Today’s issue of the Dallas Morning News features the headline “Wide world: Obesity is spreading.” According to the article, hunger no longer holds much of the world in its grip, as the obese now outnumber the malnourished worldwide 2 to 1.
While I don’t doubt for a moment that this is true, what I find more alarming is that the so-called “experts” are still singing the same, fatally flawed tune about the cause of the world’s obesity being lack of exercise and the consumption of too much fat.
The problem is simple according to Todd Whitthorne, president and CEO of Cooper Wellness in Dallas:
“Too many calories in and too little physical exertion to burn them up,” Whitthorne says.
Once again, the “glutton and sloth” argument rears its head.
Invariably, when the subject of obesity arises, the first thing the experts tell us is we’re fat because we eat too much and we don’t exercise enough. By leading with this argument, and its implicit message that “it’s all about calories,” experts downplay or disregard the much bigger issue: the significant differences that various food types have upon our bodies. They act as though 1,000 calories of a grass-fed steak will have the same effect upon our bodies, and our health, as 1,000 calories of fruits or grains.
When they finally stray to the subject of the poor nutritional content in today’s foods, the experts once again roll out the same culprits: sugar, fat, and salt.
Even when indicting sugar, the experts once again miss the mark and blame sugar because it has “empty calories” or other verbal nonsense, instead of pointing out that sugar is harmful because it elevate our blood glucose to damaging levels. Because of this disregard for blood glucose levels, experts tell us to avoid sugar while telling us in the same breath to eat whole grains, which will spike our blood sugar as high, or higher, than the demonized sugar will.
Lumped in with sugar (certainly a culprit) and salt (very rarely a culprit), fat appears on virtually every expert’s radar as principal dietary evil. Tom Naughton, the creator of the documentary Fat Head, blogged earlier this month about an FDA study showing that fat consumption is decreasing in the United States while our health continues to worsen.
What should we do to reverse this trend? We should give the experts who created the problem even more power over what we eat, argues the Dallas Morning News. The article praises the government of Mauritius, who recently “prodded” oil makers to switch from palm oil to soybean oil to “reduce cholesterol.” Ignoring the fact that there’s also no correlation between cholesterol level and heart disease (“total cholesterol” is likely the most useless and misleading criteria one can use to asses heart disease risk—the subject of lipids and heart disease is complex enough that I devote more than one quarter of Don’t Die Early to the topic), soybean oil has 400% more inflammatory omega-6 fatty acids than palm oil.
In advocating government regulations designed to make people healthier, the article quotes University of North Carolina nutritionist Barry Poplin who bemoans, “There are really an enormous number of things going on by other countries, while the U.S. has hardly any…We may have talked about it in nutritional circles, but our government has been unwilling to take on anything seriously.”
The reason, according to Deborah Craig, associate professor of nutrition at UT Southwestern, is no mystery. “People believe it’s their right to have a piece of chocolate cake, independent of what the consequences are,” she states.
Yes, Dr. Craig, we do believe it’s our right to have a piece of chocolate cake. Just as we believe it’s our right to have a piece of grass-fed steak, a glass of whole milk, or some full-fat whipping cream, all of which are demonized by the same nutritional experts who are responsible for the failed nutritional laws and guidelines of the past half century.
Until all of you experts and policy makers find the courage to admit that you have been wrong and stop demonizing fat while promoting grains and ignoring the importance of effective glucose control, our health will continue to crumble.
And all the while you’ll blame television commercials, vending machines, lazy citizens, and lack of “serious” government regulation.