“Thou seest I have more flesh than another man, and therefore more frailty.” William Shakespeare
Obesity is a major health issue. It is widely recognised that an epidemic of obesity is a fact in most industrialised nations. Up to 55% of New Zealanders and Australians are overweight or obese. The prevalence of obesity has tripled in the last 30 years and is linked to cardiovascular disease, cancer, arthritis, diabetes, depression, anxiety, infertility, thyroid dysfunction etc. Weight gain in ageing is often due to loss of muscle mass and insulin resistance, a cause and effect of visceral obesity being a core component of the Metabolic Syndrome; a range of metabolic disturbances including faulty lipid metabolism (high triglycerides and low HDL-good cholesterol), disturbances in glucose and insulin balance and often high blood pressure. This metabolic dysfunction can be improved through proper eating and resistance exercise.
Rebound fat gain is also prevalent in those trying to “diet” mainly because dieting often involves low fat, low calorie diets that are impossible to maintain over a long period of time and more importantly because the metabolic and neuro-endocrine underlying pathology including toxicity, inflammation and stress perpetuates the ongoing cycle of fat gain.
Evolution has favoured the survival instinct of hunger signals over the satiety (feelings of fullness) signals. We still genetically strive to store energy during times of plenty in preparation for famine. This distorts the appetite control mechanisms and to complicate this internal conflict we have the external corruption of food industries who manufacture overly processed, intoxicating substances and the equally mindless advertising corporations, hired by the food industry who promote these products. These may seem like harsh words, but the reality is that, as a society we all need to take responsibility for the health of our communities and for the generations that follow.
We can change the genetic predisposition towards obesity by paying attention to the way we eat and prepare food as well as the environment we live in. It is time now to review the diets and lifestyle of indigenous and traditional populations around the world that have lower rates of chronic disease and higher rates of healthy longevity. The recipe is simple: Exercise, sunshine, organic seasonal fruits and vegetables, whole unprocessed foods, less calories, family values, social networks, dealing with poverty and inequality, purpose & beliefs, laughter, clean pure water, balance between work and relaxation and proper sleep. Does this sound like a modern, industrialised consumer oriented society?
(PhysOrg.com) – “A new study in rats has found the female pups of obese males may be more likely to develop symptoms of diabetes later in life. The condition is not a case of genetic inheritance, but appears to be epigenetic inheritance, in which the chemical markers that affect how genes are expressed are inherited by the offspring. The expression of genes can be altered by conditions created by lifestyle choices such as bad diet leading to obesity.” This once again gives us the opportunity to alter the way genes are expressed.
If one takes an epidemiologic approach, there are several important factors that have been verified by research to contribute to the present obesity epidemic. Numerous studies have shown that infants who were breast fed less than 3 months are at more risk of obesity at school age or adolescence than those breast fed over 3 months. Those children of diabetic mothers and or those mothers that smoked are also more at risk. Another major factor is the increase in soft drink consumption which contains high fructose corn syrup. This was introduced in the 80’s and has been used in high frequency by the food manufacturers.
When fructose is ingested in whole fruits that retain the fibre and other nutrients, the fibre slows down the absorption and the antioxidants in the fruit protect cells from oxidative damage. Fructose from soft drinks or other processed foods do not contain fibre or any antioxidant nutrients and so have a very adverse effect on blood sugar levels that are linked to insulin resistance and type 2 diabetes as well as obesity.
The research is out there; the education and application of this research is the vital step we need to turn around this worldwide trend towards obesity and chronic disease. There is an abundance of healthy low glycemic, anti-inflammatory whole foods that should be available to all.
Two spices you can add to your food to assist with blood sugar stabilization are cinnamon and fenugreek.
Cinnamon may help by playing the role of an insulin substitute in type II diabetes, according to studies conducted at the University of California, Santa Barbara, and the U.S. Department of Agriculture"Cinnamon itself has insulin-like activity and also can potentiate the activity of insulin," said Don Graves of UCSB. "The latter could be quite important in treating those with type II diabetes.
Besides reducing blood sugar levels cinnamon improves leptin resistance and insulin resistance. Add to yogurt, tea, whole oats, fruit etc.
Fenugreek (Trigonella foenum-graecum) seeds contain a soluble fibre called mucilage thought to lower cholesterol and increase HDL or good cholesterol have been shown to have hypoglycemic and hypocholesterolemic effects on type1 & type2 diabetes patients and experimental diabetic animals. Supplementation of fenugreek lowers the lipid-profile in diabetes and improves body weight and liver glycogen. It appears to slow gastric emptying so slows down glucose metabolism having the effect of reducing insulin surges on carbohydrate ingestion.
The Better Balance Glycemic Index chart and the Anti-inflammatory Food Guide have invaluable information for assisting with weight management, normalising blood sugar levels and reducing oxidative stress- all precursors to chronic disease.
1. Oct 2010 (physOrg.Com)
2. "Metabolic Effects of Fructose on Worldwide Obesity" Physiol Rev 2010 Jan: 90 (1) 23-46