That’s something most of us already know. But what about when your metabolism isn’t on such a diet?
The National Institutes of Health recommends that adults eat at least 1,500 calories in a 24-hour period. But the number is much higher for people who engage in exercise more than two times a week.
We know the average dieter needs 600 more calories a day to achieve the same weight loss. With less exercise, that figure falls to 350. Those who don’t exercise are also told to reduce their intake of protein, fat and alcohol. But the government does not set what is the appropriate balance. Most experts agree that maintaining the correct level of calories, and the correct amount of exercise, is the most important thing for the prevention and treatment of obesity and the metabolic syndrome, the collection of common risk factors for diabetes, heart disease and some cancers.
In a 2006 survey of Americans in the New York City area, 60 percent of registered dietitians said they did not set their adult clients’ goals for total calories and calories burned. Almost 40 percent disagreed when asked for the average number of calories they advise their patients, said Robert Lustig, a Harvard biochemist who has been doing nutrition research for 25 years.
The American Heart Association provides the official guidelines, but a 2006 survey by the research company AccuCal showed that while a majority of patients accepted the guidelines, it doesn’t take too much work to get around them.
The federal government set calorie counts for adults, but only for men 18 to 44. But a 2003 survey showed some doctors were willing to tell overweight adults they should eat less, to limit fats and to restrict protein.
In 1999, a Canadian study looked at the relationship between calorie and weight loss goals and the amount of exercise people ate. A few years ago the same group analyzed the data over 13 years and concluded that the guidelines aren’t based on the evidence available.
The problem with all of this data is that the weight loss recommendations aren’t set in stone. Each year, the U.S. Preventive Services Task Force, the government body created by President Reagan, issues a report called the Dietary Guidelines for Americans. The guidelines are based on a variety of factors and are subject to changes on a yearly basis. And because these guidelines are so vague, no one is certain how their weight-loss recommendations apply.
As this week’s report shows, these recommendations have consequences.
A 2006 survey showed that many
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