Curing the Obesity Epidemic with Fat

I thought I might give you folks at home a break from the campaign reporting and send you a post on food and health.  I was cherry picking some Lew Rockwell podcasts to download, and I ran across this interview with a chap named Gary Taubes.  He has a long list of academic credentials, but his main focus at this point appears to be diet and health and most specifically the benefits of low-carb diets, which is a subject that is near and dear to my heart.

I have previously advocated in favor of the Somersize diet, which is a low-carb diet that emphasizes eating protein and fat in larger quantities while giving sugar, white flour, and starchy vegetables a miss.  I’m going to toot my horn here and tell you that to date, I have lost over 100 pounds on this diet, so I am here to tell you that low-carb diets work.  I eat like a horse and maintain weekly weight losses without counting calories, a feat which I frankly never believed possible.

Some of you would no doubt say, Seriously?!  A diet where I don’t have to weigh and measure and count and keep a food journal?  No way!  It sounds too good to be true!  It isn’t.  Carbohydrates are the obstacle between the average dieter and success.  I have tried various low-calorie diets, most of which were heavy on the carbs in the maintenance phase.  I starved myself, exercised like a maniac – we’re talking a 10k run every day with a weight circuit – and I was still overweight.  It was depressing and disheartening, and I eventually gained back all the weight I’d lost over the years and then some.  It was a sorry state of affairs.

Like so many others, I had this feeling that there was something in the equation that was missing.  I weighed the food, I counted the calories, I logged my exercise, but still something wasn’t adding up.  Why was I still fat?  I should have been a serious beast, given the amount of exercise and minimal amount of food that I was eating.  I felt healthy, but I never had that bangin’ bikini bod for which most of us girls so dearly yearn.  As it turns out, carbohydrates generally and sugar specifically are the most likely derailers of the beleaguered dieter.

According to a New York Times article written by Taubes which cites a statistic given by the U.S.D.A, by the early 2000s, the average American was consuming about 90 pounds of sugar a year.  Please bear in mind that this includes all sugar – fructose, sucrose, high-fructose corn syrup, and all of their comrades.  As I’ve discussed in previous articles, high-fructose corn syrup, or corn sugar, as some companies as now choosing to call it, is to be found in a large number of products that are on the grocery store shelves today.  If you are shopping anywhere but the outer edge of the supermarket, it will be a difficult thing for shoppers to avoid.  I have previously mentioned the specific dangers of high-fructose corn syrup in my article “If You Really Are What You Eat, America is in BIG Trouble,” so you can check out the links and analysis there.

In Taubes’ Times article, he goes on to remark that, in legalese, the evidence that links sugar, obesity, and diabetes together is purely circumstantial.  He goes on to point out, though, that the evidence becomes more compelling when you realize that in the 1980s, one in every six Americans was obese, and there were only about 6 million cases of diabetes at that time.  By the early 2000s, though, one in three Americans is obese, and there are more than 14 million reported cases of diabetes.  That, friends and neighbors, is quite a significant jump for a 20-year period.  Taubes goes on to cite more excellent examples of the proposed link between increases in American sugar consumption and diabetes-related deaths.

So if there is a link between being a lard butt, having “the diah-beet-us,” and horking down sugar like there’s no tomorrow, where did this notion about eating more carbs and less fat come from?  Well, it came from a nutritionist at the University of Minnesota named Ancel Keys.  He did a study called the Seven Countries study, and he came to the conclusion that saturated fat consumption was the best predictor of heart disease.  At the same time, a man named John Yudkin was claiming that sugar raised the level of triglycerides in the blood, which is now considered to be a link to heart disease.  The two were not exactly best friends, and Keys apparently wrote some scathing commentaries about Yudkin which he (Yudkin) never quite lived down.  As a result, advocating any of Yudkin’s ideas was a bit of a taboo in the nutritional community for some time afterwards, as nobody wanted to damage his or her reputation by being linked to a researcher who hadn’t been taken seriously.

Taubes brings all of this information nicely back around to talk about metabolic syndrome, which is quite often the cause of heart attacks.  Simply stated, if you have metabolic syndrome, you are insulin-resistant – your cells are ignoring the hormone insulin.  Your pancreas produces insulin to keep your blood sugar under control when you eat.  When you eat carbohydrates, your body has to produce more insulin to control your blood sugar.  At the point where your pancreas can no longer produce enough insulin to control your blood sugar, you have diabetes.

Several studies have been done where lab rats were given diets heavy in fructose.  The results were stunningly clear: the rats developed fatty liver and insulin resistance.  Why would fatty liver be linked to insulin resistance?  Well, your liver is what metabolizes fructose and sucrose (refined sugar), and when your liver cannot keep up with your consumption of sugar, you will develop fatty liver.  When the animals’ diet was changed, however, the fatty liver and insulin resistance disappeared in short order.

Somers touches on the notion that eating sugar may contribute to increased rates of cancer.  According to Taubes, research supports this, as individuals who are obese, have diabetes, and/or who have metabolic syndrome are more likely to have cancer.  The reason for this, it has been discovered, is that some cancer cells actually thrive on insulin.  Insulin seems to be the signal for pre-cancerous cells to develop mutations and begin multiplying in large numbers.  In effect, insulin nourishes these out-of-countrol cells.

Taubes wraps up his illuminating report by saying that he feels like he should allow himself or his sons to eat some sugar in moderation.  The evidence is not completely conclusive on the subject.  However, he admits that sugar scares him, and he just can’t quite bring himself to chow down on those delicious delights.

For my part, I find it rather hard to ignore the evidence, circumstantial though it may be.  There is no denying that America is getting fatter and fatter, and more and more people are being diagnosed with adult onset diabetes.  Cancer rates are not decreasing.  I think it would be fairly tough to argue that there isn’t something terribly wrong with the American diet today, and the amount of sugars, starches, and carbohydrates in our diet is certainly one of them, in my opinion.

Am I advocating that you all go out and start chowing down on giant steaks and fatty bacon?  No.  Lean, grass-fed meat is always best for us, of course.  What I am saying is that you might want to think twice before picking up that bottle of Coca-Cola or shoving that Ding-Dong into your mouth.  What I’m saying is that the conventional wisdom that states that fat and protein are our enemies is simply untrue.  You can eat a diet rich in flavor with meat, cream, cheese, and a variety of healthy fruits and vegetables that is delicious, nutritious, and will help you lose and maintain a healthy weight without feeling like you’re starving.  The simple truth is that you will find it much harder to maintain a lean physique if you eat a lot of carbs and sugar.

I strongly encourage all of you to check out the Somersize Diet or the Atkins Diet.  I’ve heard the South Beach Diet is good too, as far as low-carb diets go, but I can’t speak from my own or friends’ experiences, because I don’t know anyone who has done South Beach.  I would also seriously recommend that you read the article I linked and check out Gary Taubes’ blog, which is relatively new and features articles about the dangers of eating too much sugar.  He also has two books, Why We Get Fat and Good Calories, Bad Calories.  I haven’t read either of them, but I’m so impressed with his evaluations that I intend to pick one or both of them up as soon as I get a chance.

So instead of shoveling gobs of sugary chocolates into my mouth this Valentine’s Day, I think I will be opting instead to have a nice chicken breast with some yummy veggies and maybe some brie or camembert for dessert.  (Nothing says “classy” like a cheese plate!)  If you’re struggling with your weight, you are not alone, but the great news is that you can turn things around, and it doesn’t have to be painful or involve deprivation.  Check out Suzanne Somers’ books about weight loss, and if you still aren’t convinced, head over to Gary Taubes’ site for some rigorous scientific analysis.  You won’t regret it; I sure haven’t!

Check out the media below for more information on becoming a low-carber!  Please give a listen to the Taubes-Rockwell interview!

Gary Taubes’ Website
“Is Sugar Toxic?”
 by Gary Taubes
Suzanne Somers Books
Lew Rockwell Interview with Gary Taubes: Why We Get Fat and What To Do About It  (page includes downloadable Podcast)


About The Lady Libertarian
I am American, currently expatriated but hopeful about getting back home one of these days. Besides reading and writing about politics, I enjoy camping, sailing, canoeing, making pie, and traveling. I hope you'll enjoy this blog and find it informative and accessible.

2 Responses to Curing the Obesity Epidemic with Fat

  1. Beth says:

    I definitely thought the Atkins diet was insane when I first heard of it. It sounded like the perfect recipe for a heart attack. But the more I read, the more it seems we need those healthy fats and protein and that all those processed carbs are what is doing everyone in. Although, I eat a disgusting amount of sugar and carbs and all I really gain is that annoying pooch around my stomach- so of course, in my mind it didn’t seem like they mattered (although now I see the connection between it and being all pimply and tired). I really want to cut out sugar, but it is so addictive- makes sense why they put it in everything. And it used to not bother me, but now I have really extreme symptoms of hypoglycemia- if I eat too much sugar, or miss meals I get so shakey- the other day I was at work and got caught up and ate lunch really late and I was shaking so bad by the time I got food I kept flipping the food off my fork (kind of seems funny later, but not at the time- I was so dang hungry lol). Not to mention it affects my mood and energy levels. It’s a vicious cycle I crave sugar, you get that blood sugar spike and you feel better temporarily, then you crash and leaves you craving more. But protein and fat, especially meat, makes me feel a lot more stable and satisfied. It’s funny, I eat right and I can see how much better it makes me feel, but those dang sugar cravings get me every time!! I need to work on my will-power.

    Also, I’ve probably said it before, but on this topic I really like anything by Michael Pollan. Oh and I watched Food Inc the other day- trying to get my brain back on the right track again for eating healthy- it made me so sick to watch that. But I get stuck in a rut, just rushing around- going to have another six day work week this week- it’s just too easy to grab McDs on the way to work than wake up a little early and make something healthy- honestly breakfast is my hardest meal for eating right- I think if I could change up my breakfast habits the rest would seem easy in comparison- I’m just so not a morning person lol- only with coffee I can pretend to be!

  2. I broke down and had some chocolate today, and I wish I hadn’t. I feel so much better when I avoid sugar altogether. It makes me feel gross within 15 minutes, whereas I can eat a big meal of vegetables and meat or have a fruit snack and feel just dandy. I think you really have to detox from the sugar to realize just how bad it is for you. I love my ice cream and chocolate, but I don’t enjoy it nearly as much as I used to.

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