Study Blames Overeating, Not Lack of Exercise for US Obesity

AMSTERDAM ~ Overeating, not a lack of exercise, is to blame for the American obesity epidemic, a new study claims, warning that physical activity can not fully compensate for excess calories.

“There is no evidence that a marked reduction in physical activity has been a contributor to this epidemic in the United States,” study leader Boyd Swinburn said on the sidelines of an international obesity conference in Amsterdam, where the research was unveiled.

“The increase in energy intake… virtually explained all of the weight gain.”

Swinburn, a professor at the health faculty of Australia’s Deakin University, said American children had grown on average four kilogrammes heavier over the past three decades with adults putting on an extra eight kilogrammes.

The study calculated what Americans should weigh today based on their current, higher food intake, and comparing this to their actual weight.

If they weighed more than projected, this would suggest a drop in physical activity.

In fact, researchers found that American adults weighed less than could be expected from their diet, “which means that if anything over that period of time, the adults had been increasing their physical activity, not decreasing,” said Swinburn.

Among children, the tests yielded a 100-percent match, leading researchers to conclude that changes in physical activity had had no impact whatsoever on America’s children growing fatter.

The findings would “probably be similar” for other developed countries, Swinburn said.

For the US population to return to its leaner 1970s self, children would have to cut their intake by about 350 calories a day – equal to one can of fizzy drink and a small portion of French fries, and adults by about 500 calories – the equivalent of a Big Mac burger.

Alternatively, children would have to walk for an extra two and a half hours a day, and adults for nearly two hours, said Swinburn.

“Getting everybody to walk an extra two hours a day is not really a feasible option for countering the epidemic,” he said.

“We need to limit our expectations of what an increase in physical activity can achieve.”

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