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May 14 2009 12:00 AM

Scientists using a new way to look at data concluded that the main reason that obesity has risen sharply in the United States in recent decades is predominantly because of over-eating rather than lack of physical activity.

The study was led by Professor Boyd Swinburn, chair of population health and director of the World Health Organization Collaborating Centre for Obesity Prevention at Deakin University in Australia, and was presented last Friday at the 17th European Congress on Obesity in Amsterdam, the Netherlands.

Scientists have long debated the extent to which consuming too many calories as opposed to not exercising enough is the main cause of the obesity epidemic and therefore it is not clear which should be the focus of public health campaigns to combat the problem.