New studies are discovering previously unknown factors that contribute to weight problems. Exposure to too much light at night and lack of sleep, for instance, were discovered to be risk factors for obesity, a growing health problem worldwide. A new study to be presented at the European Congress on Obesity in Bulgaria this week also point to eating too much white bread as one possible reason why people get fat.

For the study, Miguel Martinez-Gonzalez, from the University of Navarra in Spain, and colleagues examined the eating habits and weight of nearly 10,000 individuals for an average of five years and found that those who eat three slices of white bread per day were more likely to be obese or overweight than those who have fewer servings of white bread.

Although the researchers did not find an association between eating more bread and increased odds for becoming overweight or obese, they found that consuming large amounts of white is linked with weight gain.

They noted that the participants who consumed both white and wholegrain breads did not increase their odds for weight gain but individuals who consumed three or more slices of white bread per day had 40 percent increased risks for weight gain compared with individuals who only eat less than one slice of white bread per week. One slice of bread is about 40g.

The researchers said that consuming wholegrain breads was not linked with weight gain and obesity risks because of the fiber content, type of carbohydrate and ingredients used in wholegrain breads. White bread, on the other hand, uses highly refined flour, which is easily absorbed by the body as sugar.

"Essentially it is equivalent to a high consumption of sugar," Martinez-Gonzalez said. "The problem is similar to what we see with soft drinks, their sugars are rapidly transformed into fat an organism."

Jason Halford, from the UK Association for the Study of Obesity, said that while breads contain fewer useful nutrients as well as added sugar and even high levels of salt. White breads also have less fiber content, which is crucial for weight loss. Individuals who want to lose weight are urged to eat foods that are high in fiber as these can make them feel full more easily helping them resist the urge to eat more.

The findings of the study suggest that individuals who need to lose weight can benefit from switching from white breads to wholegrain breads.

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