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Monday, May 14, 2012

The Latest Battle in America's War on Weight

Losing weight all boils down to simple "energy expenditure," right? That's what the government would like you to believe, if we are to listen to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and the National Institutes of Health. If you burn more calories than you take in, you should lose weight. However, not all calories are created equal.

Newsweek ran a story this week called "When I Grow Up, I'm Going to Weigh 300 lbs. Help!" The cover may be cute to some, but I found it disturbing. 

The story is partly in response to a four part HBO documentary that begins airing Monday, May 14th (today), "The Weight of the Nation."

The article sheds light on an alternative theory that has been around for years, but it keeps getting brushed aside: that refined sugars and grains affect the hormone insulin, which regulates fat accumulation. This is why our fat cells get fat. And fat fat cells lead to fat humans. The same cannot be said of protein, whole grains, vegetables and fruit. (The article does concede that fruit does contain fructose, but in much lower concentrations than sugary drinks and baked goods. Plus, I might add, fruit contains large amounts of fiber. In my opinion, that fiber balances out the sugars. And if you are eating a piece of fruit, you are less likely to eat a pastry, candy bar, or drink a soda.)

The article also argues that health arguments against eating meat (that it contributes to colon cancer, heart disease, obesity, and diabetes) can no longer be defended. I was reading this article thinking, "Finally! The calorie expenditure theory is being revealed as debunked!" But then I came to this. The article says a diet rich in meat, eggs and cheese (as well as leafy greens) is the healthiest diet! All I can see coming of this is a new fad, another trend towards one part of the food pyramid- meat, at the expense of all others. 

Yes, whole grains are FAR superior to refined sugars and carbohydrates. Yes, protein is important. But meat is not the best source of protein for most people. The American public has already proven itself to be less than critical of its sources of food. After all, where would companies like McDonalds, Walmart, and Monsanto (to name a few) be without our unquestioning acceptance? But making blanket statements like this is irresponsible on the part of Newsweek and the article's author, Gary Taubes. Taubes does not discern between "good" meat and "bad" meat. He never mentions other sources of protein- nothing is mentioned about beans and other whole plant sources like quinoa, hemp or chia. Instead, he mentions that "the lowly cheeseburger is consistently targeted as a contributor to both obesity and diabetes," and he goes on to show us that these diseases are due to our love of refined grains, not our meat consumption. And then he seemingly gives the green light for that same cheeseburger.

I am not saying he is wrong about refined sugar's effect on insulin. I am not saying NO ONE should EVER eat meat. I am saying we are (again) missing  a much simpler approach. Just focus on eating vegetables and fruit first. FILL UP on produce, before even thinking about the other food groups. No one overdoses on leafy greens. Disease does not result from eating too many oranges. (If it is possible to get too much of a particular nutrient from a vegetable or fruit, it is most unlikely one would be able to consume that much of that particular vegetable or fruit.)

While this article brought to light the truth for many people who believed that a calorie is a calorie is a calorie, it should have stopped there. It finally set the record straight on that front. However, it may have contributed to a whole other trend or fad, one that we've seen before with the Atkins diet. My question is, when will we finally welcome a trend diet of mostly whole, raw (hopefully organic where possible) vegetation?

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