Commentary: Relative importance of diet vs physical activity for health

Department of Nutrition, Harvard School of Public Health, Boston, MA 02115, USA.
International Journal of Epidemiology (Impact Factor: 9.18). 12/2009; 39(1):209-11; author reply 213-4. DOI: 10.1093/ije/dyp348
Source: PubMed
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    • "Given the uncertainty of the balance between 'benefit' and harm associated with community-based programmes and social marketing campaigns that specifically target the undesirability of obesity, the approach to controlling the increasing prevalence of this condition should shift towards dietary and physical activity interventions where there is a better established evidence base and a stronger prospect of benefit [2,61,82-88]. This could best be achieved by decreasing the focus on undesirable features of obesity and towards a focus on the public health benefits of healthy diets with a low content of processed, energy-dense foods and a high intake of fruit and vegetables, and physical activity. "
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    ABSTRACT: Controlling obesity has become one of the highest priorities for public health practitioners in developed countries. In the absence of safe, effective and widely accessible high-risk approaches (e.g. drugs and surgery) attention has focussed on community-based approaches and social marketing campaigns as the most appropriate form of intervention. However there is limited evidence in support of substantial effectiveness of such interventions. To date there is little evidence that community-based interventions and social marketing campaigns specifically targeting obesity provide substantial or lasting benefit. Concerns have been raised about potential negative effects created by a focus of these interventions on body shape and size, and of the associated media targeting of obesity. A more appropriate strategy would be to enact high-level policy and legislative changes to alter the obesogenic environments in which we live by providing incentives for healthy eating and increased levels of physical activity. Research is also needed to improve treatments available for individuals already obese.
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