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Dunn challenges accepted weight loss theory

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Allison Lavelle
Staff Writer

It is hard to believe that losing weight could be as simple as a 20 minute exercise regimen three times a week combined with a Mediterranean diet, but Assistant Professor of Move­ment and Sports Science Sarah Dunn has proven the truth of the statement.

In her lecture “The Role of Diet and Exercise Within the Growing Obesity Epidemic,” Dunn spoke about her 12-week FEM Trial that was a combination of fish oil, exercise, a Mediterranean diet and tan emphasis on “quality over quantity.”

The American Heart Associ­ation and American College of Sports Medicine recommend one hour of exercise five times a week to people who want to lose weight.

“I have a problem with these numbers, and my research would suggest otherwise as well,” Dunn said.

In the study, Dunn had her test subjects, who included overweight or obese women, do high intensity interval exercise on a stationary bicycle three times a week.

The regimen alternated eight seconds of sprinting and 12 seconds of slow-paced riding for 20 minutes.

This type of high intensity exercise broken down in to segments is more effective than a tiring, extended work out, she found.

“I’m showing that with eight seconds of sprinting the effect is still there,” Dunn said. “Quality, not quantity.”

Senior criminology major Tawnee Brady attended the lecture because she is in the process of writing her thesis, which discusses why the United States still has a high obesity rate although many weight loss options exist.

“The interval training makes sense with some of the research I have been doing,” Brady said. “You don’t need to exercise several hours a day.”

“I like the ‘quality over quantity’ that was spoken about,” sophomore biology major Nathanael Morales said. “I’m surprised that short bursts of exercise are as beneficial as long-term exercise.”

The diet for the test subjects was based on a Mediterranean diet that contains grains, fish, vegetables and only a small amount of red meat. It is also high in good fats like olive and fish oils.

“The overall health of the diet gives no reason to count calories,” Dunn said.

Dunn’s findings showed that the women in the trial experienced a significant reduction in overall mass, fat mass, waist circumference, blood pressure and insulin.

Although Dunn received positive results, she also had a group of non-respondents that gained weight by the end of the trial.

However, Dunn also noted that not everyone responds to a diet program the same way due to differences in genetics and ethnicity.

“Everyone has differences and pasts, and not everyone starts at the same line,” Dunn said.

Dunn also addressed the obesity issue in the United States.

She said that approximately 60 percent of Americans are overweight or obese, and that it is a direct cause of diabetes because a sedentary lifestyle causes issues with insulin production.

“Visceral adiposity, or trunk fat, and a lack of fitness will lead to miscommunication with insulin,” Dunn said.

Sophomore psychology major Beth Janetzke said she was inspired to continue her healthy lifestyle because of the information she heard in the lecture.

“I want to stay healthy before I get to a point of obesity in the future,” Janetzke said.

Dunn plans to continue her research in hopes of discovering the next step for the non-respondents in her study.

She has applied for several grants to fund her study, including one from the American Heart Association.

Allison Lavelle can be reached at

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