….the story so far….
Obesity that is raging across the planet have claimed some 1.9 billion adults and a further 650 million that are overweight, while 41 million children are either overweight or obese ( 2016 figures, so there are more) and the fattest country is the USA with at least 40% of the population are obese, and approx 1 in 3 children of the total number which is approx 75 million are either obese or overweight which equates to 25 million children. The financial burden on the state to service these numbers annually are $190 billion in the US and $6.9 billion in the UK. Mexico in 2017 was rated the fattest nation on the planet where 74% of women are obese or overweight and 70% of men are obese or overweight. The only answer that world health care in general can come up with is bariatric surgery including gastric balloons, gastric bypass, duodenal switches, basically barbaric procedures ‘putting chains around the stomach restricting food consumption.
Fuel on the fire
The ever growing obesity problem that was starting to become apparent in the 1960’s was like a background fire just waiting to be fuelled or doused, but unfortunately it began to rage on when 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.began pushing for large scale industrial farming. The result of which produced a massive excess of corn which was used to make a very poisonous substance called high fructose corn syrup (HFCS) replacing the sugar in all processed food and soda beverages. Another ‘obesity arsonist’ was David Wallerstein who initially convinced Macdonalds to supersize their products and whole food industry followed suit unleashing more food to be consumed ( including soda beverage sizes what was the normal size in the 50’s, 7 oz ( 220ml or 5 teaspoons of sugar) became a 32 oz (946 ml or 18 teaspoons of sweetener) or 64 oz ( 1900 ml or 36 teaspoons of sweetener).
Food for the masses
Man made processed and fast food is feeding the population at large; food that is laced with synthetic additives and excessive sugar, the substance that we were warned about by John Yudkin who termed it ‘malnutrition of affluence’ referring to the dissociation of palatability and nutrition. A 100 years ago the annual sugar consumption was 3-4 pounds (approx 1.3-1.8 kilos)/person. Now it is in the range of 150 pounds ( 68 kilos)/person. The average daily consumption of sugar per person is approx 22 teaspoons.
Blowing the smoke away from the origins of causality
The processed food giants will have you believe that their ‘healthy food’ is not the cause of the obesity crisis but it’s the responsibility of the consumer not to over consume. Their anti-obesity policy to consumers is to not eat more calories than you can burn, so the simple problem is that consumers are over eating and not exercising enough. They purposely gloss over the fact that the food has been especially bioengineered so as consumers want to eat more potentially to addictive levels, coupled with the fact that once obesity has set in, the individual has become sick and unhealthy, and any amount of exercise, if they were even capable, would not shift an ounce, because the body cannot burn fat while the insulin level is kept high; this is a biological fact. The majority of obese individuals are unhealthy so they must regain their health before even considering weight loss.
The obese condition
Although I believe the overweight condition and its association with chronic conditions is overstated, the fact remains that obesity and indeed chronic obesity does take its toll on the human body, but the association with many chronic conditions are probably caused by other factors such as nutrient deficiency, a questionable diet ( which is without question in most instances ) and yes lack of movement. The obese condition, once scientifically examined, uncovers inflammation causing the massing of macrophage cells throughout the body that are simply responding to the inflammatory situation. Furthermore, undue stress is being applied to the adipose tissue, subjecting a continuous endoplasmic reticulum(ER) stress, causing folded proteins to become unfolded resulting in abnormal cellular apoptosis. This cellular stress also gives rise to increased cellular oxidation and the formation of excess free fatty acids that are not being broken down efficiently as a potential fuel source for cellular energy, but added on to the already burdened body carrying excess weight, which obviously has a bearing on the individuals mobility.
Energy/weight balance regulation
The host must eat to survive, but feeding is highly regulated and controlled using a variety of Orexigenic hormones and neurotransmitter intervention that include Orectic Peptides AGRP/NPY, and MSH, Neuropeptides Orexins (Hypocretins), Endorphins, Galanin (GAL), Ghrelin, Neuropeptide Y (NPY), Amino acids (glutamate and g-aminobutyric acid) and Cortisol. However, in order for the host to avoid over consumption there are various satiety or Anorexigenic hormones and neurotransmitters in place which include Leptin, Serotonin, Norepinephrine, Corticotropin releasing hormone (CRH), Insulin, Cholecystokinin (CCK), Glucagon like peptide (GLP), Peptide YY (PYY). Enterostatin ,Oxyntomodulin (OXM) and neuron central controls POMC/CART
Although, as humans we have to feed to survive, the body provides not only hunger signals such as ghrelin, and feel good endorphins, to encourage us to eat, but a further reinforcement exists where we feel pleasure to eat palatable food. This is where the reward and hedonic or pleasure circuits in the brain are activated and we relish a meal until we feel satiated and feeding ceases.
The processed food industry has deliberately engineered their food using manipulative mechanisms to adjust salt.sugar and fat in reaching ‘ a bliss point’ wanting us to come back for more, forcing an insatiable appetite syndrome, and by their own admission vis a vis the 1999 meeting of all CEO’s of the 11 processed food companies at Pillsbury HQ stating that “We cannot pretend food isn’t part of the obesity problem”, and “ What’s driving the obesity increase is the ubiquity of inexpensive good tasting super sized energy dense food”. Their scientists and the food scientists at Monell Chemical Senses Center have all contributed to supplying food that has managed to override our energy balance regulatory controls and addicted our reward and hedonic centers.
Other factors that are at play in driving obesity
If you have read my articles of metabolic typing you may remember this diagram, which I borrowed from Dr Berg, an excellent diet doctor and chiropractor:
These abnormal body shapes is not driven by processed food per se, although there is a close correlation to diet, but these scenarios are hormonal problems.
Adrenals I Epinephrine ( also known as Adrenaline) and Norepinephrine.
What is their normal function ?. So let us use a diagram used in the articles on ‘metabolic typing’ to describe their function:
The middle part of the adrenal called the ‘Medulla’ works together with the sympathetic branch of the Autonomic nervous system secreting Epinephrine ( also known as Adrenaline) and Norepinephrine. Fear or anger type stress stimulate epinephrine to secrete into the bloodstream which increases heart rate, muscle strength, blood pressure and sugar metabolism for quick energy, by stimulating glycogen conversion to glucose in the liver and producing glycolysis into the muscles; preparatory procedures for a fight or flight scenario. Norepinephrine also gets dumped into the bloodstream also to ready the body for a stress situation and delivered into a location of the brain called the locus coeruleus located in the upper brain stem’ The locus coeruleus acts as a norepinephrine relay station sending norepinephrine neurotransmissions to the central nervous system again to prepare the body physically for ‘action’. The raw materials to make these hormones is amino acid tyrosine or Phenylalanine which is converted to dopamine ( precursor L-DOPA) and then into nor(epinephrine), and when produced, are stored in chromaffin cells of the medulla. From the diagram above it is the action of ACTH that release the hormones from the chromaffin storage cells.
Adrenals II Aldosterone
The outer layers are called the ‘Cortex’ where Aldosterone the principal mineralocorticoid, and Cortisol the principal glucocorticoid is produced. These are 2 of 30 steroids that are produced by the adrenal cortex that have exceptional importance. It is potassium and angiotensin II in the plasma that stimulate aldosterone secretion. Angiotensin is a peptide hormone produced in the liver that is released as part of the renin-angiotensin system that regulates blood pressure and to stimulate aldosterone production, that promotes sodium retention in the kidneys, salivary glands, sweat glands and colon, as well as playing a role itself in blood pressure regulation and plasma sodium and potassium (electrolyte) levels.
Adrenals III Cortisol
Cortisol which most people associate with stress, which indeed it plays a major role in, and as shown in the diagram it’s secretion is stimulated by the hormone ACTH released by the pituitary. Cortisol prepares the body for action during exercise, waking up in the morning or wondering where the next mortgage payment is coming from, infection. Injury, pain, eating processed food etc, by flooding the body with glucose for muscle movement for example. It also inhibits insulin release to prevent glucose being stored, and narrows the arteries, while epinephrine increase heart rate forcing the heart to go into overdrive. When the stressor dissipates like resting after exercise or you found the money to pay the mortgage then the body goes back to normal. Cortisol’s anti-inflammatory function is to regulate the inflammatory response by suppressing the immune system. Problems occur if the particular stress event is sustained for a period of time causing cortisol to flood the body for too long, and as far as the adrenals are concerned it will continue to respond to the stress event. This results in continuous simulation of the body to continue ‘gathering fuel sources from wherever it can, including protein destruction in the bones and other body tissue because the body is switched into survival mode, so it holds onto fat around vital organs. It will even break down leg muscle and turn it into sugar for energy but if it is not spent it gets turned into fat, and from our previous articles we know that cortisol has an orexigenic effect by stimulating appetite.
Now I think you can appreciate why excess cortisol turns the body into the ‘Pillsbury dough man’ causing asymmetrical weight gain, from high blood glucose levels coupled with insulin suppression and cellular starvation causing hunger signals to be transmitted to the hypothalamus. Potentially stimulating the host to overeat. Cortisol has the ability to mobilize triglycerides from storage into visceral fat cells and to stimulate adipocytes to mature into fat cells. So as the picture shows, the individual develops a lot of upper torso fat and thin arms and legs, and even the buttocks suffer because cortisol can take muscle from this area as well. A cortisol flooded body with the immune system suppressed is driving the body down the road of imbalance wreaking havoc with the gut flora which also gets out of balance, followed by the immune system and open ing up the body to infection.
There are several known issues regarding the adrenal glands such as Cushing’s syndrome that defines the secretion of excessive cortisol, independent of its usual ACTH stimulating signal, and Addison’s disease which is an autoimmune problem that is beyond the scope of this discussion. Suffice to say that cortisol flooding due to long term stress is a major factor, nutrient deficiency and a toxic diet that can cause adrenal imbalance and possibly lead to adrenal fatigue, and pancreas fatigue which can give rise to obesity. So the obese condition is not just about ‘stuffing your face with empty insatiably flavoured carbs’ but the obese individual could have been unhealthy before he or she became obese, and a dysfunctional endocrine system like the adrenals that we have discussed is just one hormonal gland, when driven to excess can cause many physiological problems including the body to become distorted and overweight. In the the next article we will discuss the other endocrine glands as shown in the diagram above the ovaries, liver and thyroid which can also stimulate weight gain.
“Male love circuits get an extra kick when stress levels are high. After an intense physical challenge, for instance, males will bond quickly and sexually with the first willing female they lay eyes on. Women, by contrast, will rebuff advances or expressions of affection and desire when under stress. The reason may be that the stress hormone cortisol blocks oxytocin action in the female brain, abruptly shutting off a woman’s desire for sex and physical touch.”
Louann brizendine ‘The Female brain’
The Brain has been taken prisoner – Obesity Part III: The body has been taken prisoner
- Understanding our adrenal system: Norepinephrine/epinephrine 2013 Vanessa Bennington Fitness
- Textbook of physiology Guyton & Hall 2006
- Cortisol – its role in stress, inflammation, and indications for diet therapy Diana Aronson 2009 Today’s dietician
- Louann brizendine ‘The Female brain’ Goodreads