Exploring the sense and nonsense of food and health

The Obesity Epidemic: Why and What Can We Do?

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Is it Genes or the Environment?  That is the big question on why the obesity epidemic happened in the first place. It is becoming apparent (my opinion) that since the 1960 ‘s something happened in our food environment that caused this serious public health problem and no one seems to quite know what to do about it .Preview (opens in a new window)

Many causes have been suggested.  Collectively, most likely, all have had some influence. On the list is portion size, increased food availability (restaurant and fast foods), stress and lack of sleep, ultra-processed foods (food in a box), sedentary behavior, lack of will power, food addiction, genetics and physiology, and even the microwave oven gets the blame. From this list, our genes and physiology have not changed considerably (my opinion) so the cause(s) mainly must lean toward environmental factors. For example, many researchers promote the role of insulin resistance and other hormones (leptin, ghrelin) as causative; however I would presume that the  human body has always had these factors at play when body weight is regulated normally.  If hormones are to blame, what factors caused their normal function to be altered?

The following excellent article originally published on The Conversation takes us from the beginning to where we stand now and offers some possible fixes that may help to stop this phenomenon from getting any worse than it already is. Another fact is that even though it affects our health care system and health care costs, not much mention is made from the political or community factions; if this was an infectious disease problem, reactions from all parties would be quite different.

A real-life situation offers an explanation about what may be occurring here. “Genetic analysis of the Pima Indian population living in Arizona has identified a number of genes that may be responsible for this group’s tendency to store excess body fat. When this genetic susceptibility is combined with an environment that fosters a sedentary lifestyle and consumption of high-calorie, high-fat (or carbohydrate) processed foods, the outcome is the strikingly high incidence of obesity seen in this population.”  Nutrition: Science and Applications, Smolin and Grosvenor, Third Edition (2013).

The Pima Indians living in Mexico with entirely different lifestyles and diet (farmers) have an average Body Mass Index of about 23.0 while the Arizona population with the same genetic background have a BMI about 30.0  BMI’s over 30.0 signify obesity. while those below 25.0 have been stated as having a healthy weight.

This may be too simple an explanation for our epidemic and it is understood that this public health dilemma has many more complex causes.

It still remains after all that the the simple fix of “eat less, move more” has not helped us to significantly deal with this  phenomenon and the fixes will take a lot more effort in order to stem this problem. A previous post on solutions can be found HERE. Any suggestions or comments will be welcome.


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