What’s the secret to weight loss? A new editorial published in the British Journal of Sports Medicine shows that exercise is not nearly as important as cutting carbs and sugar. While obesity has skyrocketed over the last 30 years, there has been little change in physical activity levels during that time. Which means the amounts and types of calories we are eating could be the culprits for our expanding waistlines.
Of course, regular exercise has many health benefits, and helps prevent diabetes, heart disease and dementia, but according to the authors, our calorie-laden diets now generate more health problems than physical inactivity, alcohol and smoking combined. “For far too long, the Department of Health and NICE had misled the public by stating that the main cause of obesity was due to lack of exercise,” says Lord Ian McColl, former Shadow Minister for Health and Professor of Surgery in Great Britain. “An obese person does not have to increase their activity level one iota in order to lose weight, they just need to eat less.”
The authors believe that marketing and PR campaigns advocating sugary sports drinks and junk food and associating them with sports and exercise have done nothing to help the obesity problem. In fact, a large econometric analysis of worldwide sugar availability showed that for every excess 150 calories of sugar (as in a can of soda), there was an 11-times increase in the prevalence of type-2 diabetes in comparison to an identical 150 calories that come from fat or protein. Another recent nutrition review concluded that carbohydrate restriction was the number one strategy for reducing the risk of metabolic syndrome and should be the first approach to diabetes management.
Finally, authors of this editorial bust the myth that carb-loading is essential for athletic performance. “From my recent experiences, adopting a low-carb, high-fat diet has enabled athletes to reduce their body fat while maintaining a high level of performance,” says Peter Brukner, Australian Cricket team doctor and Professor of Sports Medicine at Latrobe University. “It undoubtedly has benefits for their general health as well.”
The verdict? A low-carb, high-fat diet has a variety of benefits when it comes to weight loss, overall health and sports performance. “It’s time to wind back the harms caused by the junk food industry’s public relations machinery. Let’s bust the myth of physical inactivity and obesity. You can’t outrun a bad diet,” the authors of this editorial conclude.