Diet Trumps Exercise in Obesity Fight

Physical activity seems not to be 'primary driver' of obesity: researchers
By Nick McMaster,  Newser Staff
Posted Jan 6, 2009 5:17 PM CST
A man drives his tiny motorcycle in Athens, Greece in this April 29, 2004 file photo.   (AP Photo/Petros Giannakouris)
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(Newser) – Diet is more important than exercise when it comes to reducing obesity, LiveScience reports. A new study compared African American women living in Chicago, who weighed an average of 184 pounds, with women in rural Nigeria, who weighed 127. Contrary to researchers' expectations, the Nigerians were not any more physically active, but they did have healthier diets.

"Decreased physical activity may not be the primary driver of the obesity epidemic," said a Loyola nutritionist who was part of the study team. Nigerian meals are typically high in fiber and low in fat, while the Chicago diet is nearly 40% fat and has lots of processed foods. Researchers note that while physical activity burns calories, people often compensate for the energy burn by eating more. (Read more obesity stories.)