- With Mayo Clinic preventive medicine specialist
Donald Hensrud, M.D.read biographyclose window
Donald Hensrud, M.D.Donald Hensrud, M.D., M.P.H., M.S.
Dr. Donald D. Hensrud is chair of the Division of Preventive, Occupational and Aerospace Medicine with a joint appointment in the Division of Endocrinology, Diabetes, Metabolism, & Nutrition at Mayo Clinic. He is an associate professor of preventive medicine and nutrition at Mayo Clinic College of Medicine. Dr. Hensrud directed the Executive Health Program at Mayo Clinic for more than 10 years.
He received his B.S. from the University of North Dakota, M.D. from the University of Hawaii, M.P.H. from the University of Minnesota and M.S. in nutrition sciences from the University of Alabama at Birmingham. He completed residency training in internal medicine and fellowship training in preventive medicine at Mayo Clinic and completed a clinical nutrition fellowship at the University of Alabama at Birmingham.
Dr. Hensrud is certified by the American Board of Internal Medicine, the American Board of Preventive Medicine and the American Board of Physician Nutrition Specialists, of which he is a past president.
His career interests have combined nutrition, weight management, and prevention. He is the author of many scientific articles and book chapters and was editor of Mayo Clinic Healthy Weight for EveryBody; The New Mayo Clinic Cookbook, which won a 2005 James Beard Foundation award; The Mayo Clinic Plan: 10 Essential Steps to a Better Body & Healthier Life; and The Mayo Clinic Diet, published in January 2010.
Dr. Hensrud says healthy lifestyle habits in diet and physical activity are extremely important as evidenced by a large body of scientific evidence. He also says implementing these lifestyle habits is realistic, sustainable and enjoyable. A primary goal of his work is to help people achieve this.
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The Mayo Clinic Diet blog
Nov. 10, 2012
Is a calorie always a calorie?
By Donald Hensrud, M.D.
It's been said for years that body weight ultimately depends on the balance between calories eaten and calories burned. Recently, this premise has been questioned as other factors have emerged that may affect weight.
For example, studies have shown that people who sleep less than 6 hours or more than 8 hours are at increased risk of weight gain. Factors affecting our weight may start even before we are born. Small babies that are born to expectant mothers who don't get adequate nutrition are at increased risk of weight gain later in life.
On the calorie intake side, a recent study reported that sugar intake increased the risk of obesity more in people who had a genetic predisposition to obesity. Another study reported that a low-fat diet lowered resting metabolic rate more than a low-carbohydrate diet. In this case, it's not clear differences in dietary fat vs. carbohydrate transmit into changes in weight. A long-term study showed that after 2 years there wasn't much difference in weight loss between a low-fat and a low-carbohydrate diet.
How do these factors affect weight independent from calories? It's possible they may affect metabolic processes or hormones in the body. Despite these associations with weight, it's important to keep the big picture in mind and not get too caught up with specific factors and details.
For example, there is some controversy over whether high-fructose corn syrup can somehow increase weight more than what is expected from its calorie content. However, the calorie content and the amount of high fructose corn syrup people eat have a much, much greater influence on weight than any other potential effect may have.
If people can change these factors, such as getting the right amount of sleep, it might help to better manage weight. However, the big picture is still that eating a healthy diet, which limits calories appropriately, along with increased physical activity is the most effective overall way to manage weight — and improve health long-term.blog index