The Slowcook at Spydog Farm The Slowcook at Spydog Farm

Do We Need a Paradigm Shift in Thinking About Obesity?

September 3rd, 2011 · 2 Comments · Posted in Blog

Regular readers know that I am especially partial to science writer Gary Taubes and his ongoing efforts to question the prevailing notion that we get fat by eating too much and exercising too little.

Taubes, along with childhood obesity experts such as Robert Lustig, are convinced that prior generations actually had it right: we get fat by eating the wrong kinds of foods–sugars and starches–that trigger insulin and promote fat accumulation in the body.

This competing hypothesis–which I happen to believe is more likely to be correct–has enormous implications for children and the school meals program. It would mean, for instance, that the thinking behind Michelle Obama’s “Let’s Move” campaign is all wrong. Avoiding obesity is not about controlling appetite and exercising more. It’s about shunning sugary beverages (including chocolate milk) as well as starchy foods, including “whole grain rich” hamburger buns, mashed potatoes and cupcakes.

The reason I recommend reading Taubes’ post is that he clearly sets forth how it is that theories like “calories in, calories out” become conventional wisdom, how difficult it is to challenge such theories once they have become incorporated into common thinking, but why we must devote resources to test such theories to either confirm or disprove their validity.

For instance, children now get more than 20 percent of all their calories from added sugars in food. According to the “calories in, calories out” theory (a theory much loved by the processed food industry), this fact holds little meaning if kids simply moderate the total number of calories they consume. But if obesity results from the insulin produced by all that sugar, then such dietary developments are truly horrendous. We desperately need to monitor the kinds of foods children eat, not just the total amount.

A growing body of science has now implicated sugar (or fructose) specifically in the mechanisms that cause hypertension, diabetes, and cardio-vascular disease. The American Heart Association now warns that children show signs of heart disease risk because of all the sugar they consume.

Do read this post by Taubes if you are concerned at all about the science surrounding the obesity issue:

(Apologies: I have not figured out how to hyperlink on my new IPad.)

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  • Ivana Kadija

    Ed, it is so good to hear from you again. I see you have not been idle during your blogosphere silence…

    Thank you for helping engage us all in an evidence-based dialogue about obesity. It’s pretty obvious that the current paradigm is not working. And, I agree, instead of dismissing individuals who spend years researching a topic like Gary Taubes has, we should actually read what they have to say. Discuss it. Vet it. Provide an evidence-based rebuttal. Instead what we hear is that the evidence is inconclusive and that more research is needed. Well, where are you NIH? The man has been asking for appropriate research on the impact of sugar/carbs on weight gain for almost a decade!

    I am extremely pleased to share that Taubes has agreed to come and speak about sugar and children in Charlottesville on Monday, September 26, 7:30-9:30p at UVa’s Nau Auditorium.

    We are just pulling together the press release. So, stay tuned.

  • Ed Bruske

    That’s fantastic, Ivana. I’m sure I’ll want to be there for that. Keep me posted.