“For a fistful of calories”. Paraphrasing a film by Sergio Leone, this could be the title that represents the results of an American research specifically targeted on the elderly who are heavily overweight. A caloric drop around the 10% of the total (approx. 200 – 250 calories per day), so no particularly drastic diet, combined with moderate exercise to get the better results in terms of elasticity of the aortic wall (the vessel that starts from the left ventricle of the heart and carries the blood destined for the whole body) in the obese elderly.
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To say that in this population good habits can be in the long run more effective for this specific parameter than exercise alone and the planned efforts associated with a much lower calorie diet, is an original search appearing on Circulation . The study, coordinated by Tina E. Brinkley of Wake University Forest of Winston-Salem, is the first that expressly aims to monitor the effects of regular aerobic activity associated or not with caloric restriction of varying degrees. The state of health of the aorta and the elasticity of its walls were assessed through a particular cardiovascular magnetic resonance that made it possible to study the arterial walls and measure the speed of the pulse wave of the aortic arch (a sort of “odometer “Specific to assess the speed with which blood travels through the aorta) and the aorta’s ability to expand and contract.
The research examined 160 sedentary and obese people (with Body Mass Index or BMI higher than 23), aged between 65 and 79 years, three quarters women . The subjects included in the research were divided into three groups: in the first the “treatment” involved only regular physical exercise, in the second this strategy was associated with a minimal decrease in caloric intake (indeed 200 – 250 calories) and in third, the caloric restriction was more significant (on average 600 calories per day). The research went on for twenty weeks and the meals, for the second and third groups, predicted at least 0.8 grams of protein per kilo of ideal body weight, with a correct distribution of macronutrients (fats not exceeding 30% of total caloric intake.
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In the group with the caloric loss that is not too “heavy”, in addition to having an increase of about a fifth of the distensibility of the wall of the aorta, a decrease equal to slightly less than 10% of weight, with weight loss very similar to that observed in those who have had a decrease in calorie intake of over 19% everyday. “The regular practice of an adequate amount of muscle work, in all age groups, is undoubtedly the winning strategy in the prevention and treatment of many diseases, in particular metabolic and cardiovascular diseases – he explains Michelangelo Giampietro , lecturer at the Scuola del Coni in Rome and specialist in food science. The benefits obtained through physical activity regardless of the extent of the energy expenditure produced by the contraction of our muscles, regardless of the type of work performed (aerobic and / or against resistance), and are much greater than those that can be obtained with diet only, or with energy restriction “.
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The important thing, according to the experts, therefore appears to engage not so much in temporary “full immersion” in the diet, with drastic drops in calories, but rather on habits. Changing your lifestyle, even without undergoing too strict dietary approaches that are then difficult to follow, appears as the optimal solution to get to lose weight in health, obviously associating the right aerobic activity with calorie restriction, to be identified with the doctor. “The best solution, of course, is to combine an increase in daily muscle work with a moderate reduction in calories introduced with food – confirms Giampietro. Diets that are too rigid and restrictive cause a loss of lean body mass with a consequent decrease in muscle mass as well . On the contrary, physical activity produces an increase in muscle mass and at the same time a reduction in excess body fat, all the greater if dietary errors are corrected. The positive effect of these correct lifestyles also has a favorable impact on cardiovascular function, and in particular on the elasticity of the artery walls and on the functionality of the endothelium (the cells that line the inside of the blood vessel walls). The study confirms that even the distension of the aortic part is improved by the regular practice of physical activity, even more so if combined with a moderate reduction in calories introduced with food “.
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