to David Kirchhoff, President and CEO of Weight Watchers:

    “Our new PointsPlus program is by far our biggest advancement since the launch of the POINTS program 13 years ago. It has a completely new formula, a new set of food rules and nutrition guides built into a simple, easy-to-use plan.”

Kirchhoff says the new plan:

  • Takes a stand for unprocessed food
  • Takes a stand for fruits and vegetables
  • Continues to recognize the need for plenty of flexibility and some indulgences. However, it now does this in a smarter way.
  • Allows the dieter to make choices while still feeling satisfied
  • Helps the dieter feel more energetic
  • Helps the dieter be more in control
  • Helps the dieter lose weight, not put it back on, with a more sustainable lifestyle

Over the last decade several diet organizations have responded to research demonstrating the impact that protein, carbohydrates, fats and fiber have on our metabolism, rate of hormone release (especially insulin) – and ultimately our body weight.”…

“Biochemist Barry Sears said in the 1980s that the US Food Pyramid was slanted too much towards high carbs and low fat, which he then claimed leads to insulin fluctuations, hunger and gradual weight gain – opposite to its aim. The Food Pyramid is a guideline by US authorities on nutrition. Sears said that for optimal body weight control and good health, the human requires a food intake of 40% carbs, 30% protein and 30% fat. He went to great lengths explaining that where the calories come from is extremely important. Most research since then has tended to show the benefits of upping protein, fiber, fruit and vegetables, while going easy on refined carbohydrates and naturally very starchy foods.”

My criticism is that while this programme is an improvement on the previous points plan (where I’ve heard stories of women saving all their points for a blowout on junk at the movies) and recognises that protein and fats are important for satiety, giving fruit a zero rating will end up backfiring. Today’s fruit is a far cry from ancient fruits which are tart and fibrous, today’s fruit is large and sweet. It would have been abundant only in short windows when fruit ripened on the tree. Today it is available in unlimited amounts all year round. Fruit is also high in fructose, a sugar toxic to the liver which readily gets turned into fat, and triggers gout in susceptible people. A must view is Lustig’s lecture on fructose Sugar –“The Bitter Truth”

As for my opinion on the move towards Zone diet eating? Well it’s a move in the right direction. I’ve voiced my criticisms previously about what I believe are the shortfalls of the Zone diet. I now believe paleo eating is superior, due to the focus on food quality and the elimination of gut irritant, auto-immune triggering and toxic modern foods (sugar especially fructose, processed foods, vegetable oils, grains, legumes, additives, and dairy). When eating paleo foods, most people no longer need to count calories, points or manage portions due to superior appetite control, and the reduction of metabolic derangement.

Perhaps in another 20 year Weight Watchers will have moved towards Paleo eating?

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