How it was told
Let’s face it, it’s the dream to shed a few pounds without changing your diet and doing the bare minimum exercise. To be able to indulge in fry-ups and fatty foods and lose weight is surely too good to be true.
And it remains that way – but headlines from various news outlets last month did at least offer some hope.
Specifically, the Daily Star’s headline: “Exercising after a full English breakfast is best for shedding pounds, study reveals”.
This was a bit of a departure from some of the other coverage that came from the University of North Carolina (UNC) study, which focused on how exercising while restricting calories could be bad for bone health.
Mirror Online’s article referenced fry-ups but was closer to the study’s aim in: “People exercising should ditch low-calorie food for pasta and fry-ups to help bones”.
If you pay for the magazine you should always take it. Vendors are working for a hand up, not a handout.
The Mail Online and The Daily Telegraph also took different approaches to the story.
“Exercising while cutting calories may be bad for your BONES: Putting active mice on a restricted diet reduced their bone volume by 20 per cent” from the Daily Mail acknowledged the study was in mice – we’ll come back to that.
And The Daily Telegraph eschewed the call for mass fry-ups with: “Exercising on a low calorie diet is bad for your bones. Here’s how to protect your skeletal health”.
So what’s the truth?
This study is far from permission to dig into fry-ups as part of your workout routine.
It set out to test the fat in the bone marrow of mice. Previous academic studies had created the conventional wisdom that fat is harmful to the bones of mammals because it makes them weaker. As a result, less fat is an indication of better bone health.
But this study looked at what happens to bone marrow fat and overall bone health when restricting calories with mice on a restricted diet eating 30 per cent less than those on a regular diet, while there were also two further groups that exercised too.
The study, which was published in the Journal of Bone and Mineral Research last month, found that the mice in the calorie reduction group lost weight, but also had an increase in bone marrow fat and weaker bone strength. That was something that associate professor of medicine at UNC Maya Styner admitted was a “surprise for us”.
You’ll notice the distinct lack of fry-ups mentioned in that summary. The Daily Star’s headline makes little mention that the study was in mice – it comes up in paragraph four of the story. That means that the findings are not necessarily completely representative of the impact on humans.
Prof Styner said: “Looking at this from a human perspective, even a lower-calorie diet that is very nutritionally sound can have negative effects on bone health, especially paired with exercise.
“This is important for women to consider becauseas we age our bone health starts to naturally decline. Your calorie intake and exercise routine can have a great impact on the strength of your bones and your risk for break or fracture.”
So the advice specifically relates to bone health rather than shedding pounds. But there is also a problem with the Daily Star’s fry-up recommendation – and, to its credit, The Daily Telegraph does a good job of setting out the NHS recommendations on what to eat to look after your bones.
Unfortunately for fry-up fans, the heart attack-inducing cholesterol and saturated fats are nowhere to be found.
Instead the recommended calcium-boosting diet includes milk, cheese and other dairy foods, green leafy cruciferous veg such as broccoli, cabbage and kale.
Sorry, fry-up fans.