Sports and calories overrated: What influences our body weight more strongly
It is not the amount of calories or how much exercise we do that determines whether we are slim or fat, lose weight or stay chubby despite diets. Studies show that other factors are decisive.
Are we all getting older? This is what we assume. But there is one important factor that pushes general life expectancy down: a quarter of adults are obese. This category includes people with a BMI of at least 30, which increases the risk of many diseases from arteriosclerosis to cancer to stroke – and it has been shown that life expectancy is reduced by more than ten years.
Being overweight is perhaps the most dangerous global epidemic. According to the Robert Koch Institute, the number of men affected in Germany is currently almost 70 percent, and a good one in two women.
Correct weight loss: Why diets must fail
Actually these facts are inexplicable, because there are countless diets and weight loss programs. But most diets fail, this has been known for a long time. 90 percent of those willing to lose weight even weigh more than before the diet attempt, are victims of the yo-yo effect.
The causes for it uncover nourishing scientists only now slowly. One of the most important findings is that a simple equation, which was previously the first and most important law for weight control, does not apply to many overweight people. It read:
Overweight = the person has eaten more calories than burned them.
The calorie balance for the day must be right – a fallacy
“To say that obesity is a problem of energy balance is like saying that fever comes from temperature imbalance,” says Andrew Greenberg, professor at Tufts University Medical School and Friedman School.
Both are not enough. Fever is a defensive reaction of the body. And a negative calorie balance is not always associated with losing weight. For example, the many chubby people can sing a song about it, who constantly chasten themselves and eat little, but still do not lose weight. On the other hand, there are many people who eat more every day than they burn in energy and are still slim.
It’s not sport that burns the most energy, but brain functions
Even the second law – who moves daily, becomes slim – is being shaken by newer studies. For example, in a study on the subject of weight loss through sport, female test subjects tended to gain weight and did not become slim, as had actually been expected. Apart from the top-class sport, exercise as a calorie burner is therefore far overestimated. Not a little leisure sport burns many calories, but in reality our brain is a genuine energy guzzler. It consumes about a quarter of the total energy – although the brain only accounts for two percent of body weight.
But those who now think they can lose weight with brain jogging and language learning are unfortunately also mistaken. The calorie requirement rises only little. Most energy, by the way exclusively in the form of glucose, is processed by the brain during activities of which we consciously perceive nothing at all, such as hormone formation and the control of metabolism and organ functions.
Regardless of whether you are a desk worker or a gardener: calorie requirements are the same
Then the lifestyle should be decisive – our western one with constant sitting is often regarded as a basic evil about the overweight epidemic. An investigation was able to refute this as well. Scientists compared the daily calorie requirements of typical (seated) Americans with those of an African tribe living as collectors. The calorie requirement of both groups was the same: about 2600 kilocalories for men, almost 2000 for women, although the Africans still living originally are constantly on the move and seldom sit during the day.
Some foods make you fat faster, others slim.
However, the collectors were slimmer than the seated Westerners. There are several explanations. An obvious one: Those with little movement consumed daily much more calories, than it corresponded to their daily requirement (more than 500, which might fall durably in any case proverbially into the weight).
However, it is likely to have much more influence on which foods are eaten. And they differed clearly between the two groups. Certain foods are associated with weight gain, others with loss, says Andrew Greenberg. His studies have shown that the following foods, for example, lead particularly quickly to overweight:
- Potatoes – whether cooked or deep-fried (due to their high starch content)
- White flour products
On the other hand support slimming:
The scientist goes as far as to say that those who eat primarily these cheap foods can eat as much of them as they want until they are full – and still do not eat too much, as in the case of collectors who prefer mainly vegetable foods.
Dietary fibres make calories harmless
The explanation for this lies in the dietary fibres, which provide vegetables, fruit and nuts in abundance. With indigestible fiber, the body excretes calories unused. The plant fibres have been shown to make the body slim, as further research has shown.
In this study, two groups of people who wanted to lose weight were allowed to eat the same food with the same amount of calories per day. However with the one group all grain products were from whole grain, with the other one peeled and processed. The whole grain group burned around 100 more calories a day – a quantity that can lead to three kilograms of weight loss in just one year.
Decisive roles: Metabolism and genes
Dietary fibre therefore has a positive effect on the metabolism. However, metabolism, the feeling of fullness, hunger and the number of fat cells cannot be influenced in principle. Much of this complicated interaction is congenital. For this reason, some people find it easy to lose weight or are slim anyway and remain so, others fight against obesity despite great efforts.
Programming the brain to the right foods
But they too can hope. Because with the right diet the appetite changes. This increases their appetite for healthy food, which tends to make them slim rather than fat: fibre-rich foods such as fruit, vegetables, wholemeal products and protein-rich foods such as fish, poultry and yoghurt. The appetite for pizza, burgers, fries and sweets dwindles.
Sounds untrue? But that’s true, as a six-month study recently showed: half of the test persons fed on the fibre- and protein-rich foods listed here, and also received tips on how: Eat before the lunch session, because pizza is always served there. The control group, on the other hand, ate normally.
At intervals, brain scans of the test persons were carried out, showing them various foods. Gradually the reward centre in the brain of the test persons reacted more and more to the healthy food. The appetite for whole grains and fruit increased, fast food hardly appealed. At the end of the study, the volunteers had lost an average of eight kilos, and the control group had gained just under one kilo.
Outwitting genetic predisposition
Even if it is difficult for people who have genetic predisposition to lose weight: With the right food and some stamina, it can still succeed. Perhaps it is already a small consolation for them that annoying calorie counting has been overrated. In any case, it is easier to integrate healthy nutrition into everyday life in a practicable way and not to lose weight quickly in the long run.