Monday, August 14, 2006

A Saturday article in the newspaper caught my eye - "Obese? A 'poisoned' food supply may be to blame, UCSF expert says." A new hypothesis proposed by a UCSF doctor blames processed food as the reason for obesity - as opposed to our lack of willpower and exercise. According to his hypothesis, the sugar found in the majority of the foods we consume (bread, yogurt, potato chips) make the body believe that it is hungry. This results in us consuming more calories and the conserve energy (i.e. not exercise). Additionally, because sugar makes the body produce more insulin, which in turn blocks the hormones that tell the body to stop eating.
His contention is that doctors, community leaders and consumers must force the government and the food industry to remove these sugary foods from the mainstream. Skeptics were reluctant to blame obesity strictly on the food supply.
The process, which I will not attempt to paraphrase, was described in the article as follows:
"According to Lustig's (the UCSF doctor) hypothesis, sugar in large quantities drives up insulin secretion. This insulin floods the bran, and in particular the hypothalamus, which regulates energy use in the body. As a result, leptin, a hormone that tells the brain when the body needs more or less energy, can't get its signal to the hypothalamus because the insulin is blocking the way.
"The result is that the body is thrown into starvation mode - the brain thinks it isn't getting enough energy, so it needs more calories and it needs to save energy, he said. People end up feeling the symptoms of starvation,, including malaise, depression, a lack of motivation and, or course, hunger."

This isn't new news - doctors have known how sugar and the production of insulin affect the body in diabetics. Diabetics have long been schooled in what foods help them maintain a healthy lifestyle. I think the same is true of those of us who don't have diabetes. For those of us without the disease, we've been under the impression that we can eat just about anything we want to, because the long-term affects of eating whatever we want, may not be affecting us right now. Instead of looking at the whole picture, life 10, 20, 30 years or more down the road, many of us eat whatever we want because we may not see immediate repercussions.
This is where good eating habits come in. Yes, we are surrounded by processed foods that are full of sugar, but food experts have been saying to us for a long time to eat whole foods and exercise.
The UCSF doctor calls for forcing the government to take stronger measures in educating the public and providing healthy food options. To some extent, I agree. But they're not promoting McDonalds or other fast-food options. McDonalds is enticing consumers with lots of food for little money. Additionally, fruits, vegetables, whole grains, etc. are readily available at the supermarket. As one woman in the article stated: "You can complain that society does this to you, or that you don't have options, but I don't see it that way. If you are conscious of what you're doing, you can overcome your environment."
I agree wholeheartedly.

Until next time, enjoy Food, Family and Friends