Obesity Epidemic: Overeating is to Blame

Photo: Overweight Man with a Burger and Soda

Those who are loathe to exercise can take heart. Blame the refrigerator—rather than not going to the gym—for your ever-expanding waistlines. This is according to a new United Nations study released at an international obesity conference in Amsterdam this past May. It shows that overeating accounts for the obesity epidemic in America.

“Over-eating, not a lack of exercise, is to blame for the American obesity epidemic,” the study says, while warning that physical activity could not fully compensate for excess calories.

So, there’s no need to feel guilty about not working out every day. It doesn’t matter …that much. What matters is that we need to eat less.

The study was presented at the 17th European Congress on Obesity in Amsterdam, Netherlands. It seems they predicted—and the results bore out—that the average child gained nearly 9 pounds between the 1970s and 2000s. Overeating was likely to blame. To see a report on the study click here: http://www.webmd.com/diet/news/20090511/obesity-epidemic-overeating-alon...

Researchers predicted adults would be 23.8 pounds heavier, but in fact they were 20 pounds heavier. They said people gained weight because they ate too much, and noted that increases in physical activity over the 30 years may have blunted what would otherwise have been a higher weight gain.

“To return to the average weights of the 1970s, we would need to reverse the increased food intake of about 350 calories a day for children (about one can of fizzy drink and a small portion of French fries) and 500 calories a day for adults (about one large hamburger),” according to Boyd Swinburn, chair of population health and director of the World Health Organization Collaborating Centre for Obesity Prevention at Deakin University in Australia.

Swinburn says that “Alternatively, we could achieve similar results by increasing physical activity by about 150 minutes a day of extra walking for children and 110 minutes for adults; but realistically, although a combination of both is needed, the focus would have to be on reducing calorie intake”, i.e. eating less.

Physical activity should not be ignored as a contributor to reducing obesity, explains Swinburn, and it should continue to be promoted because of its many benefits. Nevertheless, he says that from a public policy perspective, expectations regarding what can be achieved with exercise need to be lowered and emphasis should be shifted toward encouraging people to eat less.

At Down to Earth, we promote that good health can be achieved by adopting a vegetarian diet consisting of organic produce and organic and natural foods. A position paper from the American Dietetic Association shows that we are not alone in this assessment, as I quote:

“It is the position of the American Dietetic Association and Dietitians of Canada that appropriately planned vegetarian diets are healthful, nutritionally adequate and provide health benefits in the prevention and treatment of certain diseases. …This position paper reviews the current scientific data related to key nutrients for vegetarians, including protein, iron, zinc, calcium, vitamin D, riboflavin, vitamin B-12, vitamin A, n-3 fatty acids and iodine. A vegetarian, including vegan, diet can meet current recommendations for all of these nutrients […Well-planned vegan and other types of vegetarian diets are appropriate for all stages of the life cycle, including during pregnancy, lactation, infancy, childhood and adolescence. Vegetarian diets offer a number of nutritional benefits, including lower levels of saturated fat, cholesterol, and animal protein as well as higher levels of carbohydrates, fiber, magnesium, potassium, folate, and antioxidants such as vitamins C and E and phytochemicals. Vegetarians have been reported to have lower body mass indices than non-vegetarians, as well as lower rates of death from ischemic heart disease; vegetarians also show lower blood cholesterol levels; lower blood pressure; and lower rates of hypertension, type 2 diabetes, and prostate and colon cancer.” 1

The most telling part about all this is that a vegetarian diet reduces weight. Research by the Mayo Clinic has shown that, on average, people who follow a vegetarian diet eat fewer calories and less fat than non-vegetarians. Vegetarians also tend to have lower body weight relative to their height than non-vegetarians. 2

To add strength to this argument, I point to a scientific review in the April 2006 edition of Nutrition Review, which shows that a vegetarian diet is highly effective for weight loss. The study was conducted by Dr. Susan E. Berkow and Dr. Neal D. Barnard of the Physicians Committee for Responsible Medicine (PCRM). They found that vegetarian populations tend to be slimmer than meat-eaters, and they experience lower rates of heart disease, diabetes, high blood pressure, and other life-threatening conditions linked to overweight and obesity. These findings are the result of data collected from 87 studies. The data showed that the weight-loss effect does not depend on exercise or calorie-counting. Please read what Dr. Barnard had to say about the findings:

"There is evidence that a vegan diet causes an increased calorie burn after meals, meaning plant-based foods are being used more efficiently as fuel for the body, as opposed to being stored as fat." Insulin sensitivity is increased by a vegan diet, allowing nutrients to more rapidly enter the cells of the body to be converted to heat rather than to fat.” 3

In essence, these statements by prominent scientific institutions are saying that a vegetarian diet is healthy and can be a major weapon in the fight against obesity. I submit for your consideration that reducing obesity is not just a function of eating less, but of what you eat as well.

  1. American Dietetic Association, “Vegetarian Diets,” June 2003 (Vol. 103, Issue 6, Pages 748-765): http://www.eatrightpro.org/resources/advocacy

  3. Mayo Clinic.com, “Vegetarian Diet: will it help me loose weight?”: https://www.mayoclinic.org/healthy-lifestyle/weight-loss/expert-answers/...

  5. Nutrition Review, “New scientific review shows vegetarian diets cause major weight loss,” April 1, 2006: https://www.eurekalert.org/pub_releases/2006-04/pcfr-nsr033106.php

Obesity may be linked to obese people not feeling full

An interesting article was published yesterday (June 10, 2009) in the New York Times. The article discusses a study conducted by Dale S. Bond, assistant professor of research at The Miriam Hospital in Providence, R.I. Key findings were as follows:

“This is basically saying that there is a difference in how we respond to food physiologically depending on our weight status,” Dr. Bond said. “It suggests that this habituation process is impaired in people who are obese." Habituation means that saliva production tends to decline in most people once they’ve gotten used to the taste of a certain food and had enough of it.

"They’re not as sensitive to those feelings of fullness, and as a result, they continue to eat longer," he added.

“What we don’t know is whether obese people show this different level of responding before they become obese, or if it is something that happens as you gain weight, and whether it changes with weight loss,” he added.

In other words the more obese you are the more likely it is that you will overeat as your body is not sending you the signals to stop eating as quickly as it does if you are of normal weight. Thus, if you are obese (or not obese for that matter), it is very important to control portion sizes to avoid overeating; additionally, eating the right foods (natural and organic vegetarian foods) and getting regular exercise will assist in controlling weight.

Meat: a functional health food?

Times of India published an article yesterday (June 14, 2009) promoting meat as a functional food with many health benefits and talks about how the health benefits of meat can be enhanced by better processing, i.e. by adding ingredients. Some points from the article:

"Adding probiotics to fermented meat products (i.e. sausage) may lead to health benefits, although this application is still marginal.

"Several disadvantages exist when using fermented meats as a probiotic carrier. For one, fermented meats are not generally considered ''health food'' by consumers. Plus technical issues exist. It requires careful selection of probiotic strains since, for example, they would need to have a resistance to bile salts," said Leroy.

"Fibre-enriched meat products may also offer health advantages, although they can elicit a grainy texture and have a restrictive digestive tolerance."

I agree with them that sausage, i.e. ground up meat scraps, blood and slaughterhouse floor scrapings mixed together and fermented, are not a health food. In fact, just the opposite. The sheer horror and reality of the meat based diet is hidden away from us, it all looks very sanitary on the supermarket shelves. We don't see the poor innocent animals living lives full of suffering and then cruelly slaughtered and butchered under horrendous conditions.

The idea of promoting meat as a health food is preposterous and flies in the face of the extensive evidence showing that meat based diets contribute to a host of diseases including heart disease, cancer, diabetes and others. Even if meat were healthy, which it isn't, the negative enviromental effects (e.g. the meat industry is responsible for huge methane gas emissions from the cows belching and passing wind, contributing to global warming), and the negative moral and ethical impacts of a meat based diet make it so one should opt for a low environmental impact and compassionate vegetarian diet.

What is even more strange is that this article is published in the Times of India, where the prevailing Hindu culture generally supports a vegetarian diet, but unfortunately these values are being eroded as many Indians seek to emulate the west. They don't realize that as soon as they eat a western diet they will also be struck by western disease.

Read the full article

Senate committee considers soda tax to combat obesity

Another interesting article today is that a Senate committee considers soda tax to combat obesity. The Senate Finance Committee is looking to add a tax to all sugar-filled drinks and alcohol. Opponents of this tax say sugary sodas and juices are not the main culprits in America's obesity battle, and supporters believe that the taxes could reduce consumption while offsetting some health care costs.

While we generally don't like new taxes, this one is of interest. Taxing those industries that cause high health costs, and contribute to general ill health, is a good way to reduce consumption of those products and helps make the price of the item reflect the true societal costs of the items.

A whole food is always going to be superior

Photo: Down to Earth Bulk Section

A Wall Street journal article "Fortified Foods: How Healthy Are They?" published yesterday (June 16, 2009) stated the following:

"But enhanced foods aren't always as impressive as the label may suggest --especially when compared to whole foods. "Processing destroys nutrients, and the more processing there is, the more destruction you get," says Marion Nestle, author and professor of nutrition, food studies and public health at New York University. "Fortification adds back some nutrients, so overall you're better off with a processed fortified food than a processed unfortified one. But a whole food is always going to be superior."'

"Fortification" refers to the process of artificially adding nutrients to foods.

Whole foods (referring to minimally processed foods - not the gourmet store at Kahala Mall and coming soon to locations next door to Down to Earth throughout the state!!!) are the best kind of foods to eat. The refining and processing of whole grains removes most of the nutritional benefit. This results in a situation where companies then have to artificially add nutrients back to the foods to try and make them "nutritious", i.e. they further process the foods, making them even more unnatural.

If you think about it this is quite bizarre. Instead of just making minimally processed products that are better for people and actually cost less to produce, the modern food industry, which is controlled by a small number of huge agri businesses, further processes the foods, making them even more unnatural, destroying more of the original nutrients in the process, and has the result of increasing the cost of the final food product. In other words you get less for more. Oh, and while they are at it they poison the earth and water with pesticides and smoother the crops with toxins, and then think, "let's make the food even better by genetically modifying them". In short, things have gotten a little out of hand. But, thankfully, the organic and natural products industries have helped educate people about what is really going on and are providing their customers with organic and natural foods.

Down to Earth has been one of the pioneers in educating and providing our customers with healthy options that are both good for their bodies and for the environment. For example, our bulk sections offer an extensive range of unprocessed and minimally processed grains and other food items.

New documentary - Food Inc.

The following is an edited version of a National Public Radio show of June 12, 2009 about Food Inc., a new movie.

The new documentary Food Inc. takes aim at corporate giants behind the U.S. food supply. Director Robert Kenner and food advocate and author Michael Pollan made the film to raise Americans' awareness about where their food really comes from.

Pollan says he wanted to address "the pastoral illusion we're spinning in the way we market food... You would think it comes from farms and that ranchers with big hats are producing the meat."

In fact, say Pollan and Kenner, America's food comes primarily from enormous assembly lines, where animals and workers are being abused.

There are so called benefits to the current system; as Pollan points out, Americans spend less than nine percent of their income on food — less than any other people in history. But, he adds, the benefits have come "at an exorbitant cost, because the system depends on cheap fossil fuel to work. The system depends on antibiotics to work. The system depends on abuse to animals to work. And if people want to pay those costs for cheap food, that's great, but let's tell them about the costs first."

See a preview of Food Inc

The movie does not promote vegetarianism; its aim is to educate about the current factory farm system and its consequences. It is a good movie and I recommend that anyone who wants to learn more about where their food actually comes from watch it. Be warned though, it shows the reality of modern "farming", so if you don't like to see animals being cruelly treated and slaughtered you might find it a bit hard to watch.

Actually, Food Inc. also shows the brutal reality of more natural farming methods as well, for example, in one scene a natural/organic farmer shows how chicken's necks are wrung in the "natural" way, as if that is somehow better than the way it is done on the mass production line (which in some ways I guess it is). If you watched the Sarah Palin interview with chickens having their necks wrung in the background you will know what I am talking about.

Mark Fergusson

Burger King misuses Hindu Goddess to sell burgers

Photo: Burger King Sign Depicting Hindu Goddess

Burger King, the international hamburger chain, has offended hundreds of millions of Hindus by misusing an image of a Hindu Goddess to promote the sale of burgers. A principal tenet of Hinduism is vegetarianism, thus the use of a Hindu deity in this way is highly offensive to them. The following is from an article posted on the Hindu American Foundation's website:

Washington D.C. (July 7, 2009) - Hindu American Foundation (HAF) leaders demanded that Burger King, the international fast food chain, immediately cease an advertisement campaign it deemed "highly disrespectful and offensive to Hindus worldwide" in a letter sent to corporate headquarters late last Tuesday. The Foundation was alerted by its membership in Spain of a print advertisement depicting an image of the Hindu Goddess, Lakshmi, seated atop a meat sandwich, other foodstuffs and the catch phrase, "A snack that's sacred," in Spanish.

"I was horrified to walk by a Burger King store in my neighborhood to discover an image of the same deity that I worship at my home altar, displayed so disrespectfully promoting a meat sandwich," said Monica Pahilwani, a Spanish Hindu. "A multinational corporation with a global presence should be much more aware of religious and cultural sensitivities, and how truly repelling such an advertisement could be to Hindus."

For the full story visit: http://www.facebook.com/ext/share.php?sid=112305093336&h=-s6ff&u=FptCa&r...

Oscar Mayer sued to put cancer warning labels on their weiners

Andy in our Honolulu wellness department sent me a link to a story about a lawsuit filed on Wednesday (yesterday) asking a New Jersey county court to make food companies put cancer warning labels on hot dogs sold in New Jersey.

Neal Barnard, the President of the Cancer Project, the organization that filed the lawusit, who is an adjunct professor at the George Washington University medical school in Washington, DC, told the Los Anegeles Times that:

"Just as tobacco causes lung cancer, processed meats are linked to colon cancer."

"Companies that sell hot dogs are well aware of the danger, and their customers deserve the same information," he added.

According to Cancer Project 62 per cent of Americans eat some kind of processed pork, and that in 2006, 1.5 billion pounds of hot dogs were consumed in the US, at an average of 32 pounds a year per person. In case you don't remember my graphic blog posts about hot dogs (if you do remember you can skip over the rest of this paragraph) hot dogs are made of blood, organs (i.e. brains, kidneys, liver, etc.) fat, and other unusable meat scraps all put into intestines. Eating 32 pounds of that a year sounds disgusting not to mention unhealthy.

The group refers to a report from the American Institute for Cancer Research and the World Cancer Research Fund where scientists say there is no safe amount of processed meat that can be eaten, and that just one 50-gram serving of bacon, sausage, deli meats or other processed meats, every day increases a person's chance of getting colorectal cancer by 21 per cent on average.

According to the article, processed and cured meats contain nitrites which are added to help preserve the meat. When ingested, these break down into nitrosamines and other chemicals that are thought to be cancer-causing. Some scientists say it could be the fat content of the hot dogs, 30 - 50% by weight, that is linked to the cancer. So, it is either the nitrates or the fat, or both, that are causing the cancer.

According to the article, every year, about 150,000 Americans are diagnosed with colorectal cancer, and about 50,000 Americans are expected to die of the disease in 2009.

As you can expect, the hot dog makers are not too thrilled. Sydney Lindner, a spokeswoman from Kraft told the press: "These proposals are unfounded. Hot dogs have been enjoyed by consumers for more than 100 years." What a great argument "people like eating hot dogs therefore they could not possibly cause cancer!" It is a bit like the tobacco industry saying that "people like smoking" so therefore it doesn't matter that it kills them.

To read the article: https://www.medicalnewstoday.com/articles/158523.php

Love Life! Love animals, don't eat them.

Mark Fergusson

One Denny's double cheese burger has double the total recommended daily salt intake

Photo: Denny's Breakfast Meal

Denny's has been hit with a lawsuit seeking to have the chain disclose in its restaurants the sodium content of its food. A New Jersey man backed by the Center for Science in the Public Interest filed suit against Denny's Corp. on Thursday. The suit, filed in Superior Court of New Jersey, claims that some meals at Denny's contain more than three days' worth of the recommended amount of sodium.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recommend that people consume no more than 1,500 - 2,000 milligrams of sodium per day, but the Meat Lover's Scramble, for example, contains 5,690 milligrams of sodium. A Double Cheese Burger has 3,880 milligrams.

The Center for Science in the Public Interest, a non-profit advocacy group, says it tried to work with Denny's to lower its products' sodium levels before it pursued the lawsuit.

In a statement, Denny's called the lawsuit "frivolous and without merit" and said it will fight it in court.

As usual, big food business defends its actions by saying "customers love eating our food, so everything is fine, it doesn't matter if it is bad for them".

Read the L.A. Times article at: http://articles.latimes.com/2009/jul/24/business/fi-denny24

FDA To Be Sued for Health Claim Rights, Bills Seek to End Censorship of Health Claims

A story in Whole Foods Magazine details recent court cases filed against the FDA for limiting the making of reasonable science based claims for supplements, and, in addition, several bills have been introduced into Congress to enable reasonable health claims to be more easily made for supplements based on scientific evidence. The FDA, with its bias towards the drug manufacturers and medical intervention rather than holistic health preventative and alternative approaches, continues to make it hard for supplement manufacturers to make reasonable claims for their products.