The Takeaway: Why Diets Fail (The 'Blame Your Hormones' Edition); Financial Strategies for Supporting Aging Parents

Revenge of the Hunger Hormones: We all know that extreme diets might work in the short term- eat less, shed pounds. But because crash diets are difficult to sustain (and easy to rebel against!), they often end up backfiring in the long run-sending dieters through cycles of weight loss and gain that leave them frustrated and discouraged. A new study has uncovered one of the reasons why this happens: Hunger hormones that refuse to go back to normal for up to a year after dieting.

Researchers tracked weight loss and hormone levels in 50 dieters who agreed to eat nothing but a meal replacement shake and two cups of vegetables per day for 10 weeks. During the diet, the body's appetite-regulating hormones (such as leptin and ghrelin) signaled to dieters that they needed to eat more. That's natural; when our bodies suddenly stop receiving as many calories as they're used to, they begin to think maybe we're starving to death, and send brain signals accordingly. But in this study, published yesterday in the New England Journal of Medicine, the hunger hormones kept sending 'eat more' signals to dieters at least a year after the diet!

Researchers said the study shows weight-gain after dieting "is not simply the result of the voluntary resumption of old habits."

The study also boosted the idea that we all have a weight "set point"-a weight range at which are bodies are naturally inclined to stay-and our bodies make it extra difficult to get below this set point. 

Bank of Sons and Daughters:  Millions of boomers (and sometimes younger adults) are providing financial support to aging parents, even while struggling to stay afloat or save for retirement themselves, Reuters notes. The number of adult children spending money (and time) on parents' care has more than tripled in the last 15 years. A new survey of family caregivers from found 32 percent spent more than $5,000 on parents' expenses in the past year.

"There are just a ton of families where the second or third generation needs to help the first generation," says Mark Nash, a partner at PriceWaterhouseCoopers in Dallas. "People are asking, a lot, about how to do it."

But what's the best way to provide financial support to aging parents? Instead of paying for things outright, you might want to consider 'annual gifts' that are recognized at tax time, loans, or even buying mom's house, financial experts say. However:

It's often prudent to consult an elder law attorney to make sure your help won't inadvertently disqualify them any government benefits, says Larry Elkin, president of Palisades Hudson, a New York-based financial planning firm.

Thursday Quick Hits: 

  • And it's a bird, it's a plane, it's ... Super Broccoli! Yes, that's what UK scientists are calling a new breed of broccoli specially grown to contain two to three times the normal amount of glucoraphanin, which helps break down fat in the body.

See  "In the News"  for more on current events, entertainment and how it all relates to you.


 ( Photo: Dimitri Vervitsiotis/Getty Images)

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