Monday, June 25, 2012

BBC News - What caused the obesity crisis in the West?

Contrary to popular belief, we as a race have not become greedier or less active in recent years. But one thing that has changed is the food we eat, and, more specifically, the sheer amount of sugar we ingest.
"Genetically, human beings haven't changed, but our environment, our access to cheap food has," says Professor Jimmy Bell, obesity specialist at Imperial College, London.
"We're being bombarded every day by the food industry to consume more and more food.
"It's a war between our bodies and the demands our body makes, and the accessibility that modern society gives us with food. And as a scientist I feel really depressed, because we are losing the war against obesity."

First off, did you laugh as I did at his goofy lament about being a "scientist" that's depressed?  I think I know what he was trying to say, but do you have to be a scientist to notice the negative reinforcing cycle of human suffering that results from the obesity epidemic?  And if you knew that someone caused that spiral, or accelerated it, by using strongly held belief dressed up like science and backed by the power of the government, would you feel (scientist or not) angry about it?

I have, but I don't now.  I think eventually the government will get it right about the science - it's getting to the point that even the government hasn't any more wiggle room - but right now, all that matters is improving my ability to help others sort this mis-information mess out. 

The reference to genetics is noteworthy, as it shows the paleolithic model, as a framework for the problem of human nutrition, is gaining a wider influence.

As to the reference about the food companies bombarding us to make us eat more food - OK, if that's how you want to see it, but I also see folks who desperately want the food companies to make low fat food, low cal foods, very tasty and cheap foods, foods that are "whole grain", and foods that have vitamins/minerals and other supposedly healhy characteristics - in other words, the food industry is doing what it should, which is providing the consumer with what the consumer will pay for.  If consumers hadn't been lied to about the role of fat and sugar in their diets, much of the food industry leverage to see cheap, processed low fat nastiness would not exist.

The same, big, nasty, souless food industry (spare me the drama please) is also going to be the one that figures out how to provide the market with inexpensive (relatively) grass fed animals on a large scale.  They will give us what we want, for the sake of their profits, which will pay their employees, who will pay their taxes and FICA, and the big souless machine will have done far more to benefit us than the equally soulless but unaccountable to anyone USDA.  The difference in these two large, soulless bureacracies (USDA and the food industry giants) is that one will cease to exist when it no longer supplies what the customer wants at a price the customer will pay, whereas the USDA will continue to do whatever the heck it does no matter how badly it does it.

Fructose is easily converted to fat in the body, and scientists have found that it also suppresses the action of a vital hormone called leptin.
"Leptin goes from your fat cells to your brain and tells your brain you've had enough, you don't need to eat that second piece of cheesecake," says Dr Robert Lustig, an endocrinologist.
He says when the liver is overloaded with sugars, leptin simply stops working, and as a result the body doesn't know when it's full.
Fructose isn't just "easily converted into fat" in the body, that is what happens to fructose in the body, period.  The problem with that is that above a certain dosage level, fructose so "buggers up" (sorry, BBC article, just had to us their colloquialism) the liver's capacity to do its myriad metabolic chores that it can't keep the rest of the machine running "unbuggered."  So, you get fatty liver, insulin resistance, and metabolic syndrome along with you HFCS laden gatorade, coke and dr. pepper.

HFCS, or sucrose (nearly the same thing) is, by the way, a silly thing to put in a sports drink - the body that's depleted of glycogen and glucose from high intensity exercise does NOT need fructose to get back up to speed quickly - it needs glucose.  Glucose was what made the original gatorade such a game changer - but it didn't taste good.  So, the gatorade folks did what all of us ignorant consumers demanded - made gatorade more tasty by making their drink less effective.  If I needed a gatorade like sports drink for rapid replenishment of glucose/glycogen, I'd get the zero cal sports drink and add a calculated amount (determined via experimentation) of pure glucose from cane syrup.  But if you or your kid just needs to rehydrate and maintain electrolytes post-workout, give them salty foods, a potassium supplement and regular food - the body will replenish the glycogen within 24 hours.  And if you are working out to assist in recovery of metabolic health and body composition - please skip the high carb post workout drinks/shakes. 

Another cut from the article:
Overnight, low-fat products arrived on the shelves. Low-fat yoghurts, spreads, desserts and biscuits. All with the fat taken out, and largely replaced with sugar.
The public embraced the new products, believing them to be healthier. But the more sugar we ate, the more we wanted.
By the time anyone began to ask if it was a good thing to replace fat with sugar, it was too late - but it was a decision with huge implications for the obesity crisis.
"If fat's the cause, that's a good thing to do," says Dr Lustig. "If sugar's the cause, that's a disastrous thing to do, and I think over the last 30 years we've answered that question."
Well, yes we have.

Having included a bit from the "calorie is a calorie" crowd, the fructose gang, and the sugar haters more generally, the author also includes a bit from the "palatability" crowd, who think that foods laden with sugar, fat and salt have a unique power to make us want to eat more and more.  My problem with this crowd is pretty simple - their statement of the problem does not help very much (eliminate sugar salt and fat from the diet?  Good luck living like that for 50 years), but to the extent that it works, I still don't know how they think they can say it is the three foods together that causes the problem, vice just the sugar.  In other words, getting a client off of sugars/starches works for most of them.  What then is the point of making a big speculative fuss about the supposed evils of fat-sugar-salt together?  Further, I eat all the salt and fat that I want, and I've never had better appetite control - and it's a good thing I do, too, since I lose a bunch of salt daily in the heat of the South - 99 degrees today here in Memphis.  In short, the "food pallatability" crowd doesn't impress me.

Here's where my best efforts to understand the problem of the millions year old human genome in the age of annual mono crop dominated agriculture - eat meat, vegetables, eggs, nuts and seeds, little fruit or starch, no sugar/wheat. 

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