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Diet, exercise take off equal pounds, study finds

Interesting article discussing a study's conclusion that it doesn't matter whether you choose to reduce calories consumed through dieting, increase calories burned through exercise, or both - both strategies are equally good at taking off weight. "So long as the energy deficit is the same, body weight, fat weight, and abdominal fat will all decrease in the same way."

Other findings include:
- You cannot selectively lose fat in certain areas
- Adding muscle mass does not boost metabolism
- Dieting alone does not cause people to lose muscle mass

I think it will be interesting to see if others confirm these results, or find problems with the study.


Mon. Jan 29, 9:12am

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I understand that this was a study done under clinical conditions, but the sample was 24 people. That is truly much too small for me to take this with anything other than a grain of salt. Surely twenty-four people cannot accurately form a reliable representative sample. I do appreciate you posting the link, though.

Monday, January 29, 2007, 10:57 AM

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it would be nice to know the starting weights of the participants and their ending weights, too. and also their body types. and what they ate. and if they ate on a scheduel, together or alone, and what types of exercise they engaged in. and if they continued to live normally aside from the study-were they going to work and dealing with stress? it is a little interesting, but mostly because they are doing a comparison study at all. i would need to see a much larger group, with diversified backgrounds/lifestyles, and know who is taking medications/vitamins/supplements, etc.

Monday, January 29, 2007, 11:34 AM

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Here is the link to the full 26-page original article:

The subjects paragraph is interesting. They EXCLUDED anyone who EXERCISED more than TWICE PER WEEK...
"Subjects and screening.
Healthy, overweight (25 = BMI < 30) men (25 – <50 y) and women (25 42 – <45 y) were recruited from the local community by advertisement. Participants were excluded if they smoked, exercised more than twice per week, were pregnant, lactating or post menopausal, had a history of obesity (BMI>32), diabetes, cardiovascular disease, eating disorders, psychological disorders, substance abuse or regularly used medications (except birth control).


Monday, January 29, 2007, 12:08 PM

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If they excluded exercisers, how can they make a comparison between dieters only, and exercisers only? If one wants to say it makes no difference which route one takes, one must study both routes

Monday, January 29, 2007, 4:22 PM

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They excluded people who exercised more than twice a week BEFORE the study, so that they could increase the amount of exercise DURING the study. If one already exercised 7 days a week, it would be difficult to increase exercise by a meaningful amount.

What I find interesting is that they didn't test exercise alone (although it has been reported that they did). Their 3 groups were:
1. control group
2. 25% calorie reduction
3. 12% calorie reduction + 12% increase exercise calories burned

There is NO "25% increase exercise calories burned" group.

For those who are wondering about the number of people in the study, this is a case where the number of people needed to produce a statistically significant result (if there was one) was figured out, probably very narrowly, before the study was executed. This kind of study can be very expensive to carry out on a per-subject basis, so they try to calculate ahead of time what the minimum number of subjects is.

Monday, January 29, 2007, 4:42 PM

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My question is how long term is this study.

As far as my body is concerned I can believe no matter how I create a calorie deficit it will cause me to lose weight. The problem long term is...
Once you are done 'dieting' and resume normal eating you will gain weight. By losing weight through exercise and continuing exercise you can maintain your weight loss. No one wants to continually eat 1200 calories per day even once goal weight is achieved but when exercise becomes part of your daily activity you actually enjoy and look forward to it. Also by dieting without exercise you not only burn fat but some muscle. Muscle burns calories all on it's own. So when you resume normal eating you can no longer eat as much as you did before the diet and maintain the old weight because you have less muscle burning calories every day. That is why is the diet yo-yo you often gain back and end up higher than you started instead of back to where you started.

Monday, January 29, 2007, 7:11 PM

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I find it hard to believe that increasing your muscle mass does not increase your metabolism. I've increased my muscle mass...I have more energy, and I eat more. Isn't that metabolism?

Monday, January 29, 2007, 8:04 PM

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To the 7:11 poster,

They studied each person for 6 weeks before the experiment, to determine exactly what a 12% or 25% reduction in diet would entail, and what 12% more exercise would entail for the people in that group.

The experiment went for 6 months, and (as published) was just on weight loss.

Your assertion, "Also by dieting without exercise you not only burn fat but some muscle." which is indeed the "conventional wisdom," did not hold up in this study. It's worth noting that they used methods of study not available to trainers at the gym, including whole-body MRI, to come to that conclusion about muscle mass.

Monday, January 29, 2007, 8:42 PM

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