Sugar Vs. Inactivity: Which Causes Obesity?

Diets high in sugar and carbohydrates are to blame for obesity, not a lack of exercise, according to a recent editorial.

“In the past 30 years, as obesity has rocketed, there has been little change in physical activity levels in the Western population. This places the blame for our expanding waist lines directly on the type and amount of calories consumed.”

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“According to the Lancet global burden of disease reports, poor diet now generates more disease than physical inactivity, alcohol and smoking combined,” they said.

While regular physical activity has been shown to decrease risk of manifesting dementia, type 2 diabetes, cardiovascular disease, and some cancers by a minimum of 30%, physical activity does not sustain weight loss.

The editorial authors attributed the public misconception to deceiving advertisements from the food industry’s public relations departments.

The authors highlighted a sizeable econometric analysis of worldwide sugar availability that reported an 11-fold increase in the rates of type 2 diabetes for every excess 150 calories of sugar, compared to excess 150 calories from fat or protein. The findings were independent of the individuals’ weight and physical activity levels.

The editorialists outlined suggestions to end the legitimization of nutritionally deficient products.

  • The association of junk foods and sports need to stop.
  • Celebrity endorsements of sugar drinks must cease.
  • Individuals’ choices need to default to healthy options.
  • Gyms and Health clubs should lead by example to remove junk food and sugar drinks for sale.

The complete editorial is published in the April issue of the British Journal of Sports Medicine.

-Michelle Canales Butcher


Malhotra A, Noakes T, Phinney S. It is time to bust the myth of physical inactivity and obesity: you cannot outrun a bad diet. British J Sports Med. 2015 April [epub ahead of print] doi: 10.1136/bjsports-2015-094911.