Health Buzz: Genes Linked to Childhood Obesity

Dr. Phil’s family ties to the 17 day diet; how does the 17 day diet work?

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Two Childhood Obesity Genes Discovered

Researchers say they've discovered two gene variants that play a role in childhood obesity. The findings are part of a large analysis of genetic studies involving thousands of children from the United States, Europe, and Australia. Though little is known about the two gene markers, they're likely tied to intestinal function, according to a study published Sunday in Nature Genetics. The genes appear to increase the risk of obesity in the first few years of life, even in children as young as 2. "We're going to continue to look for more genes, and the more information we get, the more accurately we will eventually make lifestyle decisions for children based on their genetic makeup," study author Struan Grant, associate director of the Center for Applied Genomics at The Children's Hospital of Philadelphia, told USA Today. "This is giving us new insights to the biology of obesity, which could potentially one day lead to both more efficient medications and more specific diet and exercise advice for kids who are genetically predisposed to obesity."

The 17 Day Diet: Dr. Phil's Family Ties

Have you heard of the 17 Day Diet, now a national best-selling diet book? Probably, if you're a Dr. Phil fan. The TV psychologist has been heavily supporting and promoting the diet on his show, even describing it as the "hottest new diet out there." What he failed to mention: His son, Jay McGraw, has a financial stake in the success of that book—he is the publisher, according to a new Newsweek cover story. (Full disclosure: The article's author, Pat Wingert, is married to U.S. News' top editor Brian Kelly.) Jay McGraw also helped publish The P.I.N.K. Method, another diet book heavily promoted by the Dr. Phil show and its sister program, The Doctors, which is run by Jay McGraw. In January of this year, Dr. Phil acknowledged his son's relationship with the P.I.N.K. Method. According to the Newsweek story, Dr. Phil never told his audience about his son's link to the 17 Day Diet program, questioning his transparency and whether he's a trust-worthy source of diet information.

How does the 17 Day Diet work?

Based on Michael Rafael Moreno's 2011 book, The 17 Day Diet: A Doctor's Plan Designed for Rapid Results, the regimen is purportedly built to help you shed pounds quickly and permanently. The diet is divided into three 17-day cycles to prevent boredom and your body from plateauing, says Moreno, a California-based family medicine physician. In the first cycle, "Accelerate," you'll cut back to about 1,200 calories per day, reduce your sugar intake, and focus on improving your digestion. This is when you'll lose the most—10 to 15 pounds—though most of it will be water weight, he says. After 17 days you'll reach the second cycle, "Activate." During this period you'll alternate between Accelerate's limited-calorie diet and Activate's slightly higher-calorie meal plan. This back-and-forth supposedly resets your metabolism and stimulates fat burning to yield an additional loss of 5 to 6 pounds. In the third cycle, "Achieve," you'll focus on developing good eating habits to drop another 2 to 3 pounds. The final cycle, "Arrive," is ongoing. You'll maintain your goal weight by eating healthfully on weekdays and enjoying your favorite foods (in moderation) on the weekends. [Read more: The 17 Day Diet—What You Need to Know.]

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