When I went on vacation in January, the number of people , young and old and many children were waddling around on the beach, carrying many extra pounds amid their girth. The usual liver bellies on the obvious beer drinkers, were among an excess of overweight couples that were not beer drinkers. Even the beach security guard was at least 300 pounds, his excess was spilling over the wall he was constantly sitting on with his cell phone. Governments and the WHO are talking about it, many studies are being commissioned, many high level meetings with industry getting together to discuss the deepening problem attempting to agree on a common consensus on how to solve the problem which has now become a pandemic. A global epidemic that is worsening as government officials and captains of the food industry sit around trying to find answers, more exercise maybe, adults are eating too much, parents not taking responsibility for what their children are eating perhaps. The food industry is not taking any responsibility and actually saying that they offer many health choices. Here are some quotes from the food industry:
“The problem is the presumption that we are talking about bad food”
“It is the parents who have to take responsibility for what their child eats”
“As a company over many years we have promoted a healthy active lifestyle”
Well the question is if the above statements are true than it must be what all of these discussions and the multitude of studies are concluding that the ‘Globesity’ crisis is caused by two simple facts :
- People are consuming too much food
- Lack of exercise
In this series of articles we will discuss the facts that are driving this obesity crisis, the position of governments and corporations that are part of the food supply, and the biological reasons that cause excessive weight gain, but first of all let us investigate how we got here in the first place
How bad is it
The CDC National Center for Health Statistics (NCHS) released the statistics in October 2017 and its grim reading as you can see :
Obese adults aged 40-59 account for 42.8%, of the US Population
Which amounts to 4 in 10 adults
( 12.7% asians, 47% Hispanic, 46.8% African American and 37.9% caucasian)
Adults aged 20-39 was 35.7%
Adults ages 60+ was 41%
20.6% of adolescents aged 12-19 years,
18.4% of children ages 6-11
13.9% of children 2-5 years.
So obese adults in general total around 40% of the US population and in 1960 it was 13%. Which amounts to approx 130 million today and in 1960 it was approx 43 million. This is roughly 655,000/year. In the UK 62.5 adults are either overweight or obese which amounts to ⅔ of men and 6 in 10 women. Let us widen the statistics to global figures. according to WHO in 2016 1.9 billion adults 18 years and older were overweight while 650 million were obese. Global obesity has tripled since 1975 and 41 million children under the age of 5 were overweight or obese in 2016, while 340 million children aged between 5-19 were overweight or obese in 2016. In essence there are 1 in 6 people globally that are overweight and 1 in 12 are obese…
‘1 in 6 people globally are overweight and 1 in 12 are obese.’
These are staggering numbers..this will soon be planet Girth not planet Earth.
HOW DID WE GET HERE ??
How did we get here ?
Emergency services cannot use helicopter air ambulances in some patients who are obese simply because the ambulance is unable to lift off due the weight of the patient. Twenty seven % of army recruits cannot enlist because they are too heavy and overweight. Men and women since 1960 have gained weight from 166 pounds (75 kg) to 196 pounds ( 89 kg) for men and 140 pounds ( 84 kg) to 169 pounds (77 kg) in women by 2014. Globally, 24% boys and 23% girls are overweight or obese. At one point some airlines were charging a single obese passenger for 2 seats. Governments want to be seen to be doing something and commission study after study to try and find answers, but they appear to be fixated on this old paradigm on calories in vs calories out, or eating too much and not getting enough exercise. Maintaining this simplistic view of obesity takes the onus off of food companies who produce food to make a profit, and this view of not enough exercise puts the onus on the consumer and ‘blows the smoke away from the food corporations and indeed the government. This contemptuous attitude has turned on its heels and these institutions, certainly the governments are paying for it, so justice is served, but like all situations the consumer loses in the long run especially when health care services are running on empty financial budgets.
National Health care expenditures
Certainly the National Health service in the UK have already shut down wards, and patients are told to go home and suffer and wait until what ??..they die. Even the US health service is in financial trouble. In the UK the health service spends approx 5.1 Billion pounds ( $6.9 Billion) dealing with ill health caused by obesity, and $190 billion in the US. So in the UK $6.9 Billion is spent to to treat 43 million obese patients and in the US $190 Billion is spent to treat 130 million, there appears to be great disparity here since by UK figures it would only cost $ 20.7 billion if the UK had the same amount of obese people as in the US, 130 million, so what is the US spending on to make up this vast difference of $170 billion ??. In Canada the rate of obesity as of 2017 for 15 years and older is 26 % of the population of 36.2 million which equates to 9,4 million obese adults costing an Canadian health care approx $5.85 Billion. Table 1 summarises obesity levels vs annual health care costs for the US,UK and Canada.
Table 1 Obesity levels vs health care costs in 3 westernized countries
|Country||Population (million)||# of Obese adults||Healthcare Costs|
|US||325.7||130 million||$190 billion|
|Canada||36.29||9.4 million||$5.85 billion|
|UK||65.64||43 million||$6.9 billion|
In one article on Canadian obesity it states that there’s not a single province where a majority of adults are of normal or low weight. Ontario has the highest proportion, at 41.9%.
‘This crisis is not going away and conventional medicine are not going to drug their way out of this one’.
So, how did we get here ??..well I suppose the reasons are multifaceted, but one reason is attributable to one man, Earl Butz the elected US government official who served as Secretary of agriculture under presidents Nixon and Ford between the years Dec 1971 to Oct 1976. In the 5 years he was in office he was able to do considerable damage from his policies that pushed for large scale industrial farming, and abolishing a program that paid farmers not to plant all of their land allowing this land to replenish its nutrient content. Because food prices had risen, causing consumer outcry, his idea was to saturate the market with an oversupply of corn to drive the price down. It could however be argued that he was trying to do something positive for the consumer. In parallel with this, research that had begun in the 50s and 60s toward inventing a corn sweetener, which was the perfect time to use the excess corn produced, and in 1984 High Fructose Corn Syrup (HFCS) became available and since it was a ⅓ cheaper than sugar the food industries making fast food and processed food embraced it by replacing the sugar in all their foods with HFCS. From a business point of view it made perfect sense but for the consumer it was the start of a tsunami of obesity. The soda beverage companies followed suit. This massive change fuelled the increasing obesity problem that had begun in the 70s, so most food and drink made on a corporate scale now contain this poisonous substance, creating not only a surge in obesity but metabolic syndrome as well. Nobody realised what was going on until the CDC began mapping obesity rates across the states in the late 80s. You can view these maps on the link below:
Then in 1977, commissioned by US senator George Mcgovern released the ‘Dietary goals of the US’ stating that in 1976 every man, woman and child in the US consumed 125 pounds of fat and 100 pounds of sugar, doubling our intake of soda drinking an average of 295 * 12 oz cans of soda. Also highlighting that in the early 1900’s 40% of caloric intake came from fruits, vegetables and grains and now in 1977 less than 20% are derived from these foods. This administration is determined :
‘Those of us within government have an obligation to acknowledge this. This public wants some guidance, wants to know the truth, and hopefully today we can lay the cornerstone for the building of better health for all Americans, through better nutrition’
Empty words that, ignored by those that could have made a difference but chose to lead the American Nation and other nations that followed the US guidelines down the road of fat sickness and misery. The trend charts shown on the CDC website substantiate my comments. In 1990 obesity rates were either less than 10% or between 10-14% throughout the US. In 2010 the rates varied between 20- 30% or > 30%.
So what were the dietary goals ?:
- Increase carbohydrate consumption accounting for 55-60% of energy caloric intake
- Reduce overall fat consumption from approx 40-30%
- Reduce saturated fat to 10% in balance with poly/mono unsaturated fat to 10%
- Reduce sugar intake by 40% accounting for 15% intake
- Reduce cholesterol to about 300 mg/day
- Reduce salt consumption by 50-85% to 3 gms/day
In terms of dietary choices :
- Increase consumption of fruit and vegetables and whole grains
- Decrease consumption of meat and increase poultry and fish consumption
- Decrease foods high in fat and partially substitute polyunsaturated fat for saturated fat
- Substitute non fat milk for whole milk
- Decrease butterfat, eggs and other high cholesterol sources
- Decrease sugar and high sugar foods
- Decrease salt and high salt foods
Even at this time there were conflicting views toward cholesterol intake. The American Heart Association suggested a reduction even further to the suggested 300 mg/day, while the Canadian Department of National Health and Welfare said…”evidence is mounting that dietary cholesterol may not be important to the great majority of people”. Somebody also commented on the recommendations to reduce animal fat intake by saying that…”many vegetable oils used in cooking are discarded and not consumed..” I am sure that the American Heart Association would be horrified if they discovered that the liver produces more than 2000 mg/day of Cholesterol, and that most cholesterol foods that are in ‘ester or storage form’ is discarded by the body anyway, unless the liver has time to convert it. The other comment that vegetable oils used in cooking are not consumed; well what about the already damaged hydrogenated oil absorbed by the food itself, will this not be consumed together, oil and food.
Who or what else fuelled the obesity fire
We cannot forget Chicagoan David Wallerstein who died in 1993 aged 87 who introduced the large popcorn bucket into movie theatres and then joined the board of Mcdonalds in 1968 as requested by Ray Kroc the founder, eventually convincing him that ‘supersizing’ food portions is the way of the future. The largest soda size in the 50’s was 7oz ( 220 ml) which contained approx 24 g of sugar, an example of a classic coca cola. This equates to about 10.6g ( 2 teaspoons of sugar)/100 ml. So a supersize cup of 32 oz ( 946 ml ) will be 94.6g ( 18 teaspoons of sugar), but now there is a 64 oz soda available weighing in at 36 teaspoons of sugar or more, depending on the brand. HFCS is the same as refined sugar, a 1: 1 relationship of glucose and fructose, the liver is the only organ that can metabolise fructose and it is recommended that on average no more than 30mg of fructose should be consumed daily before the liver becomes overloaded and begins storing the excess as fatty adipose tissue, so drinking just one 32 oz soda will intake 47 mg of fructose in one beverage.
More fuel for the fire
In 2004/2005 the US senate approved the Personal responsibility in food consumption act to protect food and agriculture industries from being sued by obese consumers. This appears to be a carbon copy as it were, of the bill that was passed in 1986 protecting Pharmaceutical companies from being sued for vaccine damage. In my opinion both bills serve as a testament that all parties are aware of the consequences building a ring fence around the manufacturer’s as opposed to enforcing the companies to rethink the ingredients of their products both in processed food and vaccines. Ok, who’s going to eat all their rotten food when everybody is dying of chronic inflammation and metabolic syndrome. Bruce Lee associate professor of international health at Johns Hopkins states that :
“Our health-care system is keeping us from turning back obesity in America”.
He states that various obesity related diseases claim 400,000 lives annually and $191 billion in health care costs.(21% of all medical expenditure), and as we stated above, in the last 35 years obesity levels have increased from 15% to 35%. His tripartite of blame concerns failed incentives because the average primary care physician only earns $220,942 versus $471,555 for a dermatologist. How do they keep up their mortgage and bmw payments with such low salaries ?. In addition, physicians are overloaded with disease diagnosis,treatment and associated paperwork, and that they would need an additional 7.4 hours extra to deal with Obesity. In addition, they have to satisfy the preventative measures as stipulated by the US Preventive Services task force. Well I can understand their predicament. But if the system conducted true health care there would be less patients to see, to free up their time.
Secondly, lack of medical training to combat obesity such as nutrition, physical activity, psychology, epidemiology ( to determine why certain people get sick), economics, health and food marketing. Mr Lee claims that primary care physicians have very little knowledge of the 4 major obesity guidelines and have no idea what treatments can be used to help obese patients lose weight and get healthier. He also states that although health care has made some effort toward understanding the biological processes behind obesity..which could lead to developing more medications…WHAT ?? I’m sorry but the last thing obese people need is more poisonous chemicals to destabilise their already physiological and nutrient imbalance, and as I stated above the medical profession is not going to medicate their way out of this one..and he goes on to say that less effort has been made to discover the factors that affect diet, physical activity, metabolism and weight. Obesity is a complex health problem involving one’s biology, food access, education and a myriad of factors. I am sorry to interject here but obesity is not a complex problem, biologically, obesity is a nutrient deficiency problem, driven by the abundant availability of cheap poisonous oils and very palatible addictive foods. When we discuss the science behind obesity I believe the explanation will become clear.
Thirdly, there is a limited role taken by physicians by advising patients to improve their diet and increase their physical activity, and that physicians play no role toward other aspect such as access to fresh fruit and vegetables in their particular neighborhood, access to green spaces, food and beverage regulation, gym memberships, gym access. While I agree that there are certain environmental factors that are vital in combating obesity, the primary care physicians have a full plate in helping the chronic sick suffering from many other health challenges. The government will never regulate food and beverage because the food and agriculture industries are powerful lobbyists. Some years ago WHO were going to publish a report implicating sugar as a likely culprit to the obesity crisis until the sugar association blackmailed the WHO threatening to withdraw $406 million/ann that the sugar industry pays, and as a consequence the report was buried.
Please forgive my air of sarcasm but it is directed to the medical system and not the individual physician who do their best to treat the sick but are hampered by medical training which is unsuitable for the human organism. They are victims of a profit driven health care system, shackled to a pharmacological system of treatment that address physiological symptoms, providing nothing toward its resolution. Only nature provides the solutions to human ailments including obesity. The statistics shown above are nothing less than horrific that could have been avoided and prevented. Apart from one or two dietary goals and choices, the dietary guidelines were on the right track and could have gone a long way in reducing the outrageous obesity levels that the world is facing today. Too much talk and paper and not enough action has brought us to this position and even when JP Morgan informed the food companies that the obesity crisis could have a significant impact on their investments, they still chose to do nothing, hanging on to their blind truths that it is a consumer responsibility not a corporate responsibility. Instead of boycotting this harmful food, consumers are still eating it because of access to healthier food and more importantly nutritional ignorance from both the healthcare system and the consumers themselves. In the next article we will explore how we get fat.
“Morgan Spurlock: After six months of deliberation, Judge Robert Sweet dismissed the lawsuit against McDonald’s. The big reason? The two girls failed to show that eating McDonald’s food was what caused their injuries. Interesting, in only thirty days of eating nothing but McDonald’s I gained twenty-four and a half pounds, my liver turned to fat and my cholesterol shot up sixty-five points. My body fat percentage went from eleven to eighteen percent, still below the national average of twenty-two percent for men and thirty percent for women. I nearly doubled my risk of coronary heart disease, making myself twice as likely to have heart failure. I felt depressed and exhausted most of the time, my mood swung on a dime and my sex life was non existent. I craved this food more and more when I ate it, and got massive headaches when I didn’t. In my final blood test many of my body functions showed signs of improvement, but the doctors were less than optimistic.”
From the movie Supersize me
- Prevalence of Obesity Among Adults and Youth: United States, 2015–2016 Craig M. Hales, M.D., Margaret D. Carroll, M.S.P.H., Cheryl D. Fryar, M.S.P.H., and Cynthia L. Ogden, Ph.D. CDC NCHS Dec 2017
- Globesity as the world fattens Oct 2017 Michael Tschong Ubercool
- CDC Obesity maps data collected by CDC’s Behavioral Risk Factor Surveillance System
- Dietary goals for the US First edition George Mcgovern and the staff of the select committee on nutrition and human needs US senate headed by Nick Mottern 1977
- David Wallerstein; Film Exhibitor, Director of McDonald’s Corp Jan 1993 LA Times
- Obesity and overweight Fact sheet WHO Feb 2018
- Globesity : A planet out of control Francis Delpeuch 2013
- How Our Health-Care System Is Feeding the Obesity Epidemic Bruce Lee 2016 TIME
- The men who made us fat Jacques Peretti BBC Documentary 2012
- Movie quote Supersize me 2004 Great quotes .com
Author : Eric Malouin