Editorial by David Mulvain
Having a problem with your weight? It goes without saying that America is experiencing an epidemic of over-weight and obesity. Maybe it’s time to reevaluate our body’s mechanisms for regulating fat storage.
Obesity is not a disease. It is not genetic. Fat storage is our body’s natural response to times of plenty. We are designed to store fat when food is readily available to help us survive during times of famine. This survival mechanism helped our hunter-gatherer ancestors survive harsh winters and other food shortages. Modern agricultural methods, food processing and international transportation of food have eliminated periods of food scarcity in the industrialized world.
Imagine it is mid-summer in the northern Rockies. The bears have just discovered the season’s first berries. Like humans, bears have an inherent taste for sweets. They gorge themselves on berries. The sugar in the berries increases their hunger, so they eat protein and fat rich salmon until they can eat no more. The eating binge continues until food becomes difficult to find. As soon as the over-eating ends, the bear’s appetite and metabolism return to normal and the stored fat is converted to energy as needed. The bears have put on enough fat to provide the energy they need to hibernate through the entire winter.
We are not bears, but we humans have the same basic metabolic processes. The sugars that satisfy our sweet tooth are rapidly metabolized, and raise blood sugar levels. Overeating also raises blood sugar levels. Elevated blood sugar raises insulin levels. Elevated insulin sends a message to the liver and fat cells that direct them to grab up circulating fat and store it. Insulin also stimulates the conversion of sugar and protein to fat for storage. As long as carbohydrates (sugars & starches) are a major source of the calories consumed, the liver and fat cells will hold onto their fat stores. And also like the bears, elevated insulin triggers a hormonal response that makes us hungry. Fat in the diet reduces hunger.
Summary: Reducing calories to lose weight does not work in the long run. Fat storage is a controlled process. Over-eating and simple sugars raise insulin levels. It is the job of elevated insulin to facilitate fat storage. Control insulin to control appetite and weight.
The mistake: The low fat diet is also a high carb diet. It’s over consumption of carbohydrates that make us fat. It was the American Heart Association’s (AHA) war on fat that legitimized the low fat diet. It was the food industry that pounded it into our subconscious minds with continual advertising.
The deception: Insulin’s role in fat storage is textbook material. It has been for decades. The AHA knew the low fat diet was a mistake as early as the mid 1970’s, but dietary advice to the public has not changed.
The profit: Walk down the aisles of any supermarket. What do you see? “fat free”, “low fat”, “lite”, “diet”…. By the time the error was discovered, a huge anti-fat industry had developed and a low fat USDA food policy adopted. It would have cost billions to make the correction, so there was no correction. Government policy and corporate profit trumped public health.
Americans lowered their fat consumption, but at the cost of being overweight and obese. Excess weight is the greatest risk factor for diabetes and heart disease, and second only to smoking for premature death. Your future health and that of following generations depend on having correct information. We are not getting it from the food industry or our government. Think about it.
The solution: Low carbohydrate diet.