Excess sugar and carbohydrates – not physical inactivity – are behind the surge in obesity, health experts have claimed.
Writing in the British Journal Of Sports Medicine, they said poor diet now generates more disease than physical inactivity, alcohol and smoking combined. They point out that while obesity has rocketed in the past 30 years, there has been little change in physical activity levels.
This places the blame for our expanding waistlines directly on the type and amount of calories consumed
“This places the blame for our expanding waistlines directly on the type and amount of calories consumed,” they wrote.
The “false perception” that exercise matters more than healthy eating is due to how the food industry is marketed, they argue, describing it as “chillingly similar” to the tobacco industry.
They use the example of Coca-Cola associating its products with sport, “suggesting it is OK to consume their drinks as long as you exercise”.
They claim the public health messaging around diet and exercise, and their relationship to the epidemics of type 2 diabetes and obesity, has been corrupted by “vested interests”.
Celebrity endorsements of sugary drinks and the association of junk food and sport must end, they said.
“Changing the food environment – so that individuals’ choices about what to eat default to healthy options – will have a far greater impact on population health than counselling or education,” they argue.
Lead author Dr Aseem Malhotra, a cardiologist at Frimley Park Hospital in Surrey, said that up to 40 per cent of those with a normal body mass index will harbour metabolic abnormalities typically associated with obesity.
“It is time to wind back the harms caused by the junk food industry’s public relations machinery,” the editorial says. “Let us bust the myth of physical inactivity and obesity. You cannot outrun a bad diet.”