Researchers Advise That A New Plan Against Obesity Is Needed
Connie K. Ho for redOrbit.com – Your Universe Online
The bubonic plague. Influenza. These are both examples of illnesses that have affected the U.S. population in the past. However, more and more research has shown that the new illness of concern is obesity. As such, scientists are working together to create a possible solution. Recently, obesity researchers from the School of Medicine at the University of Colorado revealed that the U.S. needs to develop a new plan to combat the obesity epidemic among children and adults. They believe that the plan should focus less on food restriction and weight loss, placing a greater emphasis on achieving an “energy balance” at a healthy body weight.
The research paper was published in the July 3 issue of the journal Circulation and included analysis by the Anschutz Health and Wellness Center. The investigators highlighted how the debate regarding high food intake and low physical activity should focus on energy balance, which looks at food intake, physical activity, and fat storage. They believe that it’s more important to have a “regulated zone,” where the body has an energy balance that can combat the body’s natural defense that preserves the body’s excess weight. They recommend nutrition strategies that will give individuals a higher level of energy expenditure and help regulate the body more efficiently. Past research studies support the concept of an “energy balance” and show that high levels of physical activity can lead to low weight gain, while low levels of activity lead to gradual high weight gain.
“A healthy body weight is best maintained with a higher level of physical activity than is typical today and with an energy intake that matches,” remarked lead author James O. Hill, a professor of pediatrics and medicine and executive director of the Anschutz Health and Wellness Center at the University of Colorado Anschutz Medical Campus, in a prepared statement. “We are not going to reduce obesity by focusing only on reducing food intake. Without increasing physical activity in the population we are simply promoting unsustainable levels of food restriction. This strategy hasn’t worked so far and it is not likely to work in the future.”
In the paper, the authors describe how it is easier to treat obesity by preventing weight gain rather than treating obesity when it is present. The researchers believe that is possible to prevent weight gain in 90 percent of the population by reducing calorie intake by 100 calories a day. Along with the reduction in calories, individuals can increase physical activity in small measurements and practice small changes in food intake.
In regards to physical activity, those who have low physical activity have difficulties achieving energy balance because they have to use food restriction to maintain a low level of energy expenditure. It can be difficult to practice food restriction long-term and, when it cannot be maintained, more calories are consumed than expended which results in an increase in body mass. The researchers also completed a review of energy balance literature and refuted the theory that increasing obesity rates were due to the change in the American diet and the rise in energy intake without an increase in energy expenditure. They looked at data from 1971 to 2000 that showed increases in food intake and decreases in physical activity. The authors found that individuals need to add a greater level of physical activity to correspond with changes in modern schedule.
“Addressing obesity requires attention to both food intake and physical activity,” explained co-author John Peters, an assistant director of the Anschutz Health and Wellness Center, in the statement. “Strategies that focus on either alone will not likely work.”
Overall, the researchers concluded that there needs to be more strategies besides food restriction to help reduce obesity. While food restriction produces weight loss by reducing calories, the process creates a hunger trigger in the body that causes it to preserve the body’s existing weight. This then leads to a lower resting metabolic rate and it changes how the body burns calories. The findings of the study show how this may result in a weight loss plateau and how individuals will generally gain back weight after participating in a weight loss program. As such, the researchers believe that it is necessary to increase educational efforts and provide information tools for people to better understand how food and physical activity can affect energy balance.