Jon takes a look at why we get fat, what we can do about it and reviews the conflicting statements being made about the health of overweight people in the US.
May 2nd produced the latest news on the world’s “fat” crisis when a study presented at a meeting of the American Heart Association found the affluent are getting fatter faster than the less affluent. The report claims obesity is growing fastest among Americans with incomes more than $60,000 per year. It appears obesity is becoming a general problem rather an economic one. (I always knew the affluent had what it takes to compete.)
And waistlines are not the only thing growing. The sale of diet books is doubling each year according to statistics from Amazon.
Adding to the confusion, just a couple of weeks earlier, the National Center for Health Statistics (NCHS) announced that they had discovered that overweight people in the United States had less risk of premature death than people who were of normal or slightly under weight.
Of course, this information flatly contradicted last year’s study by the CDC (the parent organization of NCHS) that stated obesity was responsible for 400,000 deaths a year in the United States and that it was on track to overtake smoking as the leading cause of premature death. Now, it looks like the real figure is something around 112,000 extra deaths every year. (Isn’t it wonderful? Government agencies are charged with making us healthier – and presto-chango they did, just by re-examining the data.)
But it gets even better. In a related study, reported in JAMA, it was declared that overweight Americans are healthier than ever thanks to better maintenance of cholesterol and blood pressure with prescription drugs — which probably accounts for a Rand Report’s claim that obese people spend 77 percent more on medications than healthy people. (Now there’s an interesting definition of health. It’s not the underlying physical condition of your body that matters; it’s the condition that pharmaceutical drugs can force it into that’s important.)
Then again, a doctor recently told me that overweight patients who go into a coma tend to fair better than normal weight patients. (I guess that means if you’re planning on going into a coma, it’s worth packing on a few extra pounds just for the health benefits.)
Had enough yet?
Hold on. One more. Just one week after the NCHS announced their study that said fat people live longer, the British Medical Journal published a study funded by the US National Institute of Health which proved that being fat in your 40’s significantly increases your chances of dementia as you get older.
I guess the obvious conclusion we can draw from all these studies is that although fat people might live longer and be “healthier”, because of the increased likelihood of dementia, it’s unlikely they’ll be aware of it.
Okay. Enough studies from the inmates. Let’s step out of the asylum ASAP and do a reality check.
What do these studies actually tell us? What do we know? What is the impact of being overweight on our health?
- Being underweight is not healthy
- Being slightly overweight isn’t a big deal
- Being obese is – and it’s not just a question of longevity. It’s a question of quality of life. Regardless of how long you live, obesity is a major factor in:
- Blood pressure
- Heart disease
I mean, come on. How much do we need to rely on studies? Just a little common sense tells us that if you can’t be the proper weight with regular exercise, then being slightly overweight with regular exercise is healthier than being underweight with no exercise – and that being obese with no exercise is worst of all. When you cut through all the nonsense, obesity is just plain bad for your health. With that as a given, the only questions worth considering are what makes us overweight and what can we do about it.
Why We Get Fat
There are a number of factors that contribute to the fat crisis confronting the modern world. Consuming excess calories is only one of them. Some of the most significant are:
Much of the processed food we eat nowadays (pepperoni pizza, diet soda, and ding dongs) has almost no food value. It may temporarily fill the stomach, but it leaves our bodies craving basic vitamins and minerals. It forces us to eat more and more of this empty food in an attempt to satisfy our unsatisfied nutritional cravings.
This is a variation of the empty calories syndrome. Many of us attempt to eat right, but “factory farming” has reduced soil nutrients to the point where even so called health food has almost no nutrition. And the organic label doesn’t necessarily help. All organic means is that it’s grown with natural fertilizers and no pesticides. It doesn’t mean that the soil is remineralized on a regular basis or that the amount of natural fertilizer used is enough to optimize nutrition.
Most of the food we now eat is cooked or processed, which means that it is devoid of enzymes. Without the required enzymes in our food, we don’t sufficiently break the food down to extract full nutritional value thereby requiring us to eat more and more to compensate.
The human body requires approximately 2,200 calories of energy per day for a woman and 2,900 calories per day for a man. When your daily intake of calories exceeds the bodily requirements, the body converts them into fat. The body will only consume stored fat when it requires more energy and that is compounded by the following:
- We consume available carbohydrate calories before fat calories.
- Our bodies tell us to look for more food before using stored reserves.
- Available food causes our metabolism to stabilize at the higher fat level.
- The type of food we eat today is very, very different from the food our ancestors ate when our metabolic and fat storage mechanisms were first established.
Excessive high glycemic carbohydrates overwhelm the body and shut down its ability to process carbohydrates. This leads to two problems. First, the excess carbs are converted to triglycerides and stored in the body as fat. Second, they damage the body’s insulin system for handling carbohydrates thereby damaging our body’s ability to even handle normal carbohydrates efficiently over the long haul.
Anybody suffer from stress occasionally? Well, as part of its coping mechanism for dealing with stress (originally related to survival, not big business deals and fights with our spouses), your body stores fat with a vengeance under stress – to prevent starvation while looking for the next fruit tree or mastodon to provide your food. Since you now can get donuts every day at work without needing to hunt for a week to find a mastodon, this fat storage mechanism is not as useful as it once was.
What Can We Do About It?
- Eat nutrient dense food
- Avoid (or at least minimize) junk food
- Cut way, way back on high glycemic carbohydrates and sugars
- Cut way back on processed and cooked food
- Use digestive enzymes with every meal
- Exercise to burn calories and raise your metabolic rate
Remember, the body is a system interdependent on all its parts. Just like you can’t downsize a business to profitability, the body’s need for nutrients won’t be satisfied by withholding food. So sensible eating, not just dieting, is a big part of the answer.
The proper diet, enzymes with each meal, exercise, clean water, supplements, detoxing and digestive tract cleansing are integral for optimal health.