Thursday, October 12, 2006

Losing Our Minds from Obesity?

We live in a time when two of every three adults is overweight or obese; its also a growing problem across the the globe. Because of its prevalence, it should come as no surprise that obesity is correlated with so many health problems. For years we've seen data telling us that obesity puts us at greater risk for diabetes, heart disease, cancer, and a host of other ailments.

A study, reported by UPI and published in the October 10 issue of Neurology, found "excess weight could impair memory."

Which prompted one of the researchs, Dr. Maxime Cournot, to suggest "Our results can have an additional motivational effect to modify health habits in people who are overweight."

While I agree that overweight and obesity can indeed influence our health, I'm not convinced it is the excess weight alone that increases risk for health issues. In fact, I'm convinced we must dig deeper and address what causes obesity and the development of disease.

My perspective is built upon the understood 'correlation is not causation;' if we're living in a time when more people are overweight and obese, it's a given we'll statistically find more health issues in those who are overweight or obese - there are more people in that category!

Of course the simple answer to our problematic obesity is too many calories in and not enough energy expended each day. Simple answers have simple solutions - eat less move more - is the one we hear most often. Yet that solution has done little to slow the continued rise in obesity in the US, and now we're experiencing a global rise in obesity too.

You may recall my post from September 26 - Of Death and Diabetes - about a study published that was criticized when researchers suggested their findings showed obesity alone was not a risk factor for premature death, but obesity related to diabetes was. The finding is contrary to our intuitive belief that being overweight is unhealthy.

Let me be very clear - being overweight or obese most certainly can be unhealthy and raise the risk of disease and death; but data is showing that the risk is increased in the presence of metabolic disturbance. The risk in the presence of a metabolic disturbance is similar even in those who are not overweight or obese as the data shows in The role of body mass index and diabetes in the development of acute organ failure and subsequent mortality in an observational cohort.

So while the media is hot on the trail of reporting all the negative effects of being overweight, in an effort to motivate or scare us to lose weight, these reports aren't telling us much since it's pretty much expected we'll find more risk being obese or overweight because there are more obese and overweight people in the population.

In the UPI article, it was noted that "excess weight can also lead to poorer management of the body's insulin, which in turn could affect brain cells."

How about this instead - a diet which increases the incidence of episodes of hyperinsulinemia, increases propensity to store excess energy as fat, which increases body weight and risk of overweight and obesity. As this situation is exacerbated and the hyperinsulinemia remains uncontrolled, brain cells are affected by the high levels of insulin, thus affecting cognitive function. Solution - reduce intake of foods that stimulate high levels of insulin to allow the body to burn stored fat as energy, allow a reduction in body weight and restore hormone levels back to normal and reduce the risk of health problems caused by metabolic distrubances.

Oh wait, that would mean we'd have to seriously consider a carbohydrate restricted dietary approach, one that virtually eliminates refined carbohydrates in favor of whole foods, encourages adequate intake of protein and natural fats, if we really wanted to address the underlying issue of overweight, obesity and the concurrent metabolic disturbances.

Truth be told, we'd have to abandon our current dietary habits and long-held beliefs and adopt a diet that is in synch with our metabolism and essential nutrient requirements.

Sadly such advice isn't going to be making the headlines any time soon - instead we'll continue to see the population blamed for their obesity and their health problems; and we'll continue to hear the same-old same-old advice - lose weight, eat less and move more, even though this advice hasn't made a dent in our obesity epidemic, and won't anytime soon.


  1. Regina - I love reading your blog. What you have written makes so much sense, but yet it seems that almost everyone is blind to even considering that it might be true. I get so tired of reading about how being overweight causes diseases instead of the idea that the process that contributes to obesity might also be a factor in those diseases.

    Keep up the good work!

  2. I'm still trying to come to grips with the whole insulin is bad thing here. As demonstrated in this study, , protein rich foods often stimulate just as much insulin as some carb foods. So is it really the insulin, the lack of glucagon, or insulin spikes vs total insulin released?

  3. I think it all comes down to the insulin response caused by glucose, regardless if it's from sugar, grains or veggies. Glucose is essentially a toxin to the body and any amount in excess over the occasional and rare survival need (virtually eliminated in today's world) causes the body problems because we aren't designed to take a constant steady intake of glucose in any amount. You can have a zero intake of glucose and survive quite nicely.

  4. I just think that the focus on insulin is as much of a gross over simplification as the calorie theroy. They both provide a useful framework within certain boundries, but are incomplete explanations. I've know too many people in real life who lost more weight than the calorie theory could explain only to hit a certain plateau that could only be overcome by counting calories and cutting fat. Many of these same people were very unsuccessful with Low fat diets at first. So if carbs are the issue why would switching from Low carb to a low fat/ high carb diet when trying to lose the "last 20" suddenly be what works? There is still way too much about this whole process that is yet unkown.