The Obesity Epidemic

Who doesn’t know what that most Americans are fat? According to the CDC, one third of U.S. Adults are “overweight”, and another third are “obese.” But what is the cause? Conventional wisdom says it’s “overeating,” and we are advised to cut our calories (primarily by eating “low-fat”).

The Lie

The USDA says that the average American’s daily food consumption increased by 523 calories from 1970 to 2003: 216 was from “fats and oils,” which is 41%; 188 was from grains, which is 36%; 76 was from “sugars and sweeteners,” which is 15%; a whopping 24 calories from “meat, eggs, and nuts” all put together, which is 4%; fruits and veggies together equaled 30 calories, which is 6%. (It adds up to 102% because I rounded some fractions of a percent for simplicity.)

So, “fats and oils” are 41%, but grains and sugar together add up to 50% of the increase in calories. Even putting fats and oils with meat, eggs and nuts only totals 45% of the added calories; but if we add up all the “carbs” – the grains, sugar, fruits, and vegetables – they are responsible for 55% of the “overeating.”

The Truth

The nasty little secret of carbs (yes, even the vaunted “whole grains”) is that when you eat them, your digestive system breaks them down into what they’re made of: sugar.

The whole “a calorie is a calorie is a calorie” crowd keeps ignoring the human body’s different hormonal responses to different kinds of food. That’s not scientific (although it is good for business). The authorities try to evade this factor by referring to “fat and sugar” added to packaged and restaurant food, as though they are equally bad for us. Without the sugar (aka “carbs”), however, the fat doesn’t harm us. Not being able to grasp the science (apparently), the low cal / low fat people deride the science as “magic.”

The Book

In 2007, Gary Taubes came out with Good Calories, Bad Calories(The Diet Delusion in the UK), which is a science book not a diet book. In it, he describes how some Baby Boomers got back from their stints in the Peace Corps in Third World countries – where they had seen many starving people – and looked around at the abundance of meat, eggs, milk, and butter in Americans’ diets. They concluded they could end World Hunger by sending out fruits, vegetables, and grains; but Americans’ eating habits required too much of the plant food production (primarily the grains) to go to feed the animals we then eat. So, they started demonizing animal food. The low-fat diet recommendation was based on politics, not science (today, of course, its a huge financial issue).

GCBC says a whole lot more than that, of course. It’s 460 pages of documentation of how not only does the high-grain / low-fat diet make most people fat and sick, but that the evidence proved it the entire time the authorities were telling us “we know” that fat makes us fat, that cholestrol causes heart disease, and to eat more grains. Pulitzer Prize-winning journalist Richard Rhodes called it “Easily the most important book on diet and health to be published in the past one hundred years.” Although I do not have a Pulitzer (yet), I agree.

The Zucker Rat

This is a strain of rat that is a result of selective breeding; it is genetically predisposed to become obese. You can reduce the daily calories of the Zucker rat, and reduce them again, and reduce them again, until the rat dies of starvation. But it’s still obese. This does not prove that the obesity epidemic is genetic. I also know, as Dr. Mike Eades put it, that rats are not “furry little humans.” However, it does show that, in mammals, obesity is not a calorie issue, but a hormonal issue.

So, the next time someone tries to tell you “we know” that you have to go low-cal / low-fat, or describes such as “a healthy diet”, just silently mentalize: FAT DEAD RAT.

The REASON “Diets Don’t Work”

The phrase “Diets don’t work” has become popular the last several years; most people who have tried various diets resonated with this sentiment. But why don’t they work?

Almost all diets since the late 70′s have been low-fat / low-calorie diets. If you stick to a low-fat diet for long enough for it to “work” (theoretically), your body stops making fat-burning enzymes; then, your brain reads this as a time of famine and shuts down your metabolism. Dieters call this “hitting a plateau.”

The 80 / 20 Rule

It appears that about 20% of the population (ectomorphs / hard-gainers / naturally skinny people) can eat a high-carb / low-fat diet and remain both skinny and highly functional; the rest of us need to eat a much lower-carb / higher-fat diet. (Whether or not the ectomorphic 20% could be healthy on the low-carb diet remains to be properly investigated.)

The Medical Business

The Medical Business is not a “health-care system.” Even though the evidence has always proven that the high-grain / low-fat diet makes most people fat and sick, most Medical Doctors continue to recommend exactly that diet to this very day. Then, when you “present” with the various symptoms of your diseased state, the doctor says, “You’re going to have to take this pill every day for the rest of your life.” Coincidence?

The Plan

First of all, the term “weight-loss” is a serious problem; many pronouncements on the efficacy of different diets will claim that the same amount of weight was lost by the average person in both experimental groups. But did they lose fat, or muscle, or something else that has weight?

What you want is to lose fat; but wait, not necessarily. It is possible to be underweight (especially if you are a teenage model). So, what you really want is to get your bodyfat percentage into the healthy range (10 – 15% for men, 15 – 20% for women).

You especially need to reduce any excess belly fat. Intra-abdominal fat produces inflammatory cytokines, which increases your probability of developing various disease-states, including – but not limited to – heart disease, liver disease, and type 2 diabetes (e.g. see RANTES (Regulated on Activation, Normal T Cell Expressed and Secreted), Inflammation, Obesity, and the Metabolic Syndrome by Christian M. Matter, MD; Christoph Handschin, PhD). How do you know if it’s excess? Well, certainly your circumference at the waist should be smaller than at the hips.

The media likes to pretend there is some exercise, or way of exercising, or amount of exercise you can do that will “melt off the pounds”; this is a proven lie. Reducing your body-fat percentage is primarily about diet, and that is mostly about (pretty severely) restricting grains and sugar. However, there is some exercising involved.

Food

Low-carb: The Institute of Medicine (a sub-unit of the National Academy of Sciences) says that all adults and children need 100-120 grams of carbohydrate per day to provide the brain with glucose (they recommend 130 grams per day to provide a “margin for error” to make sure your brain has enough glucose, but your body can make glucose from protein if necessary). Even 120 grams per day would be half as much as the average American gets (or less). This is not “ketogenic”, not “Atkins.”

As indicated above, it is the grains and sugar that must be targeted for reduction. One serving of veggie and/or fruit per meal would be fine. Fruit should be eaten whole and raw (except tomato, which should be ground into a paste and cooked); vegetables should be whole and cooked (except the green leafy ones, which can be eaten raw).

The healthy fats for humans are (organic) animal fat, fruit fat, and nut fat. All other fats must be strictly limited (and eliminated if possible). All foods really should be organic, but esp. animal fat, because the pollution is in the fat (this is why the animal food, which humans thrived on for all of history until the 20th century, “suddenly” became problematic). Nuts should be dry-roasted, not cooked in oil.

Examples:

Man: 50 grams carbohydrate, 50 grams protein, 50 grams fat x breakfast, lunch and dinner = 2550 calories.

Woman: 35 grams carbohydrate, 35 grams protein, 35 grams fat x breakfast, lunch and dinner = 1785 calories.

Carb-cycling: You need glycogen (the storage form of sugar in your muscles) to power a workout (see below), and this is one of the complaints with low-carb diets. Although the diet I have described is not as low-carb as Atkins or Protein Power, it can still be advantageous to “carb up” before a weight-lifting session.

An extra 50 or so grams of carbohydrate before the gym should be enough to get you a good lift; an extra 50 grams of protein in the 24 hours after you lift will help you recover (recovery’s where you make your gains).

Intermittent Fasting (IF)

Let’s say you get up at 7am, start eating breakfast at 8am, go to school or work, have lunch at lunch-time, then have to run some errands, then make dinner. You had to have a small breakfast so you weren’t late, and a small lunch (lunch “hour”? That’s a cruel joke, huh?), so you need a pretty big dinner. It takes you an hour to eat it, so you don’t get done until 8pm. See how easy it is for your “feeding window” to go 12 hours? In fact, it could easily go longer.

Studies of restricting animals’ feeding window – but not daily calories – indicated the same benefits as caloric restriction (CR). Then, a study on Muslims during Ramadan (no food dawn to dusk for a month) found the same thing in humans: the same improvements in blood markers as CR, without reducing total daily calorie intake (and they were eating at night – not the best time to eat / screws up sleep).

Four benefits of restricting your feeding window:

  • Reduced inflammation
  • Increased insulin sensitivity
  • Improved leptin signaling
  • Give your digestive system a rest

Start by simply restricting your feeding window to 12 hours a day for one week. Then restrict it to 11 hours each day for the second week. Once you’ve achieved that, try going down to 10 hours each day.

Alternatively, you could have a 12 hour feeding window 6 days per week, and one day per week don’t eat anything after breakfast (or before dinner, if that fits your life better); remember to drink water while fasting.

Remember, this is IF, not CR. If you are “skipping meals” or consuming significantly fewer calories than you would if you weren’t IF’ing, you’re doing it wrong. You’re still going to eat breakfast, lunch, and dinner (no snacks) – although maybe not at the same times as other people. And, of course, you still need to get all your nutrients, macro- and micro-; it’s not gonna work if you scarf a ton of junk food.

Update! 11/15/11

Based on the dangers of the post-prandial period, and the naturally high cortisol in the morning, I now recommend eating breakfast at dawn, lunch at noon, and dinner at sundown (those are approximations). As far as IF, don’t eat anything (water only) after noon one day a week.

Exercise

Weight-lifting: If you haven’t yet, learn how to lift weights safely and effectively; there are many sources of information for this. Then begin a progressive weight-lifting program; start with light weight, maybe 5 or 10 lb dumbells, and progress slowly. Utilize only compound movements (involving more than one joint); you are not the next “Ah-nold.”

No more than 2 times per week, and never two days in a row. No exercise the day after you lift weights (recovery’s where you make your gains). One hour one day a week can be enough.

Cardio: Some have opined in recent years that cardio is unnecessary, and for fat-burning that’s true. However, the human digestive system needs a certain amount of walking to function properly. Also, pooping is one of your body’s main detoxification pathways; if the food backs up in the intestines, then the toxins back up into all the tissues of your body. Walking also pumps the lymph fluid through the lymph nodes. That is essential for your immune system, and the lymph has no pump of its own.

3 hours slow – medium speed walking per week (spread over at least 3 days) is minimum for health.

Rest: have at least one, preferably two, days of rest per week.

The Promise of Sleep

William Dement, M.D., Ph.D., the founder of the world’s first sleep lab, wrote a great book that I recommend to everyone called The Promise of Sleep. In it, he documents the myriad mental and physical health problems of chronic sleep deprivation (including a higher probability of increase in bodyfat percentage).

The book Lights Out: Sleep, Sugar and Survival, by T.S. Wiley makes an excellent supplement to Dement. Most people need 6-8 hours per night in the Summer, 7-9 hours per night Spring and Fall, and 8-10 hours per night in the Winter. America is not “magically delicious”; reality does exist here, you cannot ignore your needs without consequence.

Go dim 2 hours before bed, go to bed by midnight, sleep in darkness and quiet, don’t get up before dawn.

Vitamins and Minerals

There are always headlines on magazines like “Vitamins – which ones do you really need?” The answer is… ALL OF THEM, DUMBASS. That’s why they’re called vitamins – organic substances you need in small amounts that your body can’t make. The RDA should be considered a minimum for most vitamins and minerals; some you need more than the RDA, some many times more. (The RDA for copper is good; almost no-one needs more than that.)

Most Americans are deficient in multiple vitamins and minerals; however, if we could correct just the five most common, we could hugely increase health and decrease “health care” costs.

The Big Five

Vitamin C: Every adult needs at least a gram per day. See www.doctoryourself.com and www.vitamincfoundation.org.

Vitamin D: Every adult needs at least 1000 IU’s per day. The ideal blood level of 25 (OH) D is 50 ng/mL. Many people will need 5000 IU per day to hit that blood level; some will need 8-10,000 IU per day to achieve the blood level of 50.

“Vitamin” D is “technically” not a vitamin, because you can make it. Anywhere north of the southernmost row of states of the continental U.S., UV B to make vitamin D is available only between 10am and 2pm in Summer, and between 11am and 1pm Spring and Fall (none in Winter). You need 15-20 minutes on bare skin without sunscreen within that window; avoid the sun the rest of the time (outside that window, you can get enough UV A to get melanoma without getting any UV B to make vitamin D).

If you take a pill, it should be liquid inside a gelcap, and D3 (cholecalciferol) not D2 (ergocalciferol). There was no amount of ergocalciferol in any human body before the 20th century.

See The Vitamin D Council.

Magnesium: According to the NIH, in addition to being essential for bone health, “Magnesium is needed for more than 300 biochemical reactions in the body.” The RDA is about 300mg for women and 400mg for men (and most Americans are not even getting this much). However, you should get calcium and magnesium in a 2:1 ratio; so, if you are getting 1000mg of calcium per day, shouldn’t you get 500mg magnesium per day? Most people – especially women – have gotten the message about calcium, but are still deficient in the mag.

Calcium is constricting, whereas magnesium is relaxing – and you can only absorb so much of the two at one time; so maybe best to take cal separate from mag, with mag in the evening before bed?

Iodine: This is one of the two components of thyroid hormone (the other being the amino acid tyrosine), but you need iodine for a whole lot more than that. It turns out there are iodine receptors throughout the body (and women need just as much as men despite the smaller body because of a large number of iodine receptors in the breasts).

The RDA of 150mcg should be considered bare bones minimum, with one to 1 – 1.5mg probably being ideal for most. Japanese people living in Japan consume between 1 – 13 mg per day with no ill effect. See The Safe and Effective Implementation of Orthoiodosupplementation In Medical Practice by Guy E. Abraham, MD, and Iodine: Why You Need It, Why You Can’t Live Without It , Overcoming Thyroid Disorders by Dr. David Brownstein (some videos of him at http://www.vitamincfoundation.org/videos/#BROWNSTEIN).

Zinc: The RDA for adult females is only 8mg per day, for adult males only 11mg per day. Women should get 10-15mg per day, and men 30-50mg per day.

Men especially need zinc, because it is essential to the making of testosterone, and inhibits the conversion of T to estrogen. (Most men get no benefit from more than 50mg per day; DO NOT consume more than 100mg per day from food and supplements combined.)

The Ingredients

You have to get in the habit of checking what’s in your food. Look on the package, not for fat or sugar measurements – that table is very misleading – but for the part below that called “Ingredients”. If you see “partially hydrogenated vegetable oil” or “high fructose corn syrup”, don’t buy, don’t eat it.

Copyright 2011 Jeffrey A. Brauer

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