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Too Much Food Blamed for Obesity, Not Sedentary Lifestyle

Update Date: Jul 26, 2012 08:57 AM EDT

A latest research says that being a couch potato might not be as much to be blamed for one's obesity, but the amount of food intake.

According to the research, office workers burn no lesser calories than what their hunter gatherer ancestors used to burn centuries ago. This implies that it is not the amount of calories we burn every day but the amount of food we consume everyday that is to be blamed for the obesity epidemic. 

The researchers found that men and women in the western countries are using up same energy levels each day as people belonging to the Hadza tribe of traditional community from the open savannah of Tanzania are, although there certainly is more trekking and hunting involved in their culture.

It's been a common notion that our ancestors used up a lot more energy than we are using today and hence lack of exercise was blamed on the increasing number of over-weight and obese people.

However, this study, the first one to ever measure directly the amount of energy used up by hunter-gatherers revealed that the rate at which human beings burn calories remains almost constant throughout the life, irrespective of the physical activity or lifestyle.

"The vast majority of what we spend our calories on is things you will never see like keeping our organs and immune system going. Physical activity is just the tip of the iceberg. If you spend a bit more [energy] on something like physical activity, you spend a bit less on something else but you do not notice it. This study shows that you can have a very different lifestyle, but [energy use] all adds up to the same level no matter what." Herman Pontzer, of Hunter College in New York, who led the study with colleagues from Stanford and Arizona universities, was quoted as saying by Telegraph.

He also added that the problem basically could be lying in the fact that people these days are consuming much more food than what our ancestors used to take in.

"People argue about why it is that westerners are getting so fat, and at the end of the day it has to be the fact that we are taking in more energy from food than we are burning - but is the big problem that we are taking in too many calories, or that we are not burning enough?"

"But even if we had a lifestyle like our ancestors did ...[we] would not burn more calories than we do today. That has not changed a lot, but over the last 50 years we are eating a lot more than we need to be, so that gets to the heart of this issue," he said.

However, Pontzer emphasized that exercising is important to maintain a healthy living and has a wide variety of physical benefits.

He also said that older people from the Hadza tribe spent a lot of time on physical activities and that perhaps is the reason why they are at good health and are much more resistant to chronic illnesses such as heart disease than westerners, the report said.

"We are not saying that physical activity is not important for health - clearly it is - but it does not appear to be the main cause of obesity."

The study was published in the journal PLoS ONE.

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