The obesity crisis was not caused by a single factor. Unfortunately, like the perfect storm, many events come together in sequence to result in this health emergency tidal wave; Such is the #ObesityCrisis.
To date, the obesity crisis and our lack of understanding has destroyed the quality of life of millions of Americans. The lack of:
- Nutrition education – What the body needs and gets from different foods – energy, macronutrients, and micronutrients
- Biological functions – How the body works to achieve homeostasis – energy balance.
This lack of knowledge makes it difficult to achieve a healthy weight for the long term. Don’t take my word for it, review the scientific evidence of @KevinHall, PhD. Kevin is a senior investigator at the National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Disease (NIDDK). What is significant about Kevin is he is the Section Chief of Integrative Physiology Section, Laboratory of Biological Modeling. @BonnieLiebman, MS is an author, and Director of Nutrition at the #CenterForScienceInThePublicInterest (CSPI). Bonnie interviewed Kevin and published in the #NutritionActionHealthLetter (a publication of CSPI) – How Did We Get Here? July/August 2018 Volume 45 No. 6; pg. 3 – 5 print.
The Basic Science of Human Weight Management
Normally, 2 key hormones work against each other to control our weight:
- Leptin (the starvation hormone) – Main function is long-term regulation of the body’s energy supply. Leptin signals the brain to stimulate or suppress appetite and alter the burn rate of stored energy. When we lose body, fat leptin stimulates appetite and reduces stored energy burn rate. Weight gain triggers the opposite series of events (eat less burn more).
- Ghrelin (the hunger hormone) – signals the brain when to start and when to stop eating. It is released by the stomach, and other glands. #LeptinVsGhrelin
The Calm Before the Storm (Before 1970):
- Leptin and ghrelin went about their business of cooperating to control our body weight
- Families ate at home more than at restaurants and at other eateries; additionally high food prices and family size prevented excessive eating
- Families were more physically active (work & play – virtually no access to computers)
The Storm is Energized by Key Players (1970):
- President Nixon became aware of complaints about the rising cost of food. Consequently, he directed the USDA to fix the problem.
- The USDA initiated policy to subsidize farming to stimulate yield of basic foods like corn and soybeans.
- The farmers subsequently increased the production of corn, soybean, and other crops. This caused a drop in the price of basic foods that became major ingredients in the processed food supply.
- The manufacturers of processed foods employed food scientists, and engineers to develop ingredients like high-fructose corn syrup to enhance “Ultra-Processed” food products that were:
- Great tasting – Food scientists are better cooks than mom and granny; they mastered the ideal combination of salt, sugar, fat, and flavor additives to increase flavor, (and unfortunately calories). This development triggered a super-normal appetite. #BlissPoint
- More Stable – The addition of extra salt, high-fructose corn syrup and other technologies helped foods last longer in unrefrigerated settings like store shelves and homes.
- Cheaper – Consumers enjoyed more food at lower prices, and consequently began to eat more meals away from home.
- Seventy percent of salt we eat comes from processed foods, and restaurant foods https://www.cdc.gov/salt/pdfs.sodium_role_processed.pdf
- Seventy-nine percent of total sugar we consume comes from processed foods, restaurants, and dining halls. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov.pmc.articles/PMC3593301
- More Convenient – Less cooking required. Heat and serve made busy lives more manageable.
- Powerful Food Advertising That Target Children – Drove consumption of unhealthy foods high in carbs/sugar, salt, and fats resulting in consumers:
- Eating the foods that are most profitable”. #WeightOfTheNation
- Eating more at restaurants, and dining halls
- Buying more heat and serve food products.
- Snacking more on delicious high calorie food products
- Physical activity continues to be inadequate in burn off the significant increase of calories consumed.
The Abyss of Overweight and Obesity
- Nationwide, 223 million people (71%) are overweight or obese (2015 – 2016). https://www.cdc.gov/nchs/fastats/obesity-overweight.htm; the obesity rates range from 22% in Colorado to 38.6 percent in West Virginia.
Overweight, and obesity significantly increases the risk for preventable illness, disability, and premature death:
- 34 million people of all ages (9.4%) had diabetes in 2015
- 1 million people (33.9%) were estimated to have prediabetes
- 2 million suffered from cardiovascular disease – coronary heart disease, Stroke, heart attack, etc. in 2015. (CDC)
- 40% of all cancers diagnosed are associated with overweight and obesity. (CDC)
What About Dieting, Exercising, and Wishing?
The casual observer may interpret Kevin Hall’s weight loss research as leptin and ghrelin appearing to have gone rogue. But, in actuality, these two hormones have not deviated from their mission: To prevent our bodies from quickly losing weight. However, the super tasty and fragrant food products have given rise to our super-appetites. To counter the weight gain brought on by our super-appetites, we continue trying a variety of weight loss programs. Unfortunately, as we work to lose extra fat pounds, leptin and ghrelin work against our goals. So, as our fat level drops, leptin level drops and ghrelin level rises. Also, leptin helps to decrease the rate at which we lose weight (burn fat;, pausing at the dreaded ‘plateau’. Spoiler alert: Hunger is a tough sensation to ignore.
Kevin Hall’s experimentation and modeling revealed that, “when people were losing body fat weight, their appetites increased by about 45 calories per day (above baseline) for every pound of weight that they lost”. To make weight loss more difficult, leptin reduces the rate at which a person burns fat weight.
Again, Kevin cites that, “the number of calories that they were burning went down by between 10 and 15 calories per day for every pound of weight they lost”. This means if you lost 10 pounds, the average person would burn 100 to 150 less calories per day. Keep in mind that burning 3500 calories equals 1 pound lost. It is going to take time to lose weight. Prepare your mind for this reality.
Climbing Out From the Abyss
Currently, there are no miracles for achieving persistent weight loss. Losing weight and keeping it off is difficult for most mortals. There are many suggestions, products, and practices on the internet that promise to help us easily lose weight. Sadly, many of these plans are not based on scientific evidence. Consequently, most are doomed to failure, and may harm the individual. Search the WEB for ‘fen-Phen’ heart valve crisis.
Some uncontrollable factors that drive weight gain and obesity.
- Socioeconomic status
- Prescribed medications
But, for those of us who are lucky enough to carry excess fat weight that we can shed; must work at it (plan-do-measure-repeat). We must learn to eat differently for a lifetime. We must sacrifice a little or a lot due to our eating traditions, habits, and the uncontrollable factors. Some of us must suffer to some degree, depending on our level of obesity.
Sustained self-managed weight loss requires persistent commitment that ranges from eating differently to experiencing gastric by-pass surgery and its potential complications. And, even then post-surgery patients must eat differently before and after the surgery or suffer consequences. We must understand that healthy eating requires that we provide our bodies all the macro and micronutrients it needs to function properly. #PortionControl #PrecisePortions.com
Failure to persist in losing excess weight [based on body mass index (BMI)] and keeping it off increases the risk of developing debilitating diseases like:
- Type 2 diabetes (leading to cardiovascular disease)
- High blood pressure (leading to stroke)
- Types of cancers
To fight obesity, all of us who are committed to community health have a crucial role to play in empowering consumers to follow effective and sustainable weight loss strategies. At the same time, consumers need to hold themselves responsible to attempt only evidence-based strategies to achieve self-managed weight control.
Let us all continue the conversation to help:
- Alert public awareness to the forces driving #overeating and #obesity
- Reduce the increasing rate of obesity in the USA, and the world