In this series, we will look at the basics of metabolism and discuss the very well-known science around obesity. Many of the diseases that bedevil humanity flow from obesity, including cancer and Type 2 diabetes, and so understanding metabolism and the causes of obesity is ground zero in the fight for a long life and good health.
The perfectly known causes of obesity run a path that is not difficult to find or follow.
It begins with our ancestors. They were hunter-gather people who ate either the fruits or vegetables the gathers found or the meat and fat the hunters killed. The gathers gave the body low-sugar carbohydrate inputs which triggered the body to secrete insulin and store any extra glucose as fat, and the hunters gave the body meat which had a lot of protein and fat which lead to ‘ketone bodies’ fueling the metabolic process with little extra to store. When the food was scarce, insulin was nil and the body used ketones to burn the stored fat. But either way, the tribe could eat, and when they didn’t have food, limited body fat was burned until more food arrived. No one was obese, had cancer, heart disease, or Type 2 diabetes.
Industrialization increased the supply of everything, including food. Machinery took the place of human effort to acquire necessities. Agriculture increased the supply of grains, fruits, vegetables and anything that would be grown, and the machinery to process these inputs increased the outputs enormously. Sugar could be commercially grown, shipped around the world, and added to the dietary mix. Suddenly, for the first time in human history, the supply of carbohydrates radically increased.
Finally, in a process all too familiar to anyone who studies how ‘consensus science’ works, it was declared that animal fat was detrimental to the human body. Ancel Keys and many others pushed the narrative that dietary fat induced heart disease and their messaging made it all the way into government policy, which translated into agricultural policy, which made it to the food industry, and then into the culture at large. And, if fat was bad, by necessity, carbohydrates were good, and available in abundance.
The stage was set for the worldwide disaster we are now experiencing.
In a sense, the food industry has taken advantage of the wiring of the human brain to make profits. The taste for sweet and baked things, often called hyper-palatable foods, is hard-wired into us because in the past, sweet foods provided quick energy and needed fat reserves. In the human brain, the ‘comfort foods’ provide deep pleasure and a short term sense of wellbeing. Kids love sweet foods instinctively. There are very few people who don’t like cake, or cupcakes, or candy, or anything else that is highly refined, highly processed, and further, made easy to eat by shaping it for convenience, packaging it to make it mobile, and advertising it as yummy.
People love food that is corrosive because it instinctively feels good to eat. Even after a second piece of cake, they don’t feel full and want more. Very few people could eat two huge steaks in a row no matter how much they may like it. They feel full, and they stop eating. But the food industry serves food that doesn’t fill; it just triggers the massive release of insulin over and over, day in and day out, until the person who eats this food is fat, sick, and plagued with the same diseases the British doctors saw in the natives who abandoned their hunter-gatherer diets.
Robb Wolf, in his fantastic book Wired To Eat, has termed these foods ‘hyper-palatable’ because they are highly desired by humans. Who can resist the smell of fresh-baked bread? Who doesn’t like to both see, smell, and eat a big piece of chocolate cake? Who doesn’t like McDonalds French fries? Tell me you don’t like these things and I won’t believe you.
These foods are everywhere and they are pushed in every niche of our society. They are obviously advertised heavily to kids and adults, which starts the process of poor nutrition early. But, they are also promoted by the food sciences, including the American Heart Association and the American Diabetes Association.
These orgs and many others are catching up, but they are still mired in the same thinking that made the epidemic of obesity in the first place. Don’t believe it? Here is the recommendation from the American Heart Association:
And here is the American Diabetes Association recommendation:
Note the never-ending vegetable advice. Mark my words; very few people are EVER going to embrace the notion that most of their food needs to be non-starchy vegetables. Why? Because broccoli doesn’t have much fat, carbohydrates, calories, or flavor! That is, unless you smother it in cheese. In this way, the medical establishment fights hyper-palatable foods with advice to eat hypo-palatable foods and that is never going to work.
No one loves vegetables and no one ever will!
The disaster will continue until people embrace these simple concepts;
- Eat less, and take breaks from eating. Fasting works.
- Eat lots of fat in the form of fatty meats, and fatty plants. Fatty meat drizzled in olive oil with some cashews; it just doesn’t get any better!
- Strictly limit anything baked or processed, and when you crave sweet, stick to fruits like apples and oranges.
Even with the weeds grown by the food industry, the medical establishment, and the government covering the path, it can be found and followed.