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The secret life of obesity


Two things everyone is worried about are pandemics and food these days. Perhaps a greater understanding of the importance of food is one of the unifying aspects of the COVID-19 pandemic.

Suddenly, everybody is cooking at home, simply living just like our great grandparents did, using ingredients they have on hand. It's probably the first time in a long time, as odd as these times have been that our lives may at least look familiar to our ancestors when it comes to our everyday meals.

During the depression, my grandma grew up. When she was a child, she would tell stories of what food was like in her home with meals of fresh baked bread, fresh vegetables and eggs or meat. They developed much of what they ate and occasionally cream or meat treats came from or by exchange from their fathers' congregation.

Meals were simple, and almost everything was local and pesticide-free, because that was just the way food was back then. The children ate what was served or went hungry. Nutrition was not even a subject of conversation, but children were still fed, were rarely overweight, and had no type 2 diabetes or established allergies to food. What has occurred?

Chew On This

COPYRIGHT_WI: Published on https://washingtonindependent.com/ebv/the-secret-life-of-obesity/ by Susan Murillo on 2020-12-10T05:32:59.282Z

"Obesity is a global pandemic in both adults and children," say scientists who analyzed research affecting more than 68 million people worldwide, finding that at least 1.9 billion adults were overweight and that approximately 650 million adults and 107.7 million children were obese.1 And children were more likely than adults to be obese in some countries.

This pandemic accounts for 4 million deaths worldwide every year and is deadly. And it is not just the most obese who are at risk: 40 percent of those deaths occurred in individuals who fall into the "overweight" group.

We know it's a problem: obesity has tripled in the U.S. since the 1960s, from 13.4% to 42.4% in 2018, and it has risen from 14% in 1978 to 26.8% in 2018 in Canada. Perhaps more troubling, however, is that for both nations, when the figures equate both those who are obese with those who are overweight, the proportion skyrockets between 63.1 and 71.6 percent or 2 out of 3.

Ironically, this disturbing prevalence of those identified as overweight or obese comes at a time when a major nutrition awareness campaign has also taken place. We now know so much more than we used to know about how our bodies work and the value of diet and exercise, but to some extent, two-thirds of us are overweight.

According to the "Environmental Obesogens: Mechanisms and Controversies" data gathered in the study, part of the response lies in the fact that healthcare professionals and experts have a little too simplistic approach to what makes people overweight, explicitly pointing to the traditional "managing diet and increasing exercise" advice as "myopic."

The National Health and Diet Review Study, one of the largest such surveys, examined groups of men and women between 1988 and 2006. They found that while both sexes increased "leisure-time physical activity" (by 47 percent in males and 120 percent in females), the average adult BMI was up to 2.3 kg/m2 higher in 2006 than in 1988 for an equal amount of caloric and macronutrient intake.

"Thus, while the researchers' takeaway is not for individuals to stop exercising or eat whatever they want, it is rather to acknowledge that the study "casts considerable doubt on the adequacy of the simplistic energy balance model of obesity and strongly suggests the importance of other risk factors in obesity." In other words, obesity is complicated and the overly simplified "eat less".

Bone This Way

The emergence of epigenetics, the study of environmental factors that turn genes on or off, thereby deciding how genes are expressed without altering the basic DNA of an individual, has introduced a new dimension to the issue of how much is dictated by genetics and how much is environmental. Can obesity be correlated with what happened in the womb or maybe even with what happened to our ancestors long before we were born?

Developmental Origins of Health and Disease (DOHaD) studies investigate how the conditions faced by a fetus in the womb of the mother and post-birth affect the functioning of the organs and metabolism of the baby's brain, and how these conditions form the basis of the immune system. With his research connecting low birth weight to chronic diseases in adulthood, Dr. David Barker started this area of science three decades ago.

Extensive research has shown that "low birth weight is associated with an increased risk of later-life non-communicable diseases (NCDs), including cardiovascular diabetes hypertension and neurological disorders." Not just restricted to infant health and later disease risk, although in the absence of such potential futures, the harmful effects of low birth weight can be transmitted through generations.

In particular, obese mothers are more likely to have babies born early who are underweight and who continue to be obese and develop chronic diseases such as diabetes later in life, especially those obese before pregnancy and during the first trimester. Obesity can also contribute to pre-term births in the most serious circumstances.

Obesity was associated with a significant increase in risk" of delivery before 28 weeks of pregnancy for first-time mothers and an increased risk for those with their second or later baby, the largest study looking at this foundation.

Some researchers speculate that "hungry" undernourished babies are born as if their metabolism feels it has been born into a world of scarcity. The mother's cells will withhold calories from the fetus, which becomes metabolically efficient and develops metabolically to do the same in storing fats and accumulating calories.

The amount of food eaten by the mother is not simply the hunger they feel in the womb, but rather the consistency and whether it is influenced by pesticide pollution, heavy metals, growth hormones, or other toxins. An individual may, therefore, be both undernourished and obese.

Nutrients Flow Across Generations

Although females born to obese mothers are more likely to be obese themselves, it has been shown that the birth weight of donor embryos correlates with the surrogate and there is more to it than just what happens in the womb. Nutrients flow through centuries, according to Improve the Future, a movement to minimize chronic diseases through nutrition and whose work is focused on the science of DOHAD.

This implies that the diet of a woman directly influences not only the health of her own child but also the health of her grandchild. Lest one assume that this is all the duty of women, this flow is not entirely confined to the mother's nutrition. There have also been studies that indicate that males born to obese fathers are more likely to be obese and others that show that the weight of a baby may be affected by the grandfather's health.

The Överkalix study which examined an isolated group in Sweden from 1890 to 1995, is among the most cited studies in this area. This multi-generational long-term research analyzed cycles of severe drought and other low food supply conditions in order to discover whether they could impact the health of future generations in terms of obesity and diabetes mortality. Interestingly, some of the findings showed risks transmitted along the lines of the male sex.

For example, if a father began to smoke early, the likelihood of obesity in the son increased, but not in 6the daughter. And similarly, the food availability of a grandfather during the "slow growth period" between 8 and 12 years of age was correlated with negative effects on the grandsons, but not the grandsons they're granddaughters.

A more recent Australian study had similar findings, showing that the sons of obese fathers, but not daughters, were more at risk of developing metabolic obesity disorders and diabetes even while consuming the same foods as males whose fathers were not obese.

Major Disruptions

It has only recently become common knowledge that environmental chemicals, especially those considered endocrine-disrupting, may interact with our endocrine system responsible for the deposition and distribution of energy balance fat and hormone regulation (EDCs).

"In 2006, Grün and Blumberg put forward the "obesogen hypothesis." It indicated that EDCs were prevalent in the atmosphere in the form of obesity-promoting chemicals called obesogens and could predispose individuals to obesity and related disorders.

Obesogens can also influence the production of fat cells from stem cells (adipogenesis) and alter the metabolic rate by changing the energy balance towards the storage of calories and influencing the brain and other organs involved in food processing.

From Tributyltin industrial chemical (TBT) to fuels such as Aircraft Propellant . The list of obesogens confirmed or believed to be present is long. What Are We Putting in Our Diet That Makes Us Fat in the Study? A variety of dangerous food-specific obesogens, including antibiotics, are listed by researchers.

Heavy metal hormones, flame retardant dioxins, organophosphate pesticides (OPP), and phthalates. As ingredients to be avoided, they also name a host of food additives commonly recognized as healthy, such as sodium benzoate, MSG, soy, and high fructose corn syrup. In the case of at least some of these obesogens, research indicates that even without direct exposure, their capacity to affect weight gain can extend over many generations.

Gut Feeling

At least some of the research into why North Americans are overweight and the role that obesogens play indicates that a significant factor in helping humans and animals reduce the harmful effects of obesogens is the health of the intestinal microbiome. The microbiome refers to an ecological population of microbes, fungi, viruses, archaea of microorganisms that share our body room. Humans consist of trillions of microbes.

Human cells, indeed, make up just 43 percent of the overall cell count of the body! We now know that at least some elements of our microbiome have co-evolved with us and are unique and important to human health, particularly in the functioning of our immune system and metabolism, as research continues to explore the mystery of our gut makeup. It is believed that both the usage of energy from our diet and the very genes that regulate energy expenditure and storage can be affected by gut microbes.

Although and the microbiome is special, through the birth process, elements of it can be passed on to our children and their children, influencing our epigenetics. While we still don't understand a lot about the microbiome and its position over centuries, what is evident is that before we conceive, we can help ensure the best potential microbiomes.

Researchers have noticed that microbiome diversity is declining and our microbiome depends on a broad range of inputs to ensure good health, just like the fine balance diversity plays in environmental ecosystems.

Although our current high-fat, low-fiber, simple carbohydrate diet is a possible culprit, research also questions our overuse of antibiotics and the habit of using household antibacterial products, which are found almost anywhere from hand soaps to our shoes' lining.

Although antibiotics and even antibacterial products have their place, it is important to remember that a person needs all the elements of their microbiome living in harmony to be in a state of complete health, including all human cells as well as bacteria and organisms that may be categorized as viruses, parasites, or other microbes that are still unidentified. In short, in order for human life to survive, we must have bacteria and other microbes, and lots of them, and we need them in good balance to be safe.

Back To The Future

Is there hope, with multi-generational effects and environmental chemicals further complicating our already dynamic relationship with food and weight?

Although the research indicates that genetics and epigenetics play a role in obesity, the effects of body weight and environmental obesogens are often highly affected by stress, drugs, infections, diseases, and the microbiome," making a balanced lifestyle and eating habits beneficial for both you and your generations to come.

"By advising that people focus on eating more like their ancestors, Michael Pollan has cut through the confusion of contemporary dieting: "Don't eat something your great-grandmother wouldn't recognize as food," he says, warning against not only the sodas and chips but also the go gurts, power bars, protein shakes, and all the other over-marketed "food items.

What if we were to go a little deeper with this advice and live a little more like our great-grandma, too? Science backs up that. Not only does participating in social interactions in real-time (a fundamental source of entertainment before technology took over that role) make people happier, it can also reduce the risk of obesity, making it good for your physical health. 12,13 And it can be more effective in terms of outdoor fitness, taking a 30-minute walk in your daily routine than joining a gym for waistlines and more.

Small Steps For Big Benefits

It doesn't have to be overwhelming to choose a balanced diet. Actually, maybe you already know more than enough to get you started. Automatically, feeding and living more like your great-grandma implies reducing food and water exposure to obesogens. The best way to do this is to change your diet minimally by replacing refined foods with the less processed or minimally processed version of the same and replacing an organic version of anything you eat or brush on your skin.

Morning Modifications

If breakfast consists of skim milk cereal and coffee sweetened with a sugar substitute, switching to whole, organic milk, and organic coffee brewed with filtered water and sweetened with real organic sugar will be a small improvement.


Research has related the intake of skim and low-fat milk to weight gain (and infertility), indicating that these versions function like an endocrine-disrupting chemical (also the same explanation for considering avoiding soy). Changes in the gut microflora that result in obesity have been related to sugar substitutes such as saccharin and aspartame. In addition, tap water and often, in particular, bottled water may have all kinds of obesogens in it.

Supper Substitutions

You will find organic versions of all these components (and miss any diet) if dinner is red meat or chicken, salad, rice, and diet soda. It is possible to substitute the refined salt with sea salt, and organic spices are readily available.


Organic poultry can be infected with conventionally raised obesogens with some of the highest trace levels of growth hormone and steroids, and some of the highest antibiotic concentrations are contained in conventional chicken and farm-raised fish. Conventionally grown vegetables may contain very large traces of pesticides such as OPP, and pesticides and even arsenic are likely to contaminate traditional rice. The intake of diet soda is far more closely linked to obesity than its full-sugar counterpart (although neither is healthy.

Clean Slate

Go organic or EWG green-certified switch-out of your shampoo and conditioner and skin moisturizer for personal care. In lieu of something perfumed or petroleum-based, consider an edible organic oil like cocoa butter or almond oil.


Your skin is extremely porous and chemicals that are rubbed on your body will reach your bloodstream directly. In skin creams, perfumes, and other beauty care products, many proven obesogens are found.

Level-Up The Larder

Once these easy switches have either become second nature or the pocketbook suffers (organic forms of processed foods are famously costly), it might be time for those foods to be phased out entirely. By cooking from scratch, sodas, cereal, deep-fried meals, and industrial snacks can be substituted. For restaurant meals, which are costly and less likely to have the best quality ingredients, the same applies. You can splurge on organic vegetables and balanced fatty foods like wild-caught fish and grassy, organic butter if you prepare more yourself.

Home-made fermented drinks such as water kefir, ginger ale, or the ever-popular kombucha can be a perfect way to get probiotics and still get your soda fix if you're having trouble kicking the soda habit. Some of the more natural strands of beneficial bacteria can be re-introduced into the body by probiotics and fermented foods such as sauerkraut or kimchi.

Try to miss snack time entirely by ensuring that each meal is substantial and balanced among nutrient groups or that your meals are at least better spaced.

Why Skip Snacking?

Nutritionists in functional medicine, including Margaret Floyd Barry of Eat Naked Now, claim that bodies are meant to go through balanced peaks and lows in blood sugar during the day and the temptation to snack is naturally decreased when meals are replete with a combination of high-quality elements.

Our blood sugar spikes higher and dips lower than it would otherwise, resulting in the temptation to binge on goldfish crackers or indulge in afternoon caffeine because we do not consume a combination of healthy fats, protein, and carbohydrates and opt for a diet of simple sugars instead. At each meal, eat more protein, healthy fats, and vegetables, then reach for a glass of filtered water between meals.

Floyd Barry encourages adults to go between meals for four hours, and while children are not likely to be able to go as long, make sure the snack time is filled with healthy fats to keep the levels of blood sugar functioning as they should.

In addition, our attitude about fats must be changed: our body needs them! High-quality fats are all dependent on the growth and maintenance of our brain, skin, endocrine system, and weight. They also enable satisfaction, helping you to make the next meal more pleasant.

Understanding obesogens and their role in our health will allow us to invest in lifestyle improvements and dietary behaviors that both us and our descendants have incredible health benefits. It also makes it clear that a compromise requires a desire for reform from society.

We can see that obesity is a disease cultivated by inadequate control of chemicals, pesticides, and food additives, and directly linked to access and means, as our food supply becomes increasingly polluted and our healthcare systems become taxed to cope with the health consequences.

It would be good to envision a world where every child has unrestricted access to foods that are not combined with additives that are likely to minimize their chances of prosperity. Living through COVID-19 makes it clear that when we have the will, we are able to take drastic steps, and perhaps persuade us that there is a way, no matter what pandemic we face.

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About The Authors

Susan Murillo

Susan Murillo - Susan has been interested in real estate since she was a child in Halifax, Nova Scotia. Susan had always wanted to pursue a direction that would encourage her to support others, and she discovered her true calling in real estate, where she could serve her clients and direct them through one of their most significant investments. Shannon has been involved in the selling and distribution of one billion dollars in real estate in Western Canada over the last ten years.

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