Labelling food with exercise to ‘burn it off’ could increase obesity and eating disorders – inews

Posted: December 16, 2019 at 5:41 am


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Opinion As an NHS dietitian, I know this is not a healthy approach to food

Thursday, 12th December 2019, 12:09 pm

Updated Thursday, 12th December 2019, 1:50 pm

Nutrition is not as simple as calorie content. Oversimplifying it is dangerous

Food is so much more than its calorie content. It should be enjoyed, balanced and taste good.

Labelling food with how much walking or running it equates to, as proposed on Wednesday, will further damage society's relationship with food, demonising calories and promoting compensatory exercise. All, while not taking into account the calories required for our bodies to survive.

Calories are a measure of the energy our bodies need to function. It is wrong and potentially damaging to imply that each calorie consumed needs to be "burnt off". We use 60 to 75 per cent of our daily calories at rest, known as our basal metabolic rate. This can vary hugely from person to person and is affected by a multitude of factors including body composition, gender and health.

Exercise is framed here as a punishment for eating (Photo: Henning Kaiser/DPA/AFP/Getty)

We need these calories to perform basic functions like breathing, digestion, and temperature regulation. Being encouraged to use every calorie consumed - which I believe this physical activity calorie equivalent (PACE) food labelling would insinuate - is wrong and dangerous.

Beat, the eating disorders charity, estimates 1.25 million people in the UK have an eating disorder. Exercise is a common compensatory behaviour seen in patients with eating disorders and this proposal has the potential to trigger and hinder their recovery. I would even go as far to say that this calorie demonising labelling could increase the prevalence of disorders such as orthorexia - an unhealthy obsession with eating "pure food".

As an NHS dietitian, I consider having a healthy relationship with food to be the most important element of a balanced diet. A low-calorie diet does not equal a healthy or balanced one and focussing purely on the calorie content of food disregards its value from other important nutrients including protein, fibre, healthy fats, vitamins and minerals.

I spend most of my time helping patients find ways to increase the nutritional value of their diet, often by choosing calorie-dense foods to help ensure they are getting enough energy for their body to efficiently function and recover. A healthy diet is not one size fits all and PACE labelling could increase feelings of guilt and punishment around foods high in calories.

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The study behind this labelling recommendation found that when foods were displayed with exercise, fewer calories were selected when compared to comparative food labelling methods. There are many flaws to the practical application of this studies results.

The study did not look at long term results of this labelling method, consider the effect of PACE labelling on the participants relationship with food, assess if this had any effect on physical activity level, or measure participant weight changes. So it seems like a stretch to imply that this labelling method can improve health.

Exercise is framed here as a punishment for eating. We all know exercising is beneficial for health, it should be something that we enjoy and encouraged for all its great benefits for physical and mental health, not something to make up for food consumption or to shrink our bodies.

It is also misleading as an 18-year-old girl will not use the same amount of calories running for 20 minutes as a 50-year-old 100kg man. Furthermore, the PACE labelling method completely excludes anyone unable to walk or run. If this method was to be widely used it discriminates against anyone with mobility problems.

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Obesity is a complex issue affected by an individuals socioeconomic status, food environment, genetics, and education.

Ultimately, increased numbers of specialist health professionals, including psychologists and dietitians, and improved access to these services by the patients are whats required to support this issue.

Eloise Garbutt is an NHS dietitian.

See the article here:
Labelling food with exercise to 'burn it off' could increase obesity and eating disorders - inews

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December 16th, 2019 at 5:41 am

Posted in Diet and Exercise