In the US, around 35% of adults and 17% of children and adolescents are obese. Both the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) and the National Institutes of Health (NIH) cite a healthy diet and exercise as a primary factor in combating obesity. But is it really that simple?

Not according to lead author Dr. Christopher Ochner, assistant professor of pediatrics and psychiatry at the Icahn School of Medicine at Mount Sinai in New York, NY, and colleagues.

In their article, the experts state that while a healthy diet and exercise may help obese individuals lose weight in the short term, around 80-95% eventually gain back that weight.

They explain that this is partly because a reduced intake of calories can activate a type of biological “fat-loss defense” that encourages the body to stay at a higher weight.

According to the authors, this defense mechanism once protected humans when food was scarce. In these modern times, however, humans tend to have higher body weights for longer periods. As such, the defense mechanism drives calorie consumption and fat storage so a higher body weight can be maintained.

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