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Contrary to Theory: Westerners Metabolic Rates are Similar to Hunter-Gatherers

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This may come as a surprise: While obesity and health problems are on the rise among westerners, fit and healthy hunter-gatherers don’t expend more energy than westerners, according to a study published in PLoS ONE.

Researchers measured the daily calories burned (energy) among the Hadza people, a group of hunter-gatherers who live in northern Tanzania, and compared them to energy burned by American and European adults. Contrary to theory, they found that westerners and hunter-gatherers use the same amount of energy. However, hunter-gatherers use more of their energy on physical activity, which may contribute to their overall wellbeing. The researchers also found that while westerners are burning the same amount of energy as hunter-gatherers, westerners are undernourished and overfed.

So what should you make of these findings? First, real food and regular movement matter. “You have to nourish your body, maintain strength and flexibility, and regularly move to balance hormones and decrease your risk of diabetes, heart disease, and metabolic syndrome,” says Amanda Carlson-Phillips, vice president of nutrition and research at Core Performance. What’s more, counting calories is an oversimplified way of looking at weight loss. While calories do matter, Carlson-Phillips says you need to focus on quality food and increasing your metabolism with activities like weight training.

Learn the five simple things you can do right now to stoke your metabolism.

Tags: Health, Metabolism, Food

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