Obesity: the making of an epidemic

It’s not just here in the US, around the world, obesity levels are rising. More people are now overweight than undernourished. In fact, you can be a normal weight, and still be over fat—still have excessive fat inside your body surrounding your organs. Why is this bad? Because the deep fat, the intra-abdominal or visceral fat as it is called—also becomes a sponge for toxic chemicals. The concentration of fat-stored toxins can be 1000’s of times higher than that circulating in your blood as demonstrated by my dear friend and colleague Dr. George Yu, a surgeon and toxicology researcher from Annapolis, MD.

In other words, while small amounts may not be problematic, the local concentration nearby important organs may be well above the amount shown to be carcinogenic in lab rats. If this isn’t meaningful and disturbing, the adipose itself also makes important hormones and when it is inflamed those hormones create broader inflammation and organ dysfunction.

In this video, Britain’s Jacques Peretti traces those responsible for revolutionizing our eating habits— Mr. Peretti shows how political decisions made in America 40 years ago influence the way we eat now. He discusses the political nature of these decisions and how they have furthered gross misinformation about what is healthy. Click here if the video below is taken down.


The political 1970’s change to our farming landscape.

“I want as good a living for these family farmers as their city cousins can get.” stated Richard Nixon’s agriculture secretary Earl Butz in 1971. Who would argue? Gripped by recession, the possibility of cheap, industrial-strength, mass-produced food was easily promoted. But his other slogan “Get big or Get out.” was not so palatable; replacing the local farmer and their healthy variety of available produce with a few large agricultural organizations and heavily-subsidized “cash crops” soy, corn, wheat, plus animals raised on soy corn and wheat.

We have a surplus, to whom can we sell it? How soy, corn, and wheat economics brought about obesity.

During the 1970’s corn sugar was championed in the US to make use of the excess corn grown by farmers. Cheaper and sweeter than sugar, it soon found its way into almost all processed foods and soft drinks as high fructose corn syrup. HFCS is not only sweeter than sugar, it also interferes with leptin, a hormone that controls appetite, cutting off satiety cues so you don’t know when to stop.

As we reduce fat in our diet, we increase carbohydrates and sugar.

The promised “cheap foods” became grocery store walls of intensely processed, highly calorific, tweaked by chemicals for maximum “mouth feel” and “repeat appeal” (addictiveness) food products. Commercials showed happy, healthy, busy people; the convenience to moms, the happiness to children. Wheat, soy, and corn as fillers, corn sugars, cooked in corn and soy oil…

NHANES U.S. Obesity trend 1970-2000

Trends in adult weight Sources: National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey (National Center for Health Statistics); Cancer Trends Progress Report — 2005 Update (National Cancer Institute, 2005). Percent of adults ages 20–74* who were at a healthy weight, overweight, or obese† *Data are age-adjusted to the 2000 U.S. standard population. †Healthy weight, body mass index (BMI) = 18.5–24; overweight, BMI = 25–29; obese, BMI ≥30.

Advertising campaigns promoted the idea of snacking between meals (after all, that carbohydrate rush and crash needed a solution). Fast food chains offered clean, bright premises with tempting burgers on a white bun, fries cooked in more seed oils, supersized Big Gulps and no need to leave the car.

America becomes fat.

Obesity, the national epidemic.

“One must attend in medical practice not primarily to plausible theories but to experience combined with reason.” –Hippocrates

Once anything becomes an epidemic, it receives the attention of pharmaceutical companies—and pharmaceutical treatments.

Unfortunately this backfired. The pharmaceutical industry searched far and wide for a drug that would not create hypertension and cardiac or other problems like amphetamines. They even spent millions campaigning doctors to prescribe Wellbutrin off-label for weight control (for which GlaxoSmithKlein paid a $3bn fine in the largest healthcare fraud settlement in US history.

By the 1990s, US health costs related to obesity were ballooning. Government, health experts and, surprisingly, the food industry were brought in to consult on what was to be done. Now the blame lay with the consumer–fat people needed to go on diets and exercise.

Despite work by endocrinologist Dr. Robert Lustig showing the dangers of HFCS and the obesity connection, a US Congress report blamed fat, not sugar, for the disturbing rise in cardio-vascular disease. The food industry responded row upon row of low-fat, light, lean, diet, zero, low-carb, low-cal, sugar-free, “heart-healthy” options, marketed to the very people made fat by high-carbohydrate filler foods and now desperate to lose weight.

Scientists clash with the low-fat dogma.

Dr. Walter Willett began studies back in the late 1970s, expecting to find a relationship between, fat intake and breast cancer—after all, that was almost as accepted a relationship in the science community as it was an urban legend among society. But as the data started coming in, there was no higher risk of breast cancer among women who consumed more dietary fat. And the same was true for colon cancer and for heart attacks and risk of type 2 diabetes. In fact, having a higher percentage of calories from fat has never been related to any important health outcome.

The amount of dietary fat has no relationship to coronary heart disease?

“The amount of fat had no relationship to risk of coronary heart disease, but the type of fat was extremely important.” –Dr. Walter Willett

In fact, Dr. Willet’s is among a tremendous amuont of work that shows our misinformation was not only incorrect, but it actually was dangerous. People eliminated fat across the board, including the very healthy types of fat that actually reduce heart disease rates, in particular the omega-3 fatty acids.

But the medical model is still eat less, move more, and go on a low-fat diet.

If you’re overweight and living in the United States, and you go to a hospital and see a dietician, almost for sure, you’re going to be put on a low-fat, high-carbohydrate diet.

But according to Dr. Willett, “that’s really the wrong diet for an overweight person. Because the person is overweight, in general they’re going to have quite a bit more insulin resistance and be much less able to tolerate low-fat, high-carbohydrate diet.”

It’s “a very simplistic idea” says Dr. Willett. That “just because fats have more calories per ounce than carbohydrates, we should be eliminating fats or reducing fats to control our total caloric intake, in other words, to help control our weight.”

“We have very complex mechanisms that control our total intake of calories, and it’s become pretty apparent that if we have a high-carbohydrate diet, particularly high refined carbohydrate, it makes it much more difficult to control our total caloric intake.”

“When we eat refined carbohydrates, we get these swings in blood glucose and insulin that lead to hunger between meals; whereas if we have a diet that’s somewhat higher in fat, we tend to be more satisfied over the long run.”

Related posts:

Why we get fat: part 1

Why we get fat: part 2

Lose weight, turn off the fat switch

HCG Diet: Weight loss miracle? Diet scam?

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About msternquist

Most people want to take care of their health, but few of us know where to start.

These recipes and researched-based information are my gift to help you enjoy the health and quality of life you’ve always wanted.

Born of a need to help my Nutrition Response Testing clients answer the question: “What’s there to eat?” this website is my community service to the world. What’s Nutrition Response Testing? A completely non-invasive way of learning what is stressing the body to cause its symptoms, and developing the exact drug-free program that supports the body in fixing that problem.

I also offer one-on-one nutritional coaching, group talks and am developing online programs to empower everyone with the knowledge to make healthy changes. Want to know more? email me at [email protected] or head on over to www.SynergyNutrition.info (hint: create an account and you get all my Health Downloads absolutely FREE)

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