Is Physical Activity Key to Weight Control?
Every few days there is a news story again stating that physical activity is key to weight loss and weight maintenance. Whilst we agree that physical activity does have a role, it is not the only aspect of our lifestyle that needs changing. If losing weight was as easy as joining the gym or playing sports, why is it that in over 30 years of the public being told to engage in physical activity for weight control, we are still experiencing an obesity epidemic?
The simple answer is that correct nutrition holds the key for weight loss and maintenance. Physical activity unfortunately plays only a small role in the matter. Although there are plenty of studies that illustrate the health benefits of physical activity - an important aspect of health and not to be undermined. However, it is currently of more importance to turn our attention and deal with the heart of the problem: nutrition.
We live in a food environment where at every turn there are items that contain carbohydrates. By carbohydrates items such as High-Fructose-Corn-Syrup, corn syrup, corn sweetener, dextrose… the list goes on and on, are the norm of the day. What people do not realise is that by continually consuming such products, not only does your palate alter dramatically, but your system becomes addicted to consuming a certain level of carbohydrates daily. Animal studies have shown that it is easier to give up cocaine rather than carbohydrates (Lenoir et al. 2007; Berridge et al. 2010).
There are no studies that show physical activity as the only way to lose weight. Studies have shown that the current guidelines for “healthy” eating put carbohydrates and low- calorie foods as the focus of good nutrition. These have been shown to not lead to weight loss maintenance and it does not improve overall health markers such as blood cholesterol and blood pressure (Yancy et al. 2004; Krieger et al. 2006; Hession et al. 2008).
In the end we are in the midst of an obesity crisis in the UK that is afflicting both adults and children. Rather than addressing the root cause of obesity i.e. nutrition, we are putting a plaster on the problem in the hope that it goes away.
Hession M., Rolland C., Kulkarni U., Wise A. & Broom J. 2008. Systematic review of randomized controlled trials of low-carbohydrate vs. low-fat/low-calorie diets in the management of obesity and its comorbidities. Obesity Reviews. 10 (1): 36-50
Kent C. Berridge, Chao-Yi Ho, Jocelyn M. Richard, Alexandra G. DiFeliceantonio. 2010. The tempted brain eats: Pleasure and desire circuits in obesity and eating disorders. Brain Research, Volume 1350, 2 September, Pages 43-64
Krieger J.W,, Sitren H.S,, Daniels M.J. & Langkamp-Henken B. 2006. Effects of variation in protein and carbohydrate intake on body mass and composition during energy restriction: a meta-regression. Am J Clin Nutr. February, 83: 2 260-274
Lenoir M, Serre F, Cantin L, Ahmed SH. 2007. Intense Sweetness Surpasses Cocaine Reward. PLoS ONE 2(8): e698.
Yancy Jr WS, Olsen MK, Guyton JR, Bakst RP, Westman EC. 2004. A low-carbohydrate, ketogenic diet versus a low-fat diet to treat obesity and hyperlipidemia: a randomized, controlled trial. Annals of Internal Medicine. 140: 769–777.