Fast Facts On Obesity
Since the early 1960s, the prevalence of obesity among adults more than doubled, increasing from 13.4 to 35.7 percent in U.S. adults age 20 and older. Currently, 68.8% of all adults in the United States are either overweight or obese!
The rate of rise of obesity, unfortunately, correlates with the misguided recommendations from the USDA in the form of the now withdrawn and failed food pyramid. Although the intention of the food pyramid was to promote healthy eating and weight loss, it in fact, did the opposite of what it intended to do by contributing to a new problem – insulin resistance or metabolic syndrome. Before we look at how this happened, let’s take a look at the staggering Obesity Numbers.
Alarming Statistics Of Obesity
More than 2 in 3 adults are considered to be overweight or
- More than 1 in 3 adults are considered to be obese
- More than 1 in 20 adults are considered to have extreme obesity
- About one-third of children and adolescents ages 6 to 19 are considered to be overweight or obese
- More than 1 in 6 children and adolescents ages 6 to 19 are considered to be obese.
- More than two-thirds (68.8 percent) of adults are considered to be overweight or obese.
- More than one-third (35.7 percent) of adults are considered to be obese.
- More than 1 in 20 (6.3 percent) have extreme obesity.Almost 3 in 4 men (74 percent) are considered to be overweight or obese.
- The prevalence of obesity is similar for both men and women (about 36 percent)
- About 8 percent of women are considered to have extreme obesity.
- Source: Data from the National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey, 2009–2010 2,3
What really caused this enormous rise of Obesity?
While the Government might want to make you believe it is your fault you are overweight or obese, as a physician trained in Obesity Medicine, I will show you the contribution by the Government to this problem. Obviously, there are multiple reasons for Obesity but here are the most important in my opinion.
In May 2011, the USDA released a graphic called “My Plate” to help people choose what foods to eat. This new guideline is meant to replace the old “Food Pyramid” that many people grew up with. Remember the triangle shape with the bread, cereal, and rice at the bottom and the fats and oils to be “used sparingly” at the top? This useless and misleading food pyramid, which has been confusing consumers for over 25 years, has advocated a philosophy of eating more grains and other less “fatty” foods.
What the Food Pyramid failed to do was to differentiate simple versus complex sugars. It also placed undue importance on grain-based products. Grain-based “simple carbohydrates” such as breads, potatoes, rice, cereal and pasta, although often low in fat, also rate high on the glycemic index. That means that they break down quickly in the body, overwhelming the blood with sugars and potentially leading to a phenomenon called “insulin resistance.”
Affecting up to one in every three Americans, insulin resistance is very common and can lead to difficulty losing weight, pre-diabetes, or type II diabetes, heart disease and other long-term health problems associated with obesity. With the new “My Plate” guidelines and some other tips, more Americans may be able to avoid these unhealthy complications.
Insulin resistance is a condition in which the body produces insulin, but does not use it properly. Insulin, a hormone made by the pancreas, helps the body use glucose (natural sugar) for energy. When people are insulin resistant, their muscle, fat, and liver cells do not respond properly to insulin. As a result, their bodies need more insulin to help glucose enter cells.
The pancreas tries to keep up with this increased demand for insulin by producing more. Eventually, it becomes overworked and may no longer be able to meet that demand. Excess glucose builds up in the bloodstream, setting the stage for diabetes.
Many people with insulin resistance have high levels of both glucose and insulin circulating in their blood at the same time. Learning about insulin resistance is the first step toward making lifestyle changes that can help prevent diabetes and other health problems.
Read this related and well written article on why the new MyPlate from the USDA is a ‘”Lipstick On A Pig”
By advocating a grain based, low fatty diet, over a protein based hunter gatherer diet that we evolved on, the USDA’s food pyramid contributed to insulin resistance. Unfortunately, up to 71 percent of the population has insulin resistance that leads to compensatory increase in the production of this hormone in order to keep the blood sugars under control.
This compensation is what makes you gain weight especially in the belly and upper part of the body as insulin is an “anabolic” or body building hormone. It also leads to a new problem called metabolic syndrome that one in three adults have. Thanks to USDA, all our understanding about healthy foods was skewed as we look at fat as unhealthy although there are many people groups such as those in the polar regions that eat up to 80 percent of their diet as fat and they do not get the cardiovascular diseases we do. This is because, although fat can make you gain weight, it would not lead to insulin resistance or metabolic syndrome.
By advocating foods high in carbohydrates in the name of “low fat” foods, it directly contributed to our misguided views about fat which does not cause the problems they accuse it does. For example, our views about cholesterol and fat were heavily influenced by this food pyramid but the truth is that up to 70 percent of the body’s cholesterol is made in the liver and only 30 percent comes from the diet. By going “low fat”, low cholesterol in the diet, we were steered to a more grain based diets that cause insulin resistance over time. Since insulin resistance means we compensate by increasing the production of this hormone called insulin, we not only gain weight due to the anabolic effects of insulin, but it can also make our cholesterol profiles worse.
Why high insulin levels leads to cholesterol problems?
Insulin is an inducer of the enzyme in the liver called HMG coA reductase, which is a key enzyme in the production of cholesterol in the liver. Since up to 70 percent of the body’s cholesterol is manufactured in the liver while only about 30 percent comes from the diet, high levels of insulin induce this key enzyme called HMG CoA reductase leading to worsening of the cholesterols – this happens despite the patient eating a low fat, low cholesterol, so called “healthy diet”. (The popular cholesterol medications such as Lipitor inhibit this enzyme HMG C0A Reductase.)
How we evolved as Hunters and Gatherers
We were hunter and gatherers used to a diet rich in lean meats, eggs, vegetables, nuts, fruits, roots, and other naturally grown foods without the grain based agriculture products. Agriculture is only about 5,000-10,000 years old it is a relatively short period for us to adapt to this type of diet that is poor in nutritional quality and has many deficiencies.
Read this excellent paper titled “Cereal Grains: Humanity’s Double-Edged Sword” by Loren Cordain, PhD
In this paper, the author points out that cereal grains lack a number of nutrients which are essential for human health and well-being; additionally they contain numerous vitamins and minerals with low biological availability. Furthermore, the inability of humans to physiologically overcome cereal grain antinutrients (phytates, alkylresorcinols, protease inhibitors, lectins, etc.) is indicative of the evolutionary novelty of this food for our species. This genetic maladaptation between human nutrient quirements and those nutrients found in cereal grains manifests itself as vitamin and mineral deficiencies and other nutritionally related disorders, particularly when cereal grains are consumed in excessive quantity.
More disturbing is the ability of cereal grain proteins (protease inhibitors, lectins, opioids and storage peptides) to interact with and alter human physiology. These interactions likely occur because of physiological similarities (resultant from phylogenetic commonalities) shared between humans and many herbivores which have traditionally preyed upon the gramineae family.
W8MD’s Three Things That Caused Obesity, Inflammation and Disease
More insulin resistant you are, more insulin the pancreas has to produce to keep the blood sugars under control. Most people are able to compensate well to insulin resistance by increasing the production of insulin so that their blood sugars are kept under control. Unfortunately, Insulin is an anabolic(body building) hormone. Therefore, more insulin resistant one is, the more body building happens.
Insulin also builds the body in the wrong areas such as intra-abdominal fat and upper body fat, two areas of fat accumulation that are associated with metabolic syndrome. Studies have shown that belly fat leads to increased inflammation in the body thereby increasing the risk of cardiovascular disease, diabetes and other conditions. In fact, waist circumference of over 40 inches in men and 36 inches in women(lower in Asian Populations), is one of the five criteria for metabolic syndrome. As the metabolic syndrome increases production of harmful chemicals such as cytokines thereby increasing the body’s inflammation levels increasing the risk of disease.
Lack of Antioxidants
Second thing that happened to our diet that increases inflammation is lack of polyphenols and other antioxidants in the diet. Before the modern food processing era, our diet used to have more than 50 percent unprocessed and uncooked food items such as colored fruits, vegetables, and other natural ingredients that are high in antioxidants such as polyphenols. Studies have shown that lack of polyphenols leads to increased inflammation in the body. Read this article on an overview of oxidative stress to gain an insight in this important paradigm.
Omega 3 to Omega 6 Ratio
Third thing that leads to increased inflammation is the ratio of Omega 3 to Omega 6 fatty acids used to be 1:1 but is now at 1:16 which also increases inflammation. Learn more. With the above 3 factors, the inflammation levels rise significantly thereby increasing the risk of many health problems including cardiovascular diseases, diabetes and even increased risk of certain types of cancers! in this context, it is important to remember that most human diseases start with inflammation.
Tips for Reducing Insulin Resistance
- Get enough protein. If the body gets carbohydrates without enough protein, it goes into insulin resistance. Most people need about 30 grams of protein at each meal. One egg is about 7 grams. As we evolved as hunters and gatherers, we are designed to eat a non-grain based diet rich in protein, fruits, nuts and vegetables.
- Try to work more physical activity into your day. Both exercise and resistance training can help reduce your risk of diabetes, and also helps to control it once you have it.
- Eat more fiber. Fiber helps reduce your risk of diabetes by improving your blood sugar control. Try more fruits, vegetables, beans, whole grains, nuts, and seeds.
- Choose whole grains. When you do eat grains, look for the word “whole” in the ingredient list. Whole wheat, stone-ground whole wheat, brown rice, and oats are all whole-grain ingredients.
- Eat fewer simple carbohydrates. These foods, with high glycemic index, break down quickly in the body, and can lead to rapid fluctuations in blood sugar levels. Go easy on foods like white rice, white bread, white pasta, refined flours, candy, fruit juice, soda pop, and baked goods made with white flour. The key is to understand glycemic Index of foods and focus on low glycemic foods.
- Get enough sleep. When you’re sleep deprived, your body drives you to eat more simple carbohydrates. Get at least 7-8 hours a night.
- Get help from Obesity Medicine physicians. You probably tried them all and still cannot lose weight! You might want to get help from physicians trained in Obesity Medicine that can help deal with the complex issues leading to weight gain.
An obesity medicine physician specializing in the medical management of obesity and insulin resistance might be able to help. Call Prab R. Tumpati, M.D., an obesity medicine physician with specialized training in managing insulin resistance and medical weight loss and founder of W8MD Medical Weight Loss Centers of America can help.
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