By Tom, on October 13th, 2010
We are in the middle of an “obesity epidemic,” something that wasn’t a problem half a century ago. The strange thing about this epidemic is that we are much more health conscience as a nation than we were all those years ago.
The government wants to lay the blame on the individual. Although there is some social responsibility, it is not primarily the individual’s fault. I lay the most blame on our government’s involvement in our diet, plus their subsidizing of corn, and the industrialization of agriculture. All of these are related. None of them are easy to fix on a national scale, but can be repaired with a few lifestyle changes on a personal, family, and community scale.
In the 1970s, the Government of the United States of America decided that our diet would be national policy. Ours is the only government in the world that would feel comfortable telling its citizens what to eat. I don’t necessarily want to talk politics in this article, but I feel the government is focusing on the wrong things. They should be making sure our food is safe. They shouldn’t be telling us what food will make us healthy. When our health becomes their policy, it also becomes the policy of lobbyists.
Most governments would be overthrown if they insulted their people by telling them what to eat. The people of France are proud of their food heritage. They have lower obesity rates then we do and they eat what they love. Our government tells us we shouldn’t eat fat, sugar, and salt and we have an extremely high ratio of overweight and obese people to healthy people.
Our national diet was developed mostly by a man named Ancel Keys. He was on a mission to conquer the heart disease “epidemic” in the middle of the 20th century (I inserted the quotes because whether there was an actually increase of in heart disease, or coroners started calling deaths by natural causes heart disease deaths is up for debate). Keys decided that the “Mediterranean diet” was the best one to prevent heart disease. It’s the “heart healthy” diet consisting of fish, pasta, and olive oil. It is naturally high in carbohydrates and low in fat. He decided that since the Mediterranean people had such low levels of cholesterol that the United States should copy this diet. 1
The only problem is that cholesterol doesn’t cause heart disease, and by association neither does saturated fat. Cholesterol isn’t even a good indicator of whether you will have a heart attack or not. Blood tests on people who have died of heart disease have wildly different cholesterol levels, ranging from extremely low to excessively high. Cholesterol was blamed early on because the test for cholesterol was the only tool available. Cholesterol continues to be blamed for heart disease because the powers that be don’t want to admit they’re wrong.
They have changed their tune a little bit by adding triglycerides as a risk factor. Triglycerides are indeed a risk factor for heart disease. Eating fat doesn’t increase your triglycerides, eating carbohydrates does. High blood triglycerides are the result of carbohydrates being converted into triglycerides by your liver. If you don’t use carbohydrates immediately upon entering your body, your body stores them. The only times when carbohydrates are not stored (as triglycerides) are during and immediately following intense exercise.
The US government, heavily influenced by industry, says that you can eat things that are bad for your health and still lose weight, as long as you exercise all those calories off. Exercise, however, is not a weight-loss solution. Your body has a built-in system of homeostasis. It likes where it’s at whether it’s at a healthy weight or not. Starvation, induced by eating less or by burning more calories, will cause your body keep storing energy, while supplying less energy to other bodily functions.
This homeostasis is supposed to work the other direction, keeping you at a healthy weight by increasing energy output when the stores are full. In the obese, and diabetic, there is a flaw in metabolism. It causes your body to put fat storage before every other bodily function. That flaw is most likely caused by an abnormal diet filled with refined carbohydrates and sugar. The blame here lies on the government subsidies of corn.
In Part 2, I’ll talk about the consequences of our government’s love affair with the commodity of corn.
1. To Keys’ credit, on his Mediterranean diet, he lived to be 100 years old. Of course there is no way of telling whether this was due to his diet or one of many other factors e.g. genes or vitamin D sufficiency (he lived in Italy for the last 28 years of his life)
This can also be found on The Health Accomplice.