Energy balance is the key to healthy weight maintenance and is achieved by matching your energy intake to your energy expenditure.
Our bodies need energy for digestion, circulation, brain function, breathing and many other bodily processes as well as needing energy for movement and exercising.
Health problems and malnourishment can arise when there is either a positive or negative energy balance. A negative energy balance is when the amount of calories consumed is not sufficient for the body and leads to weight loss, whereas a positive energy balance is the opposite whereby calories are consumed in excess of the body’s requirements, therefore this additional energy is stored as fat by the body, leading to weight gain.
Negative Energy Balance results in weight loss because the body is having to use its energy reserves, for example fat tissue, to supplement the energy that it is not receiving from the diet. In instances where an overweight or obese individual is intentionally losing weight, a negative energy balance is important. However when an individual is of a healthy weight yet has a negative energy balance, this can lead to them being underweight which can result in a weakened bone structure, fatigue and a weakened immune system due to a lack of nutrients. In females it can also cause fertility issues.
Positive Energy Balance and the associated weight gain due to excess energy being stored as fat, can have adverse effects on our health and cause diseases such as cardiovascular disease – from fatty plaque formation within our blood vessels. It can upset the functioning of our cells that produce insulin (a hormone produced by the pancreas which regulates our blood sugar levels), meaning the body cannot regulate blood sugar levels particularly well resulting in type 2 diabetes, and additional fat cells in the body can produce hormones and other chemicals that can affect the way other body cells function which can cause cancerous growth. Positive energy balance and therefore being overweight/obese doesn’t only have negative health effects but can reduce quality of life. Moving around day to day can put increased pressure on the heart, cause shortness of breath and fatigue which can have a knock-on effect, reducing
activity causing further energy imbalance.
Check out the government’s Eatwell Guide for advice on how to achieve a healthy balanced diet to help you maintain a healthy weight.