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Category Archives: Overweight & Obesity
…in an article at The Guardian. He thinks the trend start in 1976.
So what has happened? The light begins to dawn when you look at the nutrition figures in more detail. Yes, we ate more in 1976, but differently. Today, we buy half as much fresh milk per person, but five times more yoghurt, three times more ice cream and – wait for it – 39 times as many dairy desserts. We buy half as many eggs as in 1976, but a third more breakfast cereals and twice the cereal snacks; half the total potatoes, but three times the crisps. While our direct purchases of sugar have sharply declined, the sugar we consume in drinks and confectionery is likely to have rocketed (there are purchase numbers only from 1992, at which point they were rising rapidly. Perhaps, as we consumed just 9kcal a day in the form of drinks in 1976, no one thought the numbers were worth collecting.) In other words, the opportunities to load our food with sugar have boomed. As some experts have long proposed, this seems to be the issue.
Contrary to the above, we in the U.S. have been eating significantly more calories over the last 50 years. I’m surprised George didn’t mention the dramatic increase in industrial seed oil consumption over same time frame.
The problem cannot be reduced to sugar consumption alone.
There’s no shortage of speculation as to why 70% of us in the U.S. are overweight or obese. A few possibilities include:
- we’re too sedentary
- we eat too many carbohydrates
- we eat too much fat
- our foods are over-processed
- we eat away from home too often
- we eat too many industrial seed oils
- our water and food are contaminated with persistent organic pollutants that disrupt our endocrine systems
I was reading an article at Nutrition Today and came across this graph of calorie consumption change from 1971 to 2004 (or 2000?):
The verbal summary is from this article cited by the cited by the Nutrition Today authors: During 1971—2000, a statistically significant increase in average energy intake occurred. For men, average energy intake increased from 2,450 kcals to 2,618 kcals, and for women, from 1,542 kcals to 1,877 kcals. So men’s daily calorie intake went up by 168, and women’s by 335.
The original article I read states, alternatively, that men’s daily caloric consumption rose from 2450 to 2693, a gain of 243. I can’t explain the discrepancy between 243 and 168, nor why 2004 is in the graph instead of 2000.
Maybe you don’t think an extra 168 calories a day is much. If you believe in the validity of the Energy Balance Equation, those 168 daily calories will turn into 17.5 pounds of fat in a year unless you “burn them off” somehow. If you weigh 150 lb (68 kg), you can burn those 168 calories by doing a daily 15-minute jog at 5.5 mph (8.9 km/hr). But you ain’t gonna do that. (I’m not getting into a debate about validity of the equation now; for another perspective, read Lyle McDonald.)
But year 2000 was a long time ago. How much are Americans eating now? According to a 2016 report from Pew Research Center:
Broadly speaking, we eat a lot more than we used to: The average American consumed 2,481 calories a day in 2010, about 23% more than in 1970. That’s more than most adults need to maintain their current weight, according to the Mayo Clinic’s calorie calculator. (A 40-year-old man of average height and weight who’s moderately active, for instance, needs 2,400 calories; a 40-year-old woman with corresponding characteristics needs 1,850 calories.)
Bottom line? We’re eating more than we did in 1970. Which could explain why we’re fat. Unless we’re burning more calories than we did in 1970. Which I doubt.
PS: In scientific literature, kcal is what everybody else calls a calorie.
I heard about this phenomenon years ago. It’s good to remember that obesity isn’t a simple straightforward process. Like Fanatic Cook, I wonder about pollution as a cause.
“A dramatic rise in obesity has occurred among humans within the last several decades. Little is known about whether similar increases in obesity have occurred in animals inhabiting human-influenced environments. We examined samples collectively consisting of over 20 000 animals from 24 populations (12 divided separately into males and females) of animals representing eight species living with or around humans in industrialized societies. In all populations, the estimated coefficient for the trend of body weight over time was positive (i.e. increasing). The probability of all trends being in the same direction by chance is 1.2 × 10 [to the minus 7th power]. Surprisingly, we find that over the past several decades, average mid-life body weights have risen among primates and rodents living in research colonies, as well as among feral rodents and domestic dogs and cats. The consistency of these findings among animals living in varying environments, suggests the intriguing possibility that the aetiology of increasing body weight may involve several as-of-yet unidentified and/or poorly understood factors (e.g. viral pathogens, epigenetic factors). This finding may eventually enhance the discovery and fuller elucidation of other factors that have contributed to the recent rise in obesity rates.”
I’ve been saying for years that weigh management begins in the kitchen. Meaning preparing your own meals. An article in Nutrition Journal indicates that more folks have been cooking. But it’s not making a dent in the obesity epidemic yet.
“Cooking increased overall from 2003 to 2016. The percent of college-educated men cooking increased from 37.9% in 2003 to 51.9% in 2016, but men with less than high school education who cook did not change (33.2% in 2016) (p < 0.05). College-educated women who cook increased from 64.7% in 2003 to 68.7% in 2016, while women with less than high school education had no change (72.3% in 2016) (p < 0.05). Women with less education spent more time cooking per day than high-educated women, but the reverse was true for men. Among men, the percent who cook increased for all race/ethnic groups except non-Hispanic blacks. Among women, only non-Hispanic whites increased in percent who cook. Among both men and women, non-Hispanic blacks had the lowest percentage who cooked, and non-Hispanic others spent the greatest amount of time cooking.”
At my other Advanced Mediterranean Diet website, a few years ago I asked visitors to answer a poll question. 2,367 responded thusly:
What single food category makes you gain the most fat weight?Fatty foods like bacon, butter, oils, nuts:
Protein-rich foods: meat, eggs, fish:
Sugary sweet items:
Starches: bread, potatoes, peas, corn:
Pastries, cake, pie, cookies:
Total Votes: 2367
Yes, I know it’s not a scientific poll, but it’s something. I’m not surprised at the results. I’m wishing I’d offered nuts as a choice since there are at least a few folks who gain weight on nuts, perhaps not realizing that nut calories are mostly from fat.
NASEM is the National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine. Dr. Andy Harris writes that:
The nation’s senior scientific body recently released a new report raising serious questions about the “scientific rigor” of the Dietary Guidelines for Americans. This report confirms what many in government have suspected for years and is the reason why Congress mandated this report in the first place: our nation’s top nutrition policy is not based on sound science.
Dr. Harris notes that since 1980, when the guidelines were first published, rates of obesity have doubled and diabetes has quadrupled.
Current recommendations to reduce saturated fat consumption and to eat health whole grains do not, after all, reduce rates of cardiovascular disease. That was my conclusion in 2009.
Steve Parker, M.D.
PS: The diets I’ve designed are contrary to U.S. Dietary Guidelines.