Food and Behaviour Research

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25 April 2015 - Clinical Advisor - Exercise won't make up for poor diet

Although physical activity is important for health, a healthy diet is essential for weight loss — and regular exercise will not make up for a poor diet, according to an editorial published in the British Journal of Sports Medicine.

Noting that public health messages encourage the belief that obesity is entirely due to lack of exercise, Aseem Malhotra, MBChB, of Frimley Park Hospital in the United Kingdom, and colleagues discuss misperceptions related to physical activity, diet, and obesity.

Sugar calories promote fat storage and hunger, while fat calories induce satiation, noted the investigators. A recent econometric analysis of sugar availability revealed that for every excess 150 calories of sugar versus fat or protein, there was an 11-fold increase in the prevalence of type 2 diabetes; this was independent of weight and physical activity levels.

The most effective intervention for reducing the features of metabolic syndrome is dietary carbohydrate restriction. Furthermore, recent studies suggest that chronic adaptation to a high-fat, low-carbohydrate diet induces high rates of fat oxidation during exercise, rendering carbohydrate loading unnecessary. Growing concerns suggest that insulin-resistant athletes may be at risk of developing type 2 diabetes if they continue eating very high-carbohydrate diets.

"Changing the food environment — so that individuals' choices about what to eat default to healthy options — will have a far greater impact on population health than counseling or education," wrote the investigators.

"Healthy choice must become the easy choice."