By: Dr Joseph Maroon
Along with the COVID-19 pandemic for the last three years, Americans have also suffered from another epidemic of accelerated weight gain and obesity. Initially, called the COVID 10, and later the COVID 20, weight gain has added to our already significant obesity problem. For some this may mean squeezing into clothes that no longer fit, but for others this has meant the onset of diabetes, heart disease, high blood pressure and sore joints due to the extra stress.
Weight gain and losing weight is one of the most talked about topics, and yet most people don’t understand how food energy is used and stored. And even fewer people known what types of food can lead to the greatest weight gain. One of the most profound scientific reports came out several years ago that shed light on why food addiction, and the resulting obesity, is so hard to overcome.
Fat cells, called adipocytes, are formed in our body to save calories for times when we later need them. Research now shows that when more and more of these fat cells start to get deposited in our bodies, they begin to act like a sponge that becomes very efficient at removing calorie producing molecules, like sugars from our diet, to be stored as fat. This essentially starves our other organs in our body of calories and causes extreme hunger and increased appetite. The cycle worsens as more and more fat cells are formed and more and more calories are pulled into storage. This is the major reason why most calorie restrictive diets don't work. The obese or overweight person is actually calorie deficient in the first place, since more is going into storage than being used, and therefore a more restrictive diet would be near impossible to follow.
Insulin is one of the most important factors as to why calories are stored as fat cells and not used as energy. After a meal of sugars and starches, insulin levels increase rapidly to pull the extra sugar molecules from our blood into our cells. Processed sugars, such as sucrose (cane sugar) found in almost all processed foods we eat, causes in response excessive insulin to be released. The excessive insulin plummets our blood sugar levels, and our brain believes we are starving, and the cycle repeats.
Carbohydrates are the primary stimulant to drive insulin higher and then reduce blood sugar levels, not fats or protein. In the 1980s, the public became convinced by advertisers and the food industry that fats were the cause of the obesity epidemic, and our food supply was infused with more sugar instead of fat. This did not slow the obesity epidemic one bit and, in fact, has literally added fuel to the fire. Carbohydrates (sugars) are the one thing that has consistently been shown to contribute to food addiction.
By reducing the amount of carbohydrates consumed and replacing them with healthy fats (mono and polyunsaturated) and protein many studies have demonstrated success with long-term weight loss. Being healthy starts with both determining and learning what the right choices are for better health. Put down that glass of sugary soda and try a protein shake instead.