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Analysis posted May 07 2012, 2:53 PM Category: Health Source: Gary Taubes Print

Why the Campaign to Stop America's Obesity Crisis Keeps Failing

by Gary Taubes

I can't recommend Gary Taubes' book highly enough. I've been on the paleo diet for perhaps two months now and I'm leaner than ever. Trying to control your weight through portion control is a fool's game. The weight just melts off you when you're not choking down grains.

I must say I find it hilarious eating basically the opposite of what the government recommends is actually the healthiest thing you can do.

The state says eat a high carb, low fat diet, and as Taubes shows that horrible advice created the obesity epidemic. In reality, you should be eating a high fat, low carb diet. It's hilarious how all the "help" the state gives us always has the opposite effect.

Thank goodness we have the internet now and can circumvent such state propaganda! - Chris
The nation's most powerful anti-obesity groups are teaming up for a new HBO documentary--but it pushes the same tired advice. Gary Taubes on the research they're ignoring.

Most of my favorite factoids about obesity are historical ones, and they don't make it into the new, four-part HBO documentary on the subject, The Weight of the Nation. Absent, for instance, is the fact that the very first childhood-obesity clinic in the United States was founded in the late 1930s at Columbia University by a young German physician, Hilde Bruch. As Bruch later told it, her inspiration was simple: she arrived in New York in 1934 and was "startled" by the number of fat kids she saw--"really fat ones, not only in clinics, but on the streets and subways, and in schools."

What makes Bruch's story relevant to the obesity problem today is that this was New York in the worst year of the Great Depression, an era of bread lines and soup kitchens, when 6 in 10 Americans were living in poverty. The conventional wisdom these days--promoted by government, obesity researchers, physicians, and probably your personal trainer as well--is that we get fat because we have too much to eat and not enough reasons to be physically active. But then why were the PC- and Big Mac---deprived Depression-era kids fat? How can we blame the obesity epidemic on gluttony and sloth if we easily find epidemics of obesity throughout the past century in populations that barely had food to survive and had to work hard to earn it?

These seem like obvious questions to ask, but you won't get the answers from the anti-obesity establishment, which this month has come together to unfold a major anti-fat effort, including The Weight of the Nation, which begins airing May 14 and "a nationwide community-based outreach campaign." The project was created by a coalition among HBO and three key public-health institutions: the nonprofit Institute of Medicine, and two federal agencies, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and the National Institutes of Health. Indeed, it is unprecedented to have the IOM, CDC, and NIH all supporting a single television documentary, says producer John Hoffmann. The idea is to "sound the alarm" and motivate the nation to act.

At its heart is a simple "energy balance" idea: we get fat because we consume too many calories and expend too few. If we could just control our impulses--or at least control our environment, thereby removing temptation--and push ourselves to exercise, we'd be fine. This logic is everywhere you look in the official guidelines, commentary, and advice. "The same amount of energy IN and energy OUT over time = weight stays the same," the NIH website counsels Americans, while the CDC site tells us, "Overweight and obesity result from an energy imbalance."

The problem is, the solutions this multi-level campaign promotes are the same ones that have been used to fight obesity for a century--and they just haven't worked. "We are struggling to figure this out," NIH Director Francis Collins conceded to Newsweek last week. When I interviewed CDC obesity expert William Dietz back in 2001, he told me that his primary accomplishment had been getting childhood obesity "on the map." "It's now widely recognized as a major health problem in the United States," he said then--and that was 10 years and a few million obese children ago.

There is an alternative theory, one that has also been around for decades but that the establishment has largely ignored. This theory implicates specific foods--refined sugars and grains--because of their effect on the hormone insulin, which regulates fat accumulation. If this hormonal-defect hypothesis is true, not all calories are created equal, as the conventional wisdom holds. And if it is true, the problem is not only controlling our impulses, but also changing the entire American food economy and rewriting our beliefs about what constitutes a healthy diet.

Oddly, this nutrient-hormone-fat interaction is not particularly controversial. You can find it in medical textbooks as the explanation for why our fat cells get fat. But the anti-obesity establishment doesn’t take the next step: that fat fat cells lead to fat humans. In their eyes, yes, insulin regulates how much fat gets trapped in your fat cells, and the kinds of carbohydrates we eat today pretty much drive up your insulin levels. But, they conclude, while individual cells get fat that way, the reason an entire human gets fat has nothing to do with it. We’re just eating too much.

I’ve been arguing otherwise. And one reason I like this hormonal hypothesis of obesity is that it explains the fat kids in Depression-era New York. As the extreme situation of exceedingly poor populations shows, the problem could not have been that they ate too much, because they didn’t have enough food available. The problem then—as now, across America—was the prevalence of sugars, refined flour, and starches in their diets. These are the cheapest calories, and they can be plenty tasty without a lot of preparation and preservation. And the biology suggests that they are literally fattening—they make us fat, while other foods (fats, proteins, and green leafy vegetables) don’t.

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Comments 1 - 3 of 3 Add Comment Page 1 of 1
Anonymous

Posted: May 07 2012, 3:02 PM

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76193 Nobody needs the government to tell us why we're fat. It's obvious that large amounts of fat and chemical intake combined with lack of movement (remotes) and quests for even more leisure is probably not the last place to look. Then again, satiated, overweight, lethargic citizens are just what the totalitarian governments prefer to avoid revolutions.

Grow up america!
Chris

Posted: May 07 2012, 3:10 PM

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It's not the fat though, it's the *lack* of fat which is killing us.

When the government started pushing the low-fat nonsense and consumers ate it up all the food companies started to make their foods low fat and high in sugar, the lack of fat makes the food not filling, and consumers overeat because their body's signals are out of whack.

When you actually do eat high fat meats & butter etc., you eat much less and you're satisfied with a fraction of the food, also you're satisfied for longer.

Also, while the lack of exercise might contribute to obesity, it's likely the act of eating bad food ruins your body's drive to exercise, these days now that I'm eating high fat, low carb, I have tons of excess energy I'm driven to burn off.
Anonymous

Posted: May 07 2012, 7:09 PM

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1997 Fats are an essential nutrient. You can actually die without any oil intake. That being said not all fats are good for you. Animal fats like beef or pork clog your arteries and lead to heart disease and stroke. Fish oils and polyunsaturated oils like canola are good for you. You don't get fat from consuming oils as much as you do from complex carbs and excesses of sugar combined with inactivity.

The whole low fat and fat free craze came from advertisers marketing existing properties of their products. So they plaster "low in fat" on their package but don't put "high in calories" and the average idiot is too ignorant to know what that actually means.

The government sponsored food guide was lobbied by the agriculture and meat industries to help that sector of the economy grow it's market share.

The simple cause of the childhood obesity problem is parents making poor nutritional choices for their children. There is no one else to blame.


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