Thursday, January 19, 2012

Why Is America So Damned Fat?

Anyone who has recently visited a buffet restaurant may have a ready answer to our question, but there is a more complex explanation involving carbohydrates offered by medical doctors Michael and Mary Dan Eades, authors of Protein Power. And if you are queasy about politically correct explanations, you may wish to help yourself to another granola bar and move on to something more palatable.

Explanations abound for the deplorable state of health of many Americans. Many of us can cite the percent overweight and obese numbers in our sleep or laughingly recall scenes from Super Size Me to help understand the obesity epidemic. But these explanations dance around the science and root of the weight problem documented by the statistics.

And what about the more quotidian desires to lose 20 pounds of weight – why is it so hard?

The Drs Eades offer a compelling explanation in their book which also is not a news flash – namely the high doses of carbohydrates in the typical American diet. Using anthropological evidence from mummies and other human remains, the doctors paint a picture of agrarian excess as the root cause of the American fat epidemic.

But how can a food so low in fat cause such dramatic weight gain? Here the doctors dispel the nonsensical idea that you become fat by eating fat just as you don’t have high cholesterol because you eat cholesterol rich foods. The answer to the question lies in body chemistry.

Before proceeding with the explanation, we realize that everyone has a theory on weight control and that fad and not so fad diets are as plentiful as the grains of sand on the sea shore. But we believe that these medical doctors have made a strong case for their thesis that high carbohydrate diets are the root cause to obesity and its allied concerns.

After examining Egyptian mummies, the doctors discovered that ancient Egyptian diets look remarkably like our American diets – high in grains and thus carbohydrates. They note that earlier civilizations – and we emphatically deplore their evolutionary clap trap – were meat centric and did not suffer the many maladies documented with the Egyptians who were famous for their agrarian diets.

To add insult to injury, modern Americans especially, have added loads of fruits and sugars to their diets which were not common in earlier diets. The doctors make the case that the as beneficial as fruits are, they are not required for good health and certainly not in the abundance with which we consume them. The critique against sugar should go without saying.

So what’s their beef with wholesome goodness found in grains? They argue that the hybrid grains are not healthy, but more importantly, the grain heavy diets introduce large levels of carbohydrates which the body cannot handle. More specifically, the body reacts to sugars – a byproduct of carbohydrates – by producing insulin. With the large consumption of carbohydrates the body eventually becomes insensitive to it and thus produces more and more to achieve the same effect.

In addition, modern diets – due in part to the virtually nutritionless grains and sugars – lack good micronutrients levels which are also essential to managing body chemistry – particularly the sugar-insulin axis.

So what is the big deal with insulin? Everything. Insulin has many functions only one of which is to regulate sugar levels. Insulin stores fat. It’s that simple. When insulin levels are chronically elevated, it increases the amount of calories stored as fat. Carbohydrate-rich diets tend to chronically elevate insulin levels and to make the body insensitive to it, thus requiring ever higher levels with its fat storing activities to do its job in relation to managing sugar levels.

So how did we get to this sad state of affairs where we consume massive doses of carbohydrates and sugars? The authors attribute much of the blame to agricultural policy approved by Congress in the early 1970s which subsidized and sponsored grain based diets as a solution to hunger. In reality it was pocket lining for the huge agricultural firms and a boon for the Midwestern congressmen.

They also note the huge environmental toll from digging up so much land to plant and harvest so much grain. Those of you who have seen the History Channel’s documentary on the dust bowl know exactly what some of that price was – although it is by no means confined to that particular issue.

Concurrent with the carbohydrate invasion starting in the early 1970s was a rise in obesity rates which continues with little restraint.

The solution then is to reduce carbohydrate consumption – the doctors recommend 30-55 grams per day depending upon the extent of one’s weight problem. But that is only half the story. After all 50 grams of carbohydrates is only 200 calories per day – a ration which would kill practically all of us.

The remainder of the calories should come from protein and fat. They note that pre-agrarian diets were largely protein and that the health problems associated with modern diets were very scarce among hunters. The doctors prescribe about .9 grams of protein for each pound of lean body weight.

Their dietary regimen is more complex than this as they are huge proponents of colorful vegetables, which provide important micronutrients, and various supplements including fish oil and vitamins. For those who are diehard vegans, their website contains a review of a book written by a former militant vegan who had to abandon the diet due to the toll which such a diet incurred on her health.

The book does a nice job of exposing the foul influence of the agriculture lobby on American health. Sugar and carbohydrates should be eradicated (in large measure) from anyone’s diet in order to achieve good health. Without that discipline, one faces a lifetime of compromised, if not downright awful, health and ever expanding waistline.


Protein Power ( Michael and Mary Dan Eades)

Copyright 2010-12 Tony Bonn. All rights reserved.

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