How to beat the bulge

It looks like it may all come down to calories after all.

Eating less and exercising more are equally good for losing weight, according to a U.S. study. As reported by Reuters, a study by the University of Louisiana tested 24 people, half of which were put on a strict calorie-restricted diet. The other half also ate fewer calories, but exercised five times a week for six months.

As a control, a third group consisted of 10 people who were put on a healthy diet designed to maintain their body weight.

The non-exercisers reduced their caloric intake by 25 per cent, while the exercisers ate 12.5 per cent less than usual. All food was provided by the university in measured portions for most of the study.

The result? After six months, people in both groups lost about 10 per cent of their body weight. Fat mass was reduced by 24 per cent and abdominal visceral fat by 27 per cent. The latter, which refers to fat located between the internal organs, is considered particularly dangerous because of its link to heart disease and diabetes.

“It’s all about the calories,” said Dr. Eric Ravussin of the Pennington Biomedical Research Center, part of Louisiana State University and senior study author. “So long as the energy deficit is the same, body weight, fat weight, and abdominal fat will all decrease in the same way.”

The study, published in the Journal of Clinical Endocrinology & Metabolism, is one of the few controlled studies that can actually demonstrate the body’s response to dieting and exercising, Ravussin said.

Although exercise and calorie restriction was found to be equally effective for weight loss, Ravussin believes exercise is still crucial to health. “For overall health, an appropriate program of diet and exercise is still the best,” he said.

The study also debunked some popular myths about weight loss including:

• “Spot reducing” or selectively losing fat in a certain part of the body is not possible.

• Adding muscle mass does not increase metabolism.

• Dieting alone also does not appear to result in loss of muscle mass along with fat.

• Individuals are genetically programmed for fat storage in various parts of the body, and this programming is not easily overcome.

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