Blog dedicated primarily to randomly selected news items; comments reflecting personal perceptions

Monday, May 09, 2016

Eating Ourselves To Death

"We eat about 900,000 to a million calories a year, and burn them all except those annoying 3,000 to 5,000 calories that result in an average annual weight gain of about one to two pounds [.4 to 9 kilos]. These very small differences between intake and output average out to only about ten to twenty calories per day -- less than one Starburst candy -- but the cumulative consequences over time can be devastating."
"It is not clear whether this small imbalance and the resultant weight gain that most of us experience as we age are the consequences of changes in lifestyle, the environment or just the biology of aging."
"The difficulty in keeping weight off reflects biology, not a pathological lack of willpower affecting two-thirds of the U.S.A."
Dr. Michael Rosenbaum, obesity researcher, Columbia University, New York

"What was surprising was what a coordinated effect it is. The body puts multiple mechanisms in place to get you back to your weight. The only way to maintain weight loss is to be hungry all the time."
"We desperately need agents that will suppress hunger and that are safe with long-term use."
Dr. Joseph Proietto, University of Melbourne, Australia

"There are no doubt exceptional individuals who can ignore primal biological signals and maintain weight loss for the long term by restricting calories."
"For most people, the combination of incessant hunger and slowing metabolism is a recipe for weight regain -- explaining why so few individuals can maintain weight loss for more than a few months."
Dr. David Ludwig, director, New Balance Foundation Obesity Prevention Center, Boston Children's Hospital
Biggest Loser-Criticism
Rachel Frederickson, who lost nearly 60 per cent of her body weight competing on NBC's The Biggest Loser, is seen with (from second left) David Brown, Bobby Saleem and host Alison Sweeney on the show in Feb. 2014.  (Trae Patton/NBC/Associated Press)

Losing weight is no easy proposition. We all crave food, we all have appetites that refuse to be suppressed. Food is so readily available, anywhere we turn there are the fragrances of various types of food available through street vendors, there is convenience food at the supermarkets, and there are restaurants packed in close proximity anywhere where people live in numbers. We eat to satisfy hunger, a primal response to existence, and we eat to savour food whose texture, aroma and taste match their visually attractive appearance.

If we fail to match our food intake with sufficient physical activity to burn off those calories, unless we have been endowed by nature with the kind of metabolism that makes quick work of burning calories, we will see our infidelity to moderation catch up to us by weight gain. A big appetite reflecting an affinity for food beyond the reasonable, and a sedentary lifestyle is a sure-fire formula for complications in life through medical conditions and a decrease in longevity.

Society is, in fact, obsessed with food. Most of the advertisements we see and hear tout various types of foods that have gone a long way from their original nutritional status as whole foods. The processed foods that result are designed to appeal to taste buds that respond to sweet, sour, salty and fat, even umami. We appreciate sugar, salt and fat, they make our mouths tingle with pleasure. And in time, our bodies swell with gained poundage. Making us more lethargic, less likely to expend energy.

A formula for the onset of chronic diseases, and with them a decrease in the quality of life, in the enjoyment of life. As such, are we then not our own worst enemies? The obesity epidemic that has struck worldwide is a testament to the shared choices we make that do little honour to our intelligence in responding as we do to the allure of satisfying our basic instincts; to avoid starvation. So we fail to limit our intake, then face the future unable to take advantage of a long and fulfilling life.

All of which makes dieting a popular pastime. When it should be the careful moderating measurement of knowing what we eat and how what we eat satisfies our nutritional requirements while still satisfying our taste buds once we move away from the attraction that pseudo-food has for us. In a world where fewer people cook, have the time for sensible meal preparation, are too busy to care when pre-prepared meal choices are so readily available, we are overweight and placid about it.

But not about falling victim to the many types of 'fail-safe' diets forever appearing in the marketplace of wishful thinking. A popular American television show called the "Biggest Loser" helped contestants to lose weight and made celebrities of many people who became champion weight-losers through following their prescribed intensive dieting and exercise regimen. Researchers, knowing well the ping-pong effect of dieting, thought they would follow up on some of those champion weight-losers.
Contestant Rachel Frederickson is seen during an episode of NBC's The Biggest Loser. ​A new study has found that many competitors on the NBC show leave with a slower metabolism, making it more difficult to keep off the pounds.
Contestant Rachel Frederickson is seen during an episode of NBC's The Biggest Loser. ​A new study has found that many competitors on the NBC show leave with a slower metabolism, making it more difficult to keep off the pounds. (Trae Patton/NBC/Associated Press)

And what they discovered has substantially altered food science's knowledge of the human body's response to being 'starved'. People who had neglected to monitor what they ate and how they lived, put on an enormous amount of fat. And when they succeeded in following the show's regimen and lost an impressive amount of their body weight, they were ecstatic. Until, in the years following, they found that weight returning. That even though they attempted to eat moderately and to exercise, the weight continued to creep back up.

A study following up on those winning contestants of the show has been published in the journal Obesity. "The key point is that you can be on TV, you can lose enormous amounts of weight, you can go on for six years, but you can't get away from a basic biological reality. As long as you are below your initial weight, your body is going to try to get you back", explained Dr. Michael Schwartz, professor of medicine at University of Washington, commenting on the results of the study he was not involved with.

Six years following on the end of the popular television program, of the 16 contestants, 14 underwent three days of testing at the National Institutes of Health. When their metabolic results reached them afterward, it was a shock. Investigators discovered that the hormone controlling hunger, leptin had plummeted. Which was complicated by the fact that their metabolic rate had also plummeted. While  those contestants began with normal leptin levels, by the time they had completed the process that the show put them through to lose weight, their leptin levels were virtually non-existent.

With no hormone present to signal that enough food had been eaten -- time to push away from the table -- they were, simply put, ravenous all the time. The result of which was that they ate to satisfy their hunger, and as they did the weight returned, responding to a metabolism rate that had bogged down. And while leptin levels rose, they did so only to a certain amount, insufficient to ensure their normal bodily reaction to food intake had not been compromised.

There are other hormones controlling hunger, and Australian researchers identified them. Aside from leptin, four other hormones are known that give people a feel of satiation. And all of those hormones as well, had decreased substantially in the study subjects that Dr. Joseph Proietto and his colleagues in Melbourne studied. They also found that a hormone whose purpose is to prod people to eat had risen while the others meant to signal enough food had been eaten, had declined.

Perhaps in time more will be discovered that will be useful in helping people to shed unneeded and dangerous weight. People whose only salvation at the present time turns out to be radical intervention like bariatric surgery. If new therapies useful to helping obese people lose weight can be found, people can regain control of their lives. And while massive weight gain is now being looked on itself as a chronic disease, it can be avoided.

The simple expedient of eating sensibly and exercising just as sensibly represents a tried and true balance between need and lifestyle equalling good health. Nature has endowed human bodies with mechanisms better suited to a primitive time when food was scarce and putting on fat assured survival during lean times; with the modern era and the prevalence of copious amounts of food available whose nutritional value has been compromised, that survival  formula has turned into the reverse of what it was meant to accomplish.

The Biggest Loser Contestants Permanently Harm Their Metabolism, Says Study
Danny Cahill     Chris Haston/NBC

Labels: , , , ,


Post a Comment

<< Home

()() Follow @rheytah Tweet