A new report from the United States shows that obesity rates are continuing to rise despite more Americans becoming more physically active.

Health experts say the key to reversing obesity trends has everything to do with food.

The study by the University of Washington looked at three million Americans over the past decade and found increasing levels of exercise reduced death, heart disease and diabetes but did not put a dent in obesity rates.

Professor Bruce Neal, from the George Institute for Global Health at Sydney University, says the problem is the same in Australia.

"We've seen physical activity go up, but obesity continues to rise. What this basically says is that the cause is diet," he said.

Professor Neal says even this can be hard to control.

"The reason people are eating badly is not because they have suddenly become sloths and gluttons, it's because they live in an environment where it is incredibly hard to eat well," he said.

"Vast amounts of food, fundamentally unhealthy, really large, really energy dense."

He says food is now responsible for most chronic diseases.

Some progress is being made in the US, according to Bill Dietz at the US Centre for Disease Control.

"There has been a reduction in the intake of sugar drinks and also in terms of fast food, pretty modest reductions," he said.

"But those decreases in caloric intake align quite nicely with changes in the food that is being marketed. Companies are seeing a greater increase in the sales of healthful products, as are restaurants."

Nutrition and obesity expert Ian Caterson says stopping obesity comes down to diet.

"Getting fit is important but to change the obesity, we've got to change what we eat," he said.

"And we have to make changes to the food supply - that's working with the food companies. They are very powerful, but we need to be persuasive to change it."

Professor Neal says the food industry needs tighter regulation.

"It's those sorts of things that are going to change the food environment and get on top of the obesity crisis that we have in the country," he said.

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