Newsflash: if you don’t drop the hamburger, Oreo milkshakes and pantry full of potato chips, no amount of carrots and celery sticks will hep you lose weight. Junk food diets trump healthy food, even if you think you’re eating a balance between the two.
That’s the finding of research published in The American Journal of Clinical Nutrition, which concluded that without removing high-calorie foods like junk food, increased consumption of fruit and vegetable content won’t have any effect on weight loss.
I love when science proves what we already know, but it’s true that as the researchers write, “a common dietary recommendation for weight loss, especially in lay public outlets, is to eat more fruit and vegetables.” As their research shows, that dietary recommendation does nothing if it isn’t paired with a decrease in the consumption of our junk food diet.
When we think about programs to help reduce obesity, then it means that we need to focus on both sides. Carrots and broccoli will do a whole lot of good, but only as long as they’re part of a holistic approach to food that includes cutting the bad stuff out. The researchers concluded that “recommending increased fruit and vegetable consumption to treat or prevent obesity without explicitly combining this approach with efforts to reduce intake of other energy sources is unwarranted.”
In the United States there’s an entire national health initiative devoted to getting people to eat more fruits and vegetables. But where’s the national Put the Burger and Fries Down campaign? I bet the fast food lobby would be quick to stop that. But goverments have to stand up for themselves. Take a look at Mexico’s fast food tax.
In the U.S. though, there is a bit of hope. Last week, congresswoman Rosa DeLauro proposed a bill that would require a national tax on sugar-sweetened beverages. When it comes to public health policy, we can’t just talk about what we should eat more of, we have to also encourage, and provide incentives for people to eat less of the bad stuff.
There’s no denying that more fruits and vegetables in a diet is a good thing, especially as they’re associated with more health benefits than just weight loss. Cancer, heart disease, diabetes; they can all be reduced with more fruits and vegetables. But it is also true that focusing on what we should eat without focusing on what we shouldn’t be eating won’t get us to a well-rounded approach to health.
We all know we need to kick the junk food habit, but now we have yet another study to remind us why.
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