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Health Tips
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Slow metabolism: is it to blame for weight gain?

My sister insists that she is overweight because she has a slow metabolism. Is there such a thing?

Answer

Yes, there is such a thing as a slow metabolism, but it's rare. The bottom line is most overweight or obese individuals do not get that way because of a slow metabolism. They get that way because they eat too many calories and don't exercise enough.

Metabolism is the complex biochemical process by which the food you eat is converted into the energy your body needs to function. Basal metabolic rate (BMR) is a number of calories you burn at rest.

Your body composition is one of the primary factors that determine BMR. The more lean muscle you have, the more calories you burn. It is why men — who typically have more lean muscle than women do — tend to lose weight faster and gain it more slowly, and it is also why experts recommend strength training to build muscle mass. BMR is also affected by how much you exercise. All physical activity, not just strenuous activity, increases the number of calories you burn.

Only a small number of people truly have a slow metabolism — which means they burn fewer calories at rest than they should according to estimates based on their height, weight, age and sex. In fact, people who are overweight usually have an increased metabolic rate because they have more muscle as well as fat.

It's true that your metabolism slows slightly as you get older. So you may need to decrease your calorie intake or increase your physical activity as you age.

If you're concerned that you have a slow metabolism, talk to your doctor. Your doctor may recommend a test to calculate your BMR or resting energy expenditure. Medical conditions that can decrease BMR or alter your muscle-to-fat ratio include hypothyroidism and Cushing's syndrome. A doctor can test for such conditions.

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Fat but fit: Can I still be healthy?

I'm overweight, but I work out regularly. Can I still be considered healthy?

Answer

You can be overweight and still be relatively fit. But it depends on whether the extra weight you carry is muscle or fat. If the extra pounds are muscle, your risk of disease is lower than if this weight is fat. If your extra weight is fat, you are at increased risk of diabetes, cancer and stroke — even if you exercise.

This doesn't mean you're not benefiting from exercise if you're overweight or obese. You are. Regular exercise can help reduce the risk of certain diseases and may help you live longer, even if you're overweight or obese.

However, your weight is also important to your health. For example, if you're overweight or obese, you can reduce your risk of heart disease if you exercise — but you're still at increased risk of diabetes. Also, carrying extra pounds into your 40s and 50s may put you at increased risk of developing diabetes and heart disease later in life — even if you have no other risk factors for these diseases.

Still, it's important to remember that the number on the scale isn't the whole key to your fitness. Even thin people are at increased risk of heart disease if they're not active. The exercise you're doing helps improve your overall health. So keep it up.

Regular physical activity is an essential component to maintaining muscle and a healthy weight. Health experts recommend at least 30 to 60 minutes of moderate-intensity activity five or more days a week. To lose weight, increase the duration and intensity of your exercise, eat a healthy diet and cut back on your portions.

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Body fat: Where does it go when you lose weight?

Where does body fat go when you lose weight?

Answer

When you consume fewer calories than your body needs, your body turns to fat for energy. Your fat cells (triglycerides) provide the fuel for this energy.

Through a series of complex metabolic processes, triglycerides are broken down into two different components — glycerol and fatty acids — which are absorbed into your liver, kidney and muscle. Here, these components are further broken down by chemical processes that ultimately produce energy for your body.

The heat generated through these activities is used to help maintain your body temperature. The waste products that result are water and carbon dioxide. You excrete water primarily in urine and sweat and carbon dioxide in air exhaled from your lungs.

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Lipovarin: Another 'miracle' weight-loss drug?

I really want to lose some weight, and I'm thinking about trying a diet pill called Lipovarin. I've read many positive things about it on the Internet. Can you tell me if it really works?

Answer

There is no evidence that Lipovarin — a popular, nonprescription diet pill — can help you lose weight. In addition, this product may be harmful to your health.

Lipovarin contains the ingredient synephrine. Synephrine is a stimulant similar to ephedrine, which is found in the herb ephedra. In 2004, all ephedra products were removed from the U.S. market due to safety concerns. Ephedra is linked to stroke, heart attack, seizure and other serious side effects.

Many manufacturers now substitute synephrine in products that used to contain ephedra. Although these synephrine-containing products are marketed as "ephedra-free," they likely have the same serious health risks as ephedra-containing products.

Unfortunately, there are no shortcuts to permanent weight loss. The safest way to lose weight is to decrease calorie intake and increase physical activity.

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