You Are What You Do, Not What You Eat

A study out of the Oregon National Primate Research Center (um, why does Oregon have that, and not West Virginia?) has found that the most important factor in maintaining current weight, and not gaining weight, is activity level, not what is eaten (within common sense limits of course, Fast Food Nation failing that test). This study did not look at weight loss and dieting.

Staying active may be more of a factor in fending off weight gain for adults than cutting calories, according to a new study.

The study on monkeys at the Oregon National Primate Research Center found no strong relationship between the level of food intake and weight gain.

The most active monkeys gained less weight despite being fed the same high-fat diet, researchers said.

“Considering the fact that 60 percent of adult Americans are overweight or obese, this is a finding that affects a large percentage of the adult population in this country,” said Judy Cameron, an Oregon Health & Science University neuroscientist who led the study.

Cameron and her colleagues studied 18 adult female monkeys during a nine-month period. About a year before the study, the ovaries were removed from the animals to simulate menopause in humans. In addition, all of the animals were placed on a high-fat diet, similar to the diet of a middle-aged woman.

Food intake, body weight and body fat were closely tracked. Researchers also tracked the activity levels of the individual monkeys using a small device called an accelerometer, which was worn on a collar.

The results suggest that, while increased food intake has the potential of increasing body weight, it does not appear to be the primary cause of weight gain during the adult years.

“This is especially important to middle-aged Americans who typically witness a jump in weight,” Cameron said.

I do know that I lost about 20 pounds riding my bicycle across country, despite eating huge meals. The problem at the end was reducing my food intake with lowered physical activity since my body was used to 5000 calories a day.

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Richard Gardner
About Richard Gardner
Richard Gardner is a “retired” Navy Submarine Officer with military policy, arms control, and budgeting experience. He contributed over 100 pieces to OTB between January 2004 and August 2008, covering special events. He has a BS in Engineering from the University of California, Irvine.


  1. Jo says:

    What is sad is that schools have for the most part stopped gym or recess where kids were allowed to play off their lunches and energy. I also believe, without any proof, that some trouble making kids in school just have too much energy and gym or recess would also help work that off. We’ve become a nation of Play Stations, TVs and computers.

  2. Steven Plunk says:

    It’s simple math. X calories into the body minus Y calories burned = net gain or loss.