Health column by Dr. Greg Feinsinger. Champion of Whole Food Plant Based Living and righteous person.
“The inability of countries around the world to turn the tide on obesity “is not a failure of individual will-power…It is a failure of political will to take on the powerful food and soda industries.” Director-General of the World Health Organization
Dr. Michael Greger, famous for books such as “How Not to Die” and his website nutritionfacts.org, is recognized nationally and internationally as one of the world’s foremost experts on evidence-based nutrition. His book “How Not to Diet” came out in 2020.
In addition to COVID, we’re facing an obesity epidemic in this country—and it’s actually a pandemic as we spread our diet throughout the world. Seventy-one percent of American adults are overweight, and forty percent of American men and women are obese. It hasn’t always been like this. Over the past century, and particularly since the 1970s, obesity has jumped tenfold, from one in thirty people to one in three. Obesity is affecting our kids as well; even young children are developing hypertension and what we used to call adult-onset diabetes.
Obese individuals want to believe that the problem is the fat gene (called FTO), but Dr. Greger points out that this gene only accounts for 0.34 percent of obesity, and that even if you have a genetic predisposition towards obesity “the power of your genes is nothing compared to the power of your fork.” The food industry would have us believe that the problem is lack of exercise, but the level of exercise didn’t decrease in the seventies, when the obesity epidemic really took off.
Here’s what did happen: 1) Food companies started to exploit our evolutionary preference for “sweet, starchy, fatty foods…where…calories are concentrated.” 2) “Thanks in part to government subsidies, meats, sweets, eggs, oils, dairy, and soda were all getting relatively cheaper…whereas the relative cost of fresh fruits and vegetables doubled.” 3) In 1981 the primary goal of corporations went from considering the public good to “maximizing short-term returns for investors.” 4) Portion sizes increased in restaurants. 5) Food companies started “blocking health regulations, co-opting professional organizations, creating front groups, distorting…science,” and hiring hundreds of lobbyists to influence legislation. 6) The food industry started “stripping down crops into almost pure calories”: sugar, oil, and white flour, known as “calorie-rich and processed foods” (the acronym is CRAP).
Obesity is defined as a BMI (body mass index) of 30 or more; overweight is a BMI of 25 to 29.9; and a normal BMI is traditionally defined as 18.5 to 24.9. Some studies in the past were interpreted as showing that being a few pounds overweight was beneficial, but after analyzing these studies further it was determined that ideal BMI is 20 to 22. If you know your height and weight, it’s easy to figure out your BMI on the internet.
Following are some of the health problems associated with being overweight: 1) degenerative arthritis, particularly of the hip and knee; 2) gout; 3) back pain; 3) elevated cholesterol, LDL, and triglycerides; 4) atherosclerosis, the cause of heart attacks and most strokes; 5) many types of cancer—due at least in part to the inflammation and higher estrogen levels associated with excess fat; 6) diabetes; 7) brain fog and dementia; 8) male and female infertility; 8) gallbladder stones; 9) acid reflux: 10) decreased immunity (obesity is a risk factor for severe COVID disease); 11) fatty liver; 12) chronic kidney disease; 13) diminished lung function; 14) shortened lifespan.
Obesity costs approximately $2,000 per person per year, and is a trillion-dollar drag on the economy. Future columns will discuss the most effective ways to lose weight for those who need to.