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Meals and Snacks and Activity

August 25, 2012

I can’t find a reference to this article now, but I distinctly recall reading it on one of the newspaper web sites.  It was about a single medical study, one that was well-designed and well-conducted.  The study employed three groups of people classified by body mass index..  One was the normal group.  One was the obese group.  Another was composed of people that had been obese but had since returned to normal.  All of the results for this third group were identical to those for the normal group.

All of the groups ate three meals a day.  The normal group ate 3 to 4 snacks a day, but the obese group ate only 2 to 3 snacks a day.  As for quantity, the obese group ate 100 calories a day more than normal group.  All groups were active.  The results were stated in calories per week, presumably because many people only exercise on certain days of the week.  When I divided by 7 to get calories per day, I found that the normal group burned only 100 calories a day more than obese group.

Now, the only published information was averages for each group.  There must have been wider ranges within each group.  Still, the averages are revealing.  The differences between groups are quite small.  Normal food intake is about 1800 to 2000 calories per day.  Who would notice 100 extra calories on a plate of food?  Who would notice 100 extra calories of activity?  These small differences imply that counting calories is not accurate enough to keep control of your weight.  The same principle holds for measuring activity.

Apparently, small differences in food intake or exercise can result in unwanted weight gain over a long period of time.  The only way you could detect this change would be by monitoring your weight.  Of course, the small differences also imply that you only have to make a small change in diet or exercise to have a lasting effect.  There is both good news and bad news in this study.


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