Well, at least in terms of very developed nations with larger populations. The evidence is all around us and even a brief public outing will confirm it. We are one fat country. We love to eat and all the wrong foods. The problem is more related to what we eat rather than how much we eat. The culprits are not always so obvious either. Gone are the days when it was only fast food that would add to our waistline. Today it's everyday foods that are suspect.
MRI scan of a morbidly obese 250 pound woman (left) and healthier 120 pound woman (right). The areas of pronounced subcutaneous fat are evident on the obese woman. In this upright standing position, notice the subcutaneous fat around the neck, shoulders, arms, chest, waist, thighs, and even calves. Also, notice the repositioning of her shoulder joint and hip joint, pronounced angle of the humerus (arm bone) and angle of femur (thigh bone), and the positioning of knee and ankle joints. Other anomolies include the enlarged heart and greater omentum (fat deposition that hangs down from the stomach in front of the small intestines).
The growing problem of obesity is associated with multiple morbidities, including increased risk of diabetes, hypertension, heart disease, sleep apnea, and cancer. Obesity promotes disability, decreases productivity, and shortens life span. Although much attention has been focused on diet and exercise, these strategies alone are not effective in preventing obesity and maintaining weight loss.
In fact, there are many experts to this day who continue to fault a lack of exercise as a primary contributor to obesity. “The United States is the fattest country in the world,” said Geoffrey Godbey, professor emeritus of recreation, park and tourism management, Penn State. “The amount of exercise Americans get has become a major concern.”
Godbey and fellow Penn State colleagues are among the thousands of researchers who receive millions in grants reiterating the same message every year to Americans. The failed message of "we don't exercise enough" does little to improve the outlook on physical activity for the average person. Moreover, it's not really the major contributor to weight gain, at least not the kind of weight gain we're seeing in America.
The development of pharmacological approaches for obesity treatment has been dogged by poor efficacy and serious side effects. Although the causes of obesity are very simple, the biology is very complex. So besides lack of physical activity and sleep, let's focus on the top food offenders responsible for the rise in our girth.
Top Food Offenders
A Harvard study last year in the New England Journal of Medicine found that the quality of your food matters more than its calorie count.
Intuitively, we know that gorging on burgers and French fries and slurping down soda leads to more weight gain than eating fresh fruits, veggies and brown rice. But in the most comprehensive and detailed study of its kind, researchers have figured out exactly how much weight gain is associated with the consumption of certain foods.
Topping the list of culprits are sweetened drinks, fried foods, and any form of potatoes. The biggest cause of weight gain was eating french fries; every extra serving of fries eaten in a day was linked to a gain of more than three pounds, while eating an extra serving of potato chips led to 1.69 pounds. Other diet busters included refined grains (like white rice and white bread).
Some of the worst food offenders (pounds gained for every additional serving per day over four years):
- French fries (over three pounds)
- Potato chips (1.69 pounds)
- Potatoes (1.28 pounds)
- Sugar-sweetened drinks (one pound)
- Processed meats (0.93 pounds)
The results show us what everyone knows -- eating junk food and starchy foods can be bad news for your waistline -- but the data are useful for quantifying just how much that extra bag of chips can hurt you, as well as how making the switch to whole healthy foods can help.
However, that isn't the whole story. Two often overlooked contributors to obesity are food additives and genetically modified foods.
GMO and Food Additives
Many have suggested that these two forms of artificial foods are akin to chemical terrorism in the food supply. Between genetically modified foods, and the toxicity of artificial flavors, colors, preservatives, emulsifiers, sweeteners and adulterants, our entire food supply is contaminated.
A study showed that genetically-modified (GM) food is contributing to the obesity epidemic. Researchers found that GM corn fed to mice led to an increase in overall body weight of almost 4%, while also increasing the weight of their livers by up to 11%.
Wheat's biochemical code causes hormone disruption that is linked to diabetes and obesity.
GM foods have also been shown to cause organ damage, sterility, and diabetes in mammals.
So where do we find genetically modified foods? In every processed food that contains corn, soy, wheat and emulsifiers. That makes up about 90% of processed foods. Even babies are not safe. But it doesn't stop there. Fresh produce is also now GM.
Genetically modified strains of broccoli have been launched in UK supermarkets as a testing ground before they are inevitably introduced into the United States, Canada and Australia.
Biotech companies are now looking to make profits at the expense of health by using genetic engineering to alter the breeding objectives in several countries. An approval application for the food and feed use of LL62 genetically modified rice has been submitted to the EU. It is still undergoing safety evaluations but is expected to pass. This GM rice cultivar was genetically engineered to be resistant to an herbicide.
The genetic code of the apple has been mapped by researchers, paving the way for gene silencing and other manipulations by scientists to continue altering the food supply under the guise of creating healthier fruits.
A University of Arkansas researcher found genetically modified canola growing wild in Dakota -- in addition, she found two different GM varieties had interbred to produce a completely new GM canola.
Even chocolate is not safe. With the intention of flooding 70% of the global cocoa supply with genetically modified (GMO) cocoa tree hybrids, a collaboration involving Mars, USDA and IBM is accelerating this process.
Chemical sweeteners are another huge problem. A growing number of clinicians and scientists are finding that excitotoxins such as MSG play a critical role in the development of several neurological disorders and specific types of obesity.
The obesity epidemic has only increased since diet foods and beverages gained popularity.
The body has a self-regulating mechanism, a kind of thermostat that measures the amount of energy (or calories) it can obtain from a particular meal. When your body has received enough energy from the food you have eaten, then your mouth, stomach, intestines, and liver send messages to the brain that all energy requirements have been met.
Subsequently, your nervous system secretes hormones that stop your desire for more food. This point of saturation is essential for your wellbeing, for without it you would continuously want to eat and never feel satisfied. If, for instance, during one particular meal, you eat foods that contain only very little energy or at least not enough to fulfill your energy requirements, then your body will tempt you to eat more during the next meal. This way, the body makes up for the loss of energy during the previous meal. The same happens when your digestive ability is low and you are not deriving sufficient energy from the food you eat.
Because artificial sweeteners are low-energy foods and non-physiological, the body deals with them in the same way as described above. It recognizes their complete absence of potential energy and signals "low energy." As a result, it stimulates the desire for more food. This principle is a well-known and commonly applied practice, both in the food industry and in animal feeding. Animal feeds contain highly concentrated saccharin to stimulate the animal's appetite so that they eat more frequently and grow fat faster. The same mechanism applies to the human body, including children.
For both humans and animals, aspartame, neotame, sucralose, saccharin, sodium cyclamate and other sweeteners belong to the category of "sweet" food. If you eat artificial sweeteners, the body naturally responds to their sweet taste by secreting insulin. Rather than receiving sugar in the blood as expected, however, it receives a combination of protein compounds.
A Princeton University research team has demonstrated that all sweeteners are not equal when it comes to weight gain: those with access to high-fructose corn syrup gained significantly more weight than those with access to table sugar, even when their overall caloric intake was the same.
Doing its normal job, the pancreas has already prepared a portion of insulin that now floats about in the bloodstream searching for the expected sugar. Since it isn't found there, the insulin removes some of the blood sugar instead. This effectively lowers your sugar levels. However, since this situation can be life-endangering, your body quickly signals "hunger" which becomes a sudden, strong "craving." Since foods with artificial sweeteners are not able to meet the demand for an increase in blood sugar, you begin to look for sugary foods.
Instead of saving the calories that are contained in ordinary sugar, you have artificially increased your need and appetite for more sweet food. If you try to satisfy this desire by eating more foods containing artificial sweeteners (without calories), the urge to eat will become even stronger than before and you will start overeating. Researchers have found that the urge to eat more food after ingesting artificial sweeteners in a drink can last up to 90 minutes, even when all blood tests show normal values.
The contributors to obesity are many. The simplistic equation offered to us by public health agencies is not only short-sighted, but irresponsible. If lack of exercise and avoiding "bad" foods (as per government recommendations) was the only problem, we would have a much larger percentage of the population maintaining a healthier weight. Moreover, we would not have such repetitive frequency of fast food restaurants on every corner. The problem stems from what most people don't know, and not from common knowledge. If we ever start removing chemical toxins and genetically modified foods from the food supply, you will start to see a "real shift" towards healthier bodies and healthier people, something we haven't seen in a very long time.
John Summerly is nutritionist, herbologist, and homeopathic practitioner. He is a leader in the natural health community and consults athletes, executives and most of all parents of children on the benefits of complementary therapies for health and prevention.
Originally published HERE