Of all the cultural changes I can recall since I was a young boy, the increase in obesity is the most noticeable and alarming. I’m 50 now, and 40 years ago, I can honestly state that I don’t remember a single classmate being overweight. Fast forward to today, and it’s alarmingly common for children to be overweight or even severely obese.
Some obesity statistics shows that in the 1950s, some 33% of Americans were overweight, and 9.7% were clinically obese. In 2000, the overweight figure increased by 210%! And if that news weren’t bad enough, the last 12 years have seen even greater increases in obesity.
With the weight issue has come ever increasing health care costs. Health care is a huge issue, and the simple fact of the matter is that if you’re obese, you’re unwell. It’s simple: Fit or Fat, you decide. You cannot be one and be the other.
Up until 1975, High Fructose Corn Syrup was not successfully used in mass production. From 1975 through 1984, however, there was a radical shift in the use of HFCS over sugar as a sweetener in soft drinks. Since then, there has been an amazing shift from refined sugar to HFCS as a sweetener in a breathtaking variety of foods.
HFCS presents an interesting problem for the body. All calories are not created equal, which is to say that our bodies do not deal with all calories in the same way. Sucrose and glucose are somewhat more easily dealt with than fructose. Fructose is metabolized almost entirely by the liver and then stored there and in the rest of the body as fat.
The metabolic pathway of fructose is, in fact, almost identical to that of alcohol, which means that excess fructose intake causes liver disease just as does excess alcohol intake. The liver simply isn’t up to the task of dealing with large amounts of fructose. How much fructose are people ingesting? In 2008, people in the U.S. consumed approx. 37.8 lb (17.1 kg) of the stuff. At ~4 Calories/gram, that works out to 68,645 Calories of what metabolizes directly into fat. Interestingly enough, that’s about exactly one month worth of calories for an average male (2,200 Calories/day).
It’s little wonder we have a fat crisis on our hands. For one thing, the HFCS numbers don’t include the other sweeteners in use, such as sucrose, dextrose and glucose. All are a part of our caloric picture, and all are a part of the obesity problem. In 2008, Americans each quaffed down 136.2 lbs (61.9 kg) of various “natural” sweeteners. That’s 247,600 Calories, enough to keep a guy going for 112.5 days. If those calories were easily accessible, that is. Which they aren’t.
Non-alcoholic fatty liver disease, Type II Diabetes, Metabolic Syndrome and other ailments are all linked to this relatively new high exposure to sweeteners. And that’s all the bad news I’ll deliver for the moment. Time for some good news.
The simplest way to get your sweetener intake in line is to cut out processed foods. This immediately has the effect of helping your body adjust its leptin and insulin sensitivity. Reducing your intake of sucrose and fructose immediately has the effect of reducing the calories that are turned into fat. We’re used to thinking along the lines of calories in (food) versus calories out (physical work). Keeping the sweetener intake to a minimum helps to ensure this equation works.
Reducing grains is an important part of this equation, too, as grains are also carbohydrates. Forget the old story of complex carbohydrates and whole grains; the story is a fictional and misleading. Many experts teach that low-glycemic grains, etc. are just fine, but research has indicated that there is a distinct correlation between a high insulin index and refined carbohydrate intake, regardless of whether those carbohydrates have a low glycemic index.
The reason the insulin index is important is because of its role in insulin- and leptin sensitivity. In the presence of high insulin levels, one’s sensitivity is reduced. Over time, chronically reduced insulin sensitivity results in Type II Diabetes. So, stay away from the so-called healthy grains, such as brown rice and whole-grain breads.
Apart from dietary changes, physical activity is essential in helping to balance insulin sensitivity and improve metabolic rates. Use it or lose it. Fit or fat. You decide.
Love and Laughter,