Inactivity, Not Diet is Contributing to the Obesity Epidemic

Submitted on Mon, 03/02/2015

Inactivity may be a bigger factor than diet in contributing to the increasing obesity epidemic in the United States, according to researchers at Stanford University Medical School. In case you missed it, here is a link to the interesting article, published in July 2014: “Lack of exercise, not diet, linked to rise in obesity, Stanford research shows”. It was a big study, based on a Centers for Disease Control and Prevention survey series. Here are excerpts from Stanford’s publicity about the research:

“The researchers analyzed data from the National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey, a long-term project of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention that collects information from surveys and from physical examinations to assess Americans’ health. The researchers considered survey results from 17,430 participants from 1988 through 1994 and from approximately 5,000 participants each year from 1995 through 2010”.

“Examining national health survey results from 1988 through 2010, the researchers found huge increases in both obesity and inactivity, but not in the overall number of calories consumed.

“What struck us the most was just how dramatic the change in leisure-time physical activity was,” said Uri Ladabaum, MD, associate professor of gastroenterology and lead author of the study. “Although we cannot draw conclusions about cause and effect from our study, our findings support the notion that exercise and physical activity are important determinants of the trends in obesity.”

The survey participants indicated that calorie intake remained about the same over time, although not necessarily optimal. However, the Stanford researchers were careful to point out that: “Surprisingly . . . the number of calories consumed per day did not change significantly. Nonetheless, diet remains a proven and important component of health, and participants may have been tempted to under-report how much they ate . . ..”

It seems like a mathematical certainty that one will gain weight if the calories consumed over time exceed the number of calories “burned off” through exercise and other activities.