Three and a third (3.35) pounds every 4 years, or almost seventeen (16.8) pounds in twenty years. That is what could happen to you if you do not act intelligently.

A new study published in a June edition of “The New England Journal of Medicine” laid out the results of a long-term study (12 to 20 years) of an incredible 120,877 doctors, nurses, and veterinarians who filled out “very” detailed health and lifestyle questionnaires every two years. (The New York Times, July 19, 2011, Personal Health by Jane Brody.)

Little things meant a lot over time: Small changes in eating, exercise, and other habits resulted in large weight changes over the years.

Food categories contributing to the greatest weight gain (descending order of impact, average associated weight gain over 4 years):

Potato chips (1.7 lb.)

Sugar sweetened drinks (1 lb.)

Red meats & processed meats (.95 lb.)

Other forms of potatoes (.57 lb.)

Sweets and desserts (.41 lb.)

Refined grains (.39 lb.)

Other fried foods (.32 lb.)

100% fruit juice (.31 lb.)

Butter (.3 lb.)

Food categories associated with weight loss or stable weight:


Whole grains

Dairy products had a neutral effect on weight and contrary to conventional wisdom, weight loss was greatest among those who ate more yogurt (strongest link) and nuts, including peanut butter.

Sleeping fewer than six hours or more than eight hours associated with weight gain. Also, the more television watched, the more weight gained. One glass or fewer of wine per day showed no effect, while other forms of alcohol consumption showed positive correlation to weight gain.

Take home? No single factor (e.g. calories) is sufficient. While portion control and exercise is important, just as important is WHAT you eat. Not all calories are equal, not everyone’s body is the same.