A New Look at the Obesity Epidemic
Sep 06, 2011 08:13PM
By John E. Whitcomb, M.D.
Over the past 100 years, Americans have discovered tens of thousands new chemicals, many of which were intended to add immeasurably to our health, wealth and happiness, yet are now being found to alter our bodies in ways we never imagined. For example, Atrazine, an herbicide banned in Europe, but commonly used to treat corn crops in the United States and Canada, has been linked to prostate and breast cancers and cited as an endocrine disruptor by Tyrone Hayes, a professor of developmental endocrinology at UC Berkeley, who has researched the chemical’s demasculinizing effect on frogs. The Wisconsin Department of Health Services reported widespread contamination of rural well water, with Atrazine in concentrations of more than three parts per billion, the maximum standard allowed by federal and state law.
Another chemical, bisphenol-A (BPA), has been linked to breast and prostate cancers and infertility, among other diseases, according to research collected by Environmental Working Group (EWG). The chemical, found in polycarbonate plastic and the lining of canned foods, can leach into water and food products. EWG states that most canned foods are contaminated at levels that pose potential health risks.
In addition to chemical conundrums, the standard American diet causes significant problems. Eating a meal containing trans fats, for instance, measurably affects the flexibility of artery walls within 30 minutes, while ingesting fructose and consuming too much fat has been linked to poorly functioning livers.
These combined factors have resulted in the profound alteration of human metabolism in ways that could not have been anticipated 20 years ago. Hormonal imbalances are common. Our blood is loaded with abnormal fats.
The rate of obesity has risen to epidemic proportions. More than 60 percent of all Americans are overweight or obese. The solution usually proposed is to exercise more and eat less in order to lose the extra weight, yet knowing this has not had the power to turn the tide. In fact, it has been an absolute failure.
A different hypothesis may be in order. Although the cause of obesity is certainly too many calories, perhaps the root of the problem is that the calories are being automatically stored, rather than burned. This may happen because insulin, the hormone that lowers blood sugar, is also the hormone that stores calories. With insulin resistance, when someone eats the recommended 2,000 calories, for example, the body may store 400 of them. The body must then live on 1,600 calories, instead of 2,000, and may feel tired and/or ill.
When the body’s natural hormonal balance is disrupted by toxins, the metabolism and internal hormonal balance eventually leads to an increase in fat cells. The incremental changes occurring within cells can go unnoticed until weight gain has taken over.
The body can cope with the gradual slide into insulin resistance, calorie storage and fat cell proliferation for years before succumbing completely to its devastation. From its start in the childhood years, the imbalance can lead to fatty streaks in the arteries in teenage years, which can lead to high blood pressure in the 20s and 30s, diabetes in the 40s, a heart attack at 55 and Alzheimer's disease at 70.
Understanding the whole picture can help us create effective solutions. To lose weight, the body must be detoxified and digestion improved. Nutrient deficiencies must be resolved. Eating organic food is a start. Bad habits, such as compulsively eating ice cream every night, must be changed. Good water filters can reduce toxins like BPA and Atrazine, commonly present in our daily life. Thyroid health and a proper balance of hormones like estrogen, insulin and testosterone, must be maintained.
Although each individual is responsible for what they eat, it's not solely their fault that they are overweight. The world is replete with toxins and unhealthy foods containing preservatives and other chemical additives. Feeling awful can increase one’s likelihood of making poor choices.
Until the world changes, the only way out is to band together and make individual corners of the toxic world a bit safer. When critical mass is reached, policies and laws will change. In the meantime, it's up to individuals to do it on their own.
John Whitcomb, M.D.—board certified in anti-aging and fellowship trained in biochemical and nutritional medicine—is Wisconsin's first physician to be enrolled in the University of Southern Florida's certification program in weight loss. Brookfield Longevity Medical Clinic is located at 17585 W. North Ave., Ste. 160, in Brookfield. For more information, call 262-784-5300 or visit LiveLongMD.com.