Weight-loss strategy to only 'eat less, exercise more' may be overly simplistic

Using 20 year time series data Harvard School of Public Health (HSPH) researchers have found that modest changes in specific foods and beverages, physical activity, TV-watching, and sleep duration were strongly linked with long-term weight gain. Changes in diet, in particular, had the strongest associations with differences in weight gain.

over the 20-year study period included

  • potato chips (for each one increased daily serving, +1.69 lb more weight gain every 4 years),
  • other potatoes (1.28 lb),
  • sugar-sweetened beverages (1.00 lb),
  • unprocessed meats (0.95 lb), and processed meats (0.93 lb).

Several foods associated with less weight gain when their consumption was actually increased, including

  • vegetables (−0.22 lb),
  • whole grains (−0.37 lb),
  • fruits (−0.49 lb),
  • nuts (−0.57 lb)
  • yogurt (−0.82 lb).

The results also showed that changes in physical activity and TV-viewing influenced changes in weight. Also, those who slept 6-8 hours a night gained less weight than those who slept less than 6 or more than 8 hours.


The implications for urban design are to reemphasise the importance of obtaining a balance of buying power in a development to ensure a range of retail is on hand that provides healthy food at reasonable prices, and to avoid the creation of junk-food jungles.