Studying 50 obese men and women, scientists at Pennsylvania State University put all 50 subjects on a calorie-reducing diet for 12 weeks, but divided them into two groups. Half were instructed to eat whole grains; the other half were told to choose refined, processed grains, like white-flour foods.
After 12 weeks, average weight loss for both groups was about the same: 8 to 11 pounds. But the whole-grain group showed significantly greater reductions in the percentage of fat around the middle, the researchers reported in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition.
That’s great news not only for a svelte tummy but also for health. Numerous studies published over the past two decades have found that belly fat is particularly harmful to our hearts and health. Abdominal fat is one of the characteristics of a now-epidemic condition in the U.S. called the metabolic syndrome, which is a collection of several risk factors for diabetes, heart disease, and stroke.
Belly fat is also linked with chronic low-level inflammation in the blood vessels, which in turn is a harbinger of heart attacks and strokes. Another risk factor that tumbled among the whole-grain eaters (and not the refined grain eaters) in the Pennylvania State University study was a key marker of chronic inflammation – C-reactive protein, or CRP.
Similarly, research on people who adopted the Pritikin Program found that CRP levels plummeted. Within two to three weeks, C-reactive protein decreased 45% among women, 39% among men, and 41% among children. Metabolism, 53: 377, 2004; Journal of Applied Physiology, 100: 1657, 2006; Atherosclerosis, 191: 98, 2007.
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Whole Grain Recipe
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“But please don’t feel complacent if you don’t have a pot belly,” urges Dr. Danine Fruge, Associate Medical Director at the Pritikin Longevity Center.
“There’s a tragic – and growing – problem in our country, and we doctors call this problem TOFI, which means thin on the outside and fat on the inside.”
You are a TOFI if your weight is normal, but your body mass shows a high ratio of fat to muscle. You may not see the fat, but it’s there, under the skin, and deposited around and inside the internal organs, including the heart, muscle, and liver. It’s largely the result of our sedentary lifestyles — our lack of muscle use — and our fatty, sugary, white-flour-focused, calorie-dense diets.
At the Pritikin Longevity Center, guests learn their fat-to-muscle ratio via DEXA Body Composition Scanning. After two weeks, follow-up scanning reveals how powerful Pritikin living is in shedding fat and increasing muscle. The end result is a leaner, fitter, better toned body.
What does it mean to be a TOFI? “It means,” warns Dr. Fruge, “that despite normal weight, you are still at increased risk for diabetes, heart disease, and other diseases related to obesity.”
Bottom line: Excess body fat, whether it’s around your belly or deep within, is dangerous.
“So get up and get moving!” encourages Dr. Fruge. “And enjoy the many benefits of the Pritikin Eating Plan, rich in healthful whole foods like whole grains, fruits, vegetables, and beans.
“I know of nothing else in medicine that comes close to what a healthy lifestyle like Pritikin can do.”