Earlier this week, Gretchen Reynolds of The New York Times’ ”Well” blog focused on a recent study of twins that looks at why two people who are genetically identical and have the same amounts of the same foods and drinks can still have very different health.  The reason?  Physical activity!

The study, published in this month’s Medicine & Science in Sports & Exercise, came out of the University of Jyvaskyla and other institutions in Finland and was overseen by Dr. Urho Kujala, professor of sports and medicine at the university.  His findings indicate that the amount of physical activity one undergoes may have a significant impact on the body and the brain even when genetics, upbringing and dietary habits are identical.

The study looked at identical twins who ate and exercised in similar ways as children but whose physical and mental conditions took different paths after they left their childhood homes.  Researchers looked at 10 pairs of male identical twins – one of whom regularly exercised while the other did not for reasons such as work or family pressures.  The scientists measured the twins’ endurance capacity, body composition and insulin sensitivity, and also performed a brain scan.

The results showed that each set of genetically identical twins looked remarkably different in terms of body and brain composition.  The sedentary twins had lower endurance capacity, higher body fat percentages and signs of insulin resistance, even though their diets were the same as the more active twins.  Even the twins’ brains were unalike – especially in terms of motor control and coordination.

Reynolds notes that the study was small and not a formal randomized trial, but Dr. Kujala said he believes that the results strongly imply that the differences in the twin’s exercise habits caused the differences in their bodies.

The study adds to the body of evidence that balancing calories from what you eat and drink with an appropriate amount of physical activity is a path to a healthy lifestyle.

We at Sip & Savor encourage all of our readers to incorporate exercise into their everyday routines.  America’s beverage companies put clear calorie information on the front of every bottle, can and pack we make to help consumers make the choices that are right for them.  Like any source of calories, sugar-sweetened beverages can be part of a balanced diet when consumed in moderation and combined with physical activity.  Demonizing any one food, beverage or ingredient isn’t the solution to complex public health challenges.