Endocrinologist Hermann Borg, M.D. has published a new study in the winter issue of in the Journal of American Physicians and Surgeons, which shatters several popular conceptions about weight loss.
First myth that the study busts is that body weight is a simple matter of “energy in minus energy out”. It is not that simple. That is why weight loss programs that focus only on exercises do not work most of the time.
Dr. Borg also debunks the “Paleo myth”, which implies that the hunter-gatherer lifestyle in the Paleolithic era was best suited for human health. Isolated people who still live in a similar way, such as the Hadza tribe in Africa, are slim because they do not overeat.
The study revealed that the energy expenditure of the tribal people is not different from that of the present-day urban dwellers. Body has its own mechanisms to constrain energy expenditure. The Hadzas burn the same number of calories as Americans: they are more active but have a lower basal metabolic rate and lower non-exercise activity thermogenesis.
Beliefs about their diet, which is considered low in calories, may not be true either. Hunter-gatherers tended to consume more than one or two liters of honey per day.
Dr. Borg assures that exercise does have its health benefits, but its effect on obesity is rather modest. Moderate exercise increases insulin sensitivity, helps prevent cardiovascular disease, improves executive function, and decreases the risk of certain cancers.
He also details the risks of excessive exercise, including the Alzheimer dementia paradox and the elite athlete paradox.
“Despite all the benefits of exercise, one cannot outrun the bad diet,” Dr. Borg concludes. “Diet and exercise are different tools for different jobs.”
This kind of research was badly needed in the fitness segment, where many unscientific practices are still being paraded as medically proven strategies.