Fruit, veggies key to older women’s diets

U. PITTSBURGH (US) — A new study offers diet advice to women in their 50s and 60s who are trying to control their weight.

Older women who increased their consumption of fruits and vegetables and ate less dessert, sugar-sweetened beverages, meat, and cheese were the most likely to control their weight over time, according to a new study by researchers at the University of Pittsburgh School of Education and the Graduate School of Public Health.


“With more than one-third of all Americans considered obese, it’s clear that standard behavioral obesity treatment is producing poor long-term results,” says Bethany Barone Gibbs, assistant professor in the Department of Health and Physical Activity at the University of Pittsburgh.

“We found that some important behaviors differ for long-term versus short-term weight control among women in their 50s and 60s, who are already at higher risk for weight gain.”

Barone Gibbs is the lead author of the study, which will be published in the September issue of the Journal of the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics.

Researchers studied 465 overweight and obese postmenopausal women previously enrolled in Pitt Public Health’s Women on the Move through Activity and Nutrition (WOMAN) study and analyzed changes in eating habits and weight loss from the beginning of the study to six and 48 months.

The women were randomly assigned to either a lifestyle-change intervention group or a control group. The women in the intervention group regularly met with nutritionists, exercise physiologists, and psychologists, while women in the control group were offered occasional seminars over the study period focusing on general women’s health.

Participants in both groups self-reported their eating habits using a detailed questionnaire. At the end of the four years of the study, 57 percent of the intervention participants and 29 percent of controls had maintained at least a five-pound weight loss.

Women in both groups who decreased their consumption of desserts and sugar-sweetened beverages experienced a greater weight loss than those who did not in both the short- and long-term.

However, participants who decreased fried foods and eating out, and increased fish consumption had greater weight loss at six months; those who increased their fruit and vegetable intake and decreased intake of meats and cheeses were more likely to be successful at long-term weight loss.

Eating out and eating fried food had no apparent effect on long-term weight change.

“Behaviors like cutting out fried foods may work in the short-term, but may be too restrictive to continue for a long period of time. On the other hand, adding fruits and vegetables may be a small change that makes a difference over a period of many months or years,” says Barone Gibbs.

Researchers at Pitt Public Health conducted the WOMAN study from April 2002 to June 2008 to investigate whether a change in diet and lifestyle, along with a 10 percent reduction in body weight, could lower low density lipoprotein (LDL) cholesterol and triglycerides, and decrease cardiovascular disease.

“Four years later, the secondary data from the WOMAN study is still providing insight to those working to achieve better health,” says study co-author Lewis Kuller, professor emeritus in the Department of Epidemiology at Pitt Public Health.

“Focusing on eating behavior, rather than specific diets, may improve long-term weight loss programs.”

Collaborators in the study included Laura S. Kinzel from the University of Pittsburgh Graduate School of Public Health, Kelley Pettee Gabriel from the University of Texas Health Science Center, and Yue-Fang Chang, from the School of Medicine at University of Pittsburgh.

The research was funded by the National Heart, Lung and Blood Institute, part of the National Institutes of Health.

Source: University of Pittsburgh