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Cutting Calories not enough for Weight Loss

Kathleen Blanchard's picture

Findings from researchers now show that cutting calories is not enough to lose weight. Scientists from Oregon Health & Science University have demonstrated the importance of exercise for boosting energy expenditure to lose weight.

The reasons that reducing caloric intake fails when it comes to weight loss is from a compensatory mechanism say the researchers. "This study demonstrates that there is a natural body mechanism which conserves energy in response to a reduction in calories.” The authors suggest that healthcare providers need to speak with patients about the importance of exercise for weight loss.

The scientist studied 18 female rhesus macaque monkeys at the Oregon National Primate Research Center, fed a high fat diet for several years. When the scientist cut back the calories in the primate’s diet by thirty percent, they found that activity level also declined. Normally the monkeys are very active. Additionally, cutting calories did not lead to weight loss.

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"In the midst of America's obesity epidemic, physicians frequently advise their patients to reduce the number of calories they are consuming on a daily basis. This research shows that simply dieting will not likely cause substantial weight loss. Instead, diet and exercise must be combined to achieve this goal, explains Judy Cameron Ph.D., a senior scientist at OHSU's Oregon National Primate Research Center.

The researchers say the study could lead to more focus on diet and exercise rather than calorie counting that might be futile for weight loss. Cameron says, "This study demonstrates that there is a natural body mechanism which conserves energy in response to a reduction in calories. Food is not always plentiful for humans and animals and the body seems to have developed a strategy for responding to these fluctuations."

The authors say the finding that reducing calories is not enough to facilitate weight loss is also an noteworthy for tackling childhood obesity through community interventions. The study concluded that exercise is necessary for weight loss to counteract decreased energy expenditure that naturally occurs from consuming fewer calories.

Am J Physiol Regul Integr Comp Physiol: doi:10.1152/ajpregu.00617.2009