Exercising does not reduce consequences of poor diet, says study – 07/22/2022

Healthy food or exercise alone is not enough to prevent chronic disease, new research has concluded. Contrary to popular belief, you can’t beat the price of a poor diet — and healthy eating alone doesn’t prevent disease.

Most people know that exercising and eating well are critical components of overall health. But a comprehensive study published this week in the British Journal of Sports Medicine suggests that going to the gym won’t counteract the consequences of consuming high-fat foods, and splurging on kale can’t negate sedentary habits.

“Sensational headlines and misleading advertising of exercise regimens to lure consumers into the idea of ​​’exercise to eat what you want’ helped to propagate the myth about ‘exercise makes up for a bad diet,'” the study authors wrote.

Previous studies in animals and in some humans have bolstered this idea, suggesting that, at least in the short term, strenuous exercise can counteract the effects of overeating.

So an international team of researchers looked at data from nearly 350,000 participants collected by the UK’s Biobank, a massive medical database of health information from people across Britain, and followed it over a period of a decade.

Participants, with an average age of 57 years, were healthy at baseline, meaning they were not diagnosed with cardiovascular disease, cancer, or chronic pain.

Analyzing voluntarily reported questionnaires, the experts divided people’s diets by quality. For example, high-quality diets had at least 4.5 cups of fruits and vegetables a day, two or more servings of fish a week, less than two servings of processed meats a week, and no more than five servings of red meat a week. .

The study did not measure discretionary foods like soft drinks or desserts, said Melody Ding, lead author of the study and an associate professor at the University of Sydney (Australia).

The researchers also measured activity levels using responses to another questionnaire that asked the total minutes participants spent walking and engaging in moderate physical activity, such as carrying light loads or cycling at a steady pace, and vigorous physical activity for more than 10 minutes. minutes at a time.

The authors wrote that it was the first study to examine diet and exercise alongside overall mortality and specific lethal diseases such as cancer.

Predictably, people with the highest levels of physical activity and the highest quality diets had the lowest risk of mortality. Overall levels of physical activity were associated with a lower risk of mortality, but those who regularly engaged in vigorous exercise — the kind that make you sweat — had a particularly lower risk of mortality from cardiovascular disease. And even just 10 to 75 minutes a week made a difference.

Regardless of your diet, Ding said, “physical activity is important. And whatever your physical activity, diet is important.”

“Any amount of exercise is protective,” said Salvador Portugal, a sports health expert and assistant professor in the Department of Rehabilitation Medicine at New York University, Langone Health, who was not involved in the study. But you can’t rely on your training alone to maintain good health, he added.

These findings underscore what many doctors have seen in practice, said Dr. Tamanna Singh, co-director of the Cleveland Clinic Center for Sports Cardiology, who was not involved in the study. For example, there are many components of heart health, she said, and “optimizing one thing isn’t necessarily going to improve your cardiovascular risk.”

She sees patients who classify themselves as amateur or professional athletes and are shocked when they suffer cardiovascular events, she said, regardless of their diet. “Often they come to me after an event and say, ‘I work out a lot. Why did I have a heart attack?'”

On the other hand, even those in the study with the most nutritious diets fared considerably worse without some sort of regular fitness regimen.

That doesn’t mean people can’t take care of themselves after a workout, Singh said. (She’s a marathoner herself and craves corn chips after a long run.) “If you’re mostly intentional about what you put in your body and intentional about how you move your body, you’re doing what you’re doing. enough.”

The study highlights the importance of viewing diet and exercise as components of holistic health, Ding said, rather than calculating how many miles can “cancel” a cookie.

“It’s not just about burning calories,” she said. “We need to change that way of thinking.”