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This week the media claimed, "A calorie is a calorie". They were citing a new study, which found that burning a calorie through exercise or removing it from your diet is equal for losing fat. The study was somewhat controversial because it has long been accepted that combining exercise with dieting makes it easier to lose weight.

Exercise increases your body's sensitivity to its own insulin and that makes it easier to lose fat, especially around the mid-section. However, the new study said it didn't make any difference. They concluded that it is not possible to lose weight from target' areas and that your genes dictate where your weight loss comes from. I see several problems with their arguments.

Is a calorie a calorie?

First, the new study only looked at a small number of people and that makes it difficult to make general assumptions. Second, the study only used a very strict diet, making it difficult to generalize for many types of foods. Third, the study only employed cardiovascular exercise and not weight training, which has been shown to increase insulin sensitivity. So, although the experiment told us something about how exercise burns calories, the conclusions went a little too far.

Finally, the media's interpretation of the study was misleading as well. In stating that a calorie is a calorie' the media suggests that it doesn't matter what kinds of food you eat, but that it is really the total calorie content that matters. This is not what the study concluded at all. The researchers were simply comparing reducing calories in the diet to burning them through exercise. They made no conclusions about which sources of calories were better than others.

This is just another example of the media exaggerating the results. No wonder people are so confused about health advice. The media's constant misinterpretation of the data makes people think that researchers are always changing their minds on health issues.

It's all about Balance

Maintaining health is really not that hard. Many of us over-think the problem. Using a common sense, maintaining a diet balanced in fats, carbohydrates and proteins, taking a quality multivitamin and getting some exercise goes a long way.

Balance is a critical issue in any dietary change. Fad diets that tout low-carb or low-fat are very short sited. Most people are surprised to hear that the brain is 60% fat! And several types of fat needed for brain function must come from the diet meaning the body can't make them. What this means is that trying to remove too much fat, especially polyunsaturated fat, from the diet can actually starve the brain.

When is fat good?

In fact, a report that came out of Sweden this week showed that some kids were overweight because they didn't get enough of the right kind of fat. The Swedish researchers found that kids who didn't eat enough poly-unsaturated fat, mostly omega-3 fats, actually had a higher chance of being overweight.

The brain is also an energy hog. It uses about 10% of the energy you eat even though it only accounts for about 2% of total body mass. Where does most of our energy come from? - carbohydrates and fat. A balanced diet is about 15% fat, 60% carbohydrate and 25% protein. Athletes may need a little more carbohydrate for endurance or protein for strength.

So please don't subscribe to fad diets that tell you to cut out all the fat or carbohydrates from your diet. They're not good for your body and they're not good for your brain.

Copyright (c) 2007 The Brain Code LLC
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