Day 154–On Obesity and Industrial Food

Newsweek┬ájust featured a story on why the obesity epidemic is so pervasive (hint: it’s not that we’re lazier as a society) and now the Huffington Post has published a thoughtful article about why we diet but can’t lose weight. I’m reprinting part of it here with a link to the whole article. It is definitely worth a read! Click HERE for the Newsweek article and see below for the Huff Post piece.

The Last Diet You Will Ever Need

by Mark Hyman, MD

Why is it that we believe we can feed our bodies industrial, nutrient-depleted food-like substances empty of life and be healthy? How did we come to believe that food industry chemicals and processing could replace nature-made foods?

A hundred years ago all food was organic, local, seasonal, fresh or naturally-preserved by ancient methods. All food was food. Now less than 3 percent of our agricultural land is used to grow fruits and vegetables, which should make up 80 percent of our diet. Today there are not even enough fruits and vegetables in this country to allow all Americans to follow the government guidelines to eat five to nine servings a day.

What most of us are left with is industrial food. And who knows what lurks in the average boxed, packaged, or canned factory-made science project.

When a French fry has more than 20 ingredients and almost all of them are not potato, or when a fast food hamburger contains very little meat, or when the average teenager consumes 34 teaspoons of sugar a day, we are living in a food nightmare, a sci-fi horror show.

The very fact that we are having a national conversation about what we should eat, that we are struggling with the question about what the best diet is, is symptomatic of how far we have strayed from the natural conditions that gave rise to our species, from the simple act of eating real, whole, fresh food. When it becomes a revolutionary act to eat real food, we are in trouble.

The food industry, which is the second biggest employer in America after the federal government, heavily influences the media and government agencies that regulate it (U.S. Department of Agriculture, Food and Drug Administration and Congress) and intentionally confuses and confounds us.

Low-fat is good — so anything with a “low-fat” on the label must be healthy. But Coke is 100 percent fat-free and that doesn’t make it a health food. Now we are told to eat more whole grains, so a few flecks of whole grains are sprinkled on sugary cereals. That doesn’t make them a health food either.

The best advice is to avoid foods with health claims on the label, or better yet avoid foods with labels in the first place.

In the 21st century our tastes buds, our brain chemistry, our biochemistry, our hormones and our kitchens have been hijacked by the food industry. The food-like substances proffered by the industrial food system food trick our taste buds into momentary pleasure, but not our biology, which reacts, rejects and reviles the junk plied on our genes and our hormonal and biochemical pathways. We need to unjunk our biology.

Industrial processing has given rise to an array of addictive, fattening, metabolism-jamming chemicals and compounds including aspartame, MSG (monosodium glutamate), high-fructose corn syrup and trans fats, to name the biggest offenders.

MSG is used to create fat mice so researchers can study obesity. MSG is an excito-toxin that stimulates your brain to eat uncontrollably. When fed to mice, they pig out and get fat. It is in 80 percent of processed foods and mostly disguised as “natural flavorings.”

And trans fat, for example, is derived from a real food — vegetable oil — chemically altered to resist degradation by bacteria, which is why modern cookies last on the shelf for years.

But the ancient energy system of your cells is descended from bacteria and those energy factories, or mitochondria, cannot process these trans fats either. Your metabolism is blocked and weight gain and Type 2 diabetes ensue.

Your tongue can be fooled and your brain can become addicted to the slick combinations of fat, sugar, and salt pumped into factory-made foods, but your biochemistry cannot, and the result is the disaster of obesity and chronic disease we have in America today.

No wonder 68 percent of Americans are overweight. No wonder that from 1960 to today obesity rates have risen from 13 percent to 36 percent and soon will reach 42 percent. Over the last decade the rate of pre-diabetes or diabetes in teenagers has risen from 9 percent to 23 percent.

Really? Almost one in four of our kids now has pre-diabetes or Type 2 diabetes? And 37 percent of normal weight kids have one or more cardiovascular risk factors, such as high blood pressure, high cholesterol or high blood sugar, because even though factory food doesn’t make them fat, it makes them sick!

It is time to take our kitchens and our homes back. Transforming the food industry seems monumental, a gigantic undertaking. But it is not. It is a small problem. In the small places in our lives, our shopping carts, the fridge, the cupboard, the kitchen and on our dining room table is where all the power is.

Read more at http://www.huffingtonpost.com/dr-mark-hyman/food-industry_b_1559920.html

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