Sunday, January 24, 2016

Is exercise irrelevant for good health? Some seem to think quality of food is more important!

We are being bombarded day in and day out about the crucial importance of physical exercise in maintaining a good health. Of course mention about a "bad" diet invariably is obscured, probably because there are powerful vested interests and influential lobbyists who always get the ears of the policy makers and even biased scientists. It is still fresh in our memories what the CEO of a giant multinational beverages (soda) company said when the industry was criticised for marketing zero calorie products like soft drinks containing only sugar and her argument was that those who take high calorie foods are at the risk of contracting obesity because of their sedentary way of life. Though exercise is important for toning up the body, more crucial is a balanced diet which only can ensure healthy life. What does one understand by a healthy diet? Simply put take more of fruits, vegetables, whole grains, pulses and white meat and fish and avoid imbalanced foods and drinks like white flour based products, sugar dominated beverages, excessive fried foods etc. The issue is amply clarified by a respected journal emanating from the UK and read it carefully to appreciate this line of argument.

"An editorial published Wednesday by the British Journal of Sports Medicine argues diets high in sugars and carbohydrates are largely to blame for the obesity crisis, and do more harm than inactivity, alcohol and smoking combined. "Let us bust the myth of physical inactivity and obesity. You cannot outrun a bad diet," the editorial concludes. Published in the British Journal of Sports Medicine, the editorial accuses the food industry of persuading people that inactivity, rather than poor diet, is the primary cause of obesity and related illnesses such as diabetes. "The public health messaging around diet and exercise, and their relationship to the epidemics of type 2 diabetes and obesity, has been corrupted by vested interests. Celebrity endorsements of sugary drinks, and the association of junk food and sport, must end," the editorial states. The editorial also takes issue with the idea that all calories are equal — that 150 calories from sugar or carbohydrates equal the same number of calories from fat or protein. It states sugar calories promote fat storage and hunger, while fat calories cause fullness. It takes a similarly dim view of other carbohydrates, stating that restricting carbohydrates should be the first step in managing diabetes, and that even athletes don't benefit from loading up on carbohydrates."

Can we blame the food industry for the faultline that is becoming increasingly becoming clear day by day when people run after foods that stimulate their taste buds rather than their instinct for survival by moderating their consumption? Industry cannot be expected to be working for charity as they have a responsibility to their shareholders to bring in attractive returns for capital invested. With our knowledge about healthiness of foods, it is easy for the industry to come up with recipes and formulations which can ensure sound health. But the million dollar question that begs for an answer is whether people will patronize such products if they do not tinkle their taste buds providing excitement to the pleasure centers in the brain? Industry can change its course only if there is a universal consensus among its members regarding what products they should not make based on sound health considerations. Or there must be mandatory controls for restricting certain foods proven to be unhealthy by the government regulators which is unlikely because of legal considerations. Most ideally it would be the will power of the consumers to shun products considered unhealthy thus putting pressure on the industry to change their product portfolio with increasing health improving potential. The warning that exercise is not a panacea for good health but quality of diet has much more to do with good health is timely indeed.   .


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