As if the hot flashes and all the other annoying menopausal symptoms weren't bad enough, according to new research the real secret to losing those stubborn postmenopausal pounds is to avoid dessert. All dessert. For. Ever.
(Pausing now for mass sobbing.)
Here's the latest sad, but telling, research: Women's metabolism declines after menopause, which makes it difficult to keep from gaining weight no matter how careful you are. Even previously slim women start battling muffin tops and poochy tummies - as 60-year-old Robin Herman told NBC News.
University of Pittsburgh researchers wanted to see what specifically would make a difference in weight loss in both the short term (at six months) and long term (after four years) for overweight women in their 50s and 60s.
They studied nearly 500 women and found that - big surprise - eating fewer desserts and fried foods, drinking less sugar-sweetened beverages, eating more fish and eating less often at restaurants were all associated with short-term weight loss.
Not exactly earthshaking, but here's the really surprising part: If you want to keep that weight off for a long time, cutting out dessert and sugary drinks are what really matter.
That's what helped the women lose weight in the first six months and - more important - keep it off during the subsequent years.
Adding more fruits and vegetables and eating less meat and cheese also helped keep weight off by the four-year mark, even if it didn't make much of a difference at six months.
As for eating out and eating fried food, these had no apparent effect on long-term weight change, mainly because no one could keep denying themselves a restaurant meal (or french fries) on a long-term basis, said researchers.
"Behaviors like cutting out fried foods may work in the short term but may be too restrictive to continue for a long period of time. On the other hand, adding fruits and vegetables may be a small change that makes a difference over a period of many months or years," said lead researcher Bethany Barone Gibbs in a prepared statement.
Gibbs, an assistant professor in the University of Pittsburgh's Department of Health and Physical Activity, told ABC News that the findings could be a road map for many older women who hope to keep the pounds off well into the future.
"The goal is long-term weight loss, and these four behaviors were most important," Gibbs said.
The study was published Tuesday in the Journal of the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics.
In other health news:
Speaking of dieting, a severe one doesn't prolong life, at least in monkeys. Partially starving rhesus monkeys for 25 years to see if calorie restriction would prolong life had seemingly no effect (other than making the monkeys constantly hungry), The New York Times reports. The skinny monkeys did not live any longer than normally fed monkeys or get any fewer diseases. Some lab-test results improved, though - interestingly - only in monkeys put on the diet when they were old.
Men who eat chocolate have lower stroke risk. Reuters reports that men who regularly indulge their taste for dark chocolate may have a somewhat decreased risk of suffering a stroke, according to a study out Wednesday. Swedish researchers found that of more than 37,000 men followed for a decade, those who ate the most chocolate had a 17 percent lower risk of stroke than did men who avoided chocolate.
Big grant aims to help hospitalized patients maintain dignity. A $500 million grant from the Gordon and Betty Moore Foundation, created by the Intel Corp. founder and his wife, will be awarded to hospitals over the next decade with the aim of eliminating all preventable harms done to patients in acute-care settings, The Wall Street Journal reports. These harms include not only the infections patients pick up inside hospitals, the foundation says, but also the loss of dignity and respect that patients and families experience during long hospital stays.
Photo: sota-k via flickr