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Diet, Not Exercise, Needed to Battle Obesity?

Everyone is looking for a cure to end the obesity epidemic, and the conclusion of a new study performed by Loyola University Health System indicates our attempts might be off the mark. They found that diet alone, rather than coupled with physical activity, was key to maintaining a healthy weight.

The study compared women from Chicago, weighing on average 185 pounds, with women from Nigeria, weighing on average 127 pounds. While there was no difference in the amount of calories burned during physical activity between the two groups, there was a significant difference in diet. The Nigerian women ate a diet high in fiber and carbs, but low in fat and animal protein. The women from the Windy City ate a diet that was not only high in processed food (read low fiber) but with 40 to 45 percent of their calories coming from fat. This is high since the recommended percentage of calories coming from fat is 25 to 35 percent.

These findings contradict findings from a recent study performed on an older Amish population, where physical activity was shown to offset a genetic predisposition for obesity. Obviously, more research needs to be done on this matter. I do think it serves as a friendly reminder, especially if you're trying to lose weight, that exercising regularly does not entitle you to eat whatever you want.


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mem952 mem952 8 years
i know the variables are the point - but when you have too many variables the data can become unreliable. we were always taught to have just one variable in science class experiments - that way you could always tell that it was that particular variable which caused the different results. anyhow... my own experience is that diet makes a much greater difference to my body weight than exercise. you could say that i exercise for health but i diet for appearance.
snowbunny11 snowbunny11 8 years
Sugarkat- I agree with you that the variables are the point. They are trying to see what differences there are when two groups of women have drastically different body weights. dinodino- 650 calories is starvation rate, your body isn't getting enough nutrition. This isn't a pro-ana board right? Sometimes I wonder... I think this is probably a somewhat useful study, but even though I fall within normal body weight, I carry any excess weight as belly fat, and studies have shown that exercise is essential for getting rid of that kind of fat. So people still have to decide to do what's best for them, and there are obviously other health benefits to exercise.
brookrene brookrene 8 years
I meant I think it's a mix of both exercise and diet. :)
brookrene brookrene 8 years
I like to think it's a mix of both, and i take this study with a grain of salt. Way too many variables in this case.
jessr1214 jessr1214 8 years
i second kristints's michael pollan! he is amazing :-) i think different things work for different people. i am just bad at dieting, though i do try to eat healthy. so exercise has always been more important for me to lose weight.
margokhal margokhal 8 years
I still believe that exericse is more important, just from my personal experience and the experiences of others that I know. All of us [friends, family] know how to eat right, and we do so pretty much all the time - I'm a fan of innovative salads, hummus, etc. And we measure out portions. The thing is, NONE of us consistently exercises. I try to, but it definitely isn't on par with the eating healthy bit. I know that it's the fact I'm not exercising a lot that is keeping the weight on, not because I'm eating less and healthier things. Calories are calories, and if you don't expend more than you put in, nothing happens. One of my friends even got a LapBand...she CAN'T eat anything, really, but because she doesn't exercise, she hasn't lost ANY weight - and she's had it for almost a year. Maintaining a healthy diet is pretty easy, IMO. Consistently exercising is not.
Spectra Spectra 8 years
Yeah, you can definitely be very active and still be quite overweight. I have a friend who runs a lot and he's still pretty hefty. Going for a run that burns 500 calories is good, but it won't make up for drinking a six-pack and eating a pizza later that night. I always try to eat healthy, but I am very active too. And although I don't count solely on exercise to maintain my weight, I do like having the wiggle room in my diet so I can eat some "fun" foods too.
LaurenFSU LaurenFSU 8 years
I think that exercise is important to weight loss and maintenance. It seems like just eating better and not getting much physical activity wouldn't really help very much in the long run.
sundaygreen sundaygreen 8 years
Even fitness enthusiasts know that it's 80% diet and 20% training (roughly). Nutrition is always more important. I think that most obese people would lose tons of weight (literally) just by pushing up their activity a smidge (ie: walking more) and eating much healthier.
kristints kristints 8 years
Duh! They eat whole grains and little fat and they're thin and healthy? We already knew that! God, everyone on the internet, searching for health should just read In Defense of Food by Michael Pollan, you'll never be searching for "health" again.
dino-dino dino-dino 8 years
how can ppl eat like 4,000 calories a day i have like 650 on average
catander catander 8 years
i guess i should add that i think that diet is more important for those who are significantly overweight rather than those who are only trying to lose several pounds. of course, if a person is already consuming a healthy number of a calories, exercise is going to be how to shed those last few pounds. but, for the significantly overweight, reducing calories is probably more important for weight loss than exercise.
catander catander 8 years
firstly, the article doesn't say that the chitown ladies and the women from nigeria ate the same number of calories. it says that the number of calories burned through activity were equivalent for the two groups. the implication, at least how i read it, is that the women in chicago are consuming far more calories than the women in nigeria and the nutritional composition of their diets varied by country. secondly, it's obvious that diet is more important for losing weight than exercise, although being active both facilitates weight loss and promotes health. think about it: if an obese person is eating 3,000-4,000 calories a day, it's going to be far more effective (for weight loss) to drop back to about 2,000 calories a day than to exercise for an hour daily, although doing both would of course be best. burning significant (500+) calories through exercise takes a long time and people whose baseline calorie consumption is much to high can more easily reduce consumption than burn the same number of calories through exercise.
aimeeb aimeeb 8 years
almostloli so true!
SugarKat SugarKat 8 years
mem, the variables are the point. The fact that the women weigh less is the point. The fact that they're culturally different is the point. This is good to know. I have high cholesterol. I chalk it up to not eating the right foods AND not having enough activity. I eat too much meat and animal products. Something that I thought was really interesting was the types of food that the different women ate. Chi women ate low carbs and Nig women ate low fat. It's also another point for carbs! Bring it on!!!
mondaymoos mondaymoos 8 years
I've never been good at the diet thing. That much becomes fairly obvious when I'm in injury status (again). But as long as I'm being active like I prefer to be anyway, my body handles my massive food intake pretty well. ;)
dino-dino dino-dino 8 years
well yea u need a healthier diet but like out of all the countries iv lived in or visited the us DEFINITELY has the largest mealz of evrything at restaurants and everything comes in these huge packages at the grocery store i think that to cure obesity all fat people should be tied together like in ropes and then when sum1 moved to go to the bathroom or somethng the entire country would hav 2 move with them and they would get lots of exercise and like when sum1 in seattle is driving and someone else in new york doesnt hav a car they have to run in whatever direction the other person is going and so would evry1 else and when they get healthy they can cut the rope off except i dont know i guessp eople would trip over the ropes unless it was like lasers or something im going 2 evolve this plan and cure evrything
almostloli almostloli 8 years
the point is.. even though the calorie amount is the same.. if the source is different.. means it will affect the body differently too i think.. like.. a candy bar versus apple .. say both 150cals.. but the effect to your body won't be the same
ilanac13 ilanac13 8 years
i think that there are always going to be conflicting results in any number of studies. i agree that there should be a combination of things that would help you lose weight and maintain the lower weight...but also, you can't just eat whatever you want if you're working out. it's counter productive.
mem952 mem952 8 years
there are too many variables in this study. why were the people from different countries? - this would have introduced a whole range of cultural, activity, diet etc variables the women being from different weight groups should be considered a variable. and i would imagine the type of activity they were undertaking was different. all in all, not very convincing. i try to think of my own health as being 50% exercise 50% diet (I'm much better at the exercise part!).
halfbakedjake halfbakedjake 8 years
A important detail seemingly left out of this article....were the two groups of women eating the same number of calories a day?
Lilavati Lilavati 8 years
Well, the thing is, when you start being more active, you also subconsciously start eating more... so the balance between consumed and burned calories stays the same. Still, you list so many reasons to exercise, FitSugar, that it's definitely worth it! Just gotta remember the calories when losing weight.
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