- ITHACA, N.Y.
- The main reason some people get fat isn't because of genetics or how
much they eat, says a Cornell University obesity researcher. It's because
compared with thinner people they snack more often during the day and move
about a lot less.
- The best way to slash the country's skyrocketing medical
costs associated with obesity is not through dieting but by persuading
people to exercise more, says David Levitsky, professor of nutritional
sciences at Cornell. He says that the government should take a more aggressive
role in ensuring that employers offer workers more opportunities to stretch
their legs and exercise and provide more noncompetitive sports for children
as well as after-school programs in inner-city neighborhoods where children
often can't play outside safely.
- "And forget dietin; it just doesn't work,"
- The Cornell obesity expert made these points to a meeting
of nutrition professionals at a program on obesity, presented Jan. 21 at
the Southern Tier Dietetic Association in Ithaca.
- Levitsky's studies with former undergraduate students
Lisa Jias and Amy Lanou have shown that when people are not allowed snacks,
they still eat about as much at mealtime as when they do snack. And people
who skip a meal or don't snack do not compensate at the next meal by eating
more. That means that the less often you eat, the fewer calories you consume,
- America, he says, needs to slow the trend of adults and
children becoming fatter, and to achieve this he has several messages:
- -- "The popular high-protein, low-carbohydrate diets
are just gimmicks," he says. They work temporarily because they are
comprised of fewer calories, but the weight comes right back because the
diets are nearly impossible to stay on indefinitely. Such diets, on a long-term
basis, could be linked to higher risks of cancer, heart disease and kidney
failure, he says.
- -- "The ideal weight charts send the wrong message
to consumers; it's not your weight that counts but what goes into your
weight." In other words, what's much more important to health are
indicators such as blood pressure and cholesterol and healthful lifestyle
habits, such as a low-fat diet and plenty of exercise. "Recent studies
show that shorter mortality is more related to inactivity than to body
- -- What you weigh matters to your life, though. Studies
show that obese people experience discrimination in jobs, housing, education,
dating and marriage.
- -- The popular set-point theory -- that your body regulates
your appetite and body weight -- seems to be losing ground as new research
fails to support it.
- -- Americans are getting fatter because they are consuming
about 1,000 calories more each year than the previous year. That is less
than 10 calories a day. To burn off that extra energy, the average person
needs only to walk or clean house about 17 hours more a year, power walk,
bike or dance about eight hours more or engage in vigorous exercise (walk
uphill, play basketball or jump rope) about three more hours a year.
- -- The benefits of exercise include not only more calorie
expenditure, but also lower cholesterol levels, greater muscle mass (which
uses more calories for fuel than fat cells do), smaller fat (adipose) cells
and changes in brain chemistry that induce feelings of well-being and a
greater sense of control over one's life.
- -- Levitsky's final advice on the best way to control
weight is to "move your body whenever possible while reducing calories
from fat. Eat only when you have to, which means at meals, and finally,
accept your body size. Be happy even if you think you're not thin. The
major problem with body size is on the outside -- from society and the
media -- not within you. Take back the control about food and body size."
- Related World Wide Web sites: The following sites provide
additional information on this news release. Some might not be part of
the Cornell University community, and Cornell has no control over their
content or availability.
- -- For more information on David Levitsky: <link
- -- For more information about Levitsky's views on high-protein
- -- For more information on the Division of Nutritional
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