Rising Obesity & Dietary Trends


Rising obesity, sounds like an old topic to you, right? According to a report by Harvard School of Public Health, two out of three adults and one out of three children in the United States are overweight or obese, and the nation spends an estimated $190 billion a year treating obesity-related health conditions. We are well aware of this issue and have been trying every possible solution to fix it. Every year, we hear preaches from the weight lost experts, some are professional some are self-titled, trying to come up with different diet and to convince us there is a magic solution for weight loss.

But are we doing any better compared to a decade ago or even just few years ago? The answer is “No” as shown by the statistics in the graph below; we now all know part of the driving force of this worrisome epidemiology is due to our addiction to sugar. Rising consumption of sugary drinks has been a major contributor to the obesity epidemic. A typical 20-ounce soda contains 15 to 18 teaspoons of sugar and upwards of 240 calories. A 64-ounce fountain cola drink could have up to 700 calories. People who drink this “liquid candy” do not feel as full as if they had eaten the same calories from solid food and do not compensate by eating less.

So how about we eliminate sugar from our diet, will that save the world?

The shocking answer based on studies is “NO”. Based on an article by Tom Naughton, sugar can’t be the main driver of obesity, because rates of obesity have continued to rise while sugar consumption has been going down. That statement is based on data showing that our sugar consumption has dropped by around 15% over the last decade or two, depending on whose figures you use. Meanwhile, rates of obesity have continued to climb. Tom Naughton believes crappy oils and refined grains share a chunk of the blame. How about I tell you, it is the food and drinks made of heavily processed ingredients. Think about this, sugar, crappy oil and refined grains, what is the common theme among the three devils? They are all deeply processed! As a species, human beings were never exposed to any heavily processed food until after World War II. Then, what happened? A raising obesity rate and diseases associated with it. To make it more obvious, I would like to present the table below to you: the American dietary history and the key factors contributing to it.

Our ties with Mother Nature were severely reduced because we wanted convenience and quick fixes on everything. We invented many ways to process foods and finally got a point we were eating man-made food full of chemicals! Most ironically, the scientists were very proud of these inventions, as we removed the inconsistency and variabilities that are natural to whole foods. Trained as a medical researcher myself, I have to confess we don’t like variations and we feel good when we can repeat experiments with the same results. However, Mother Nature doesn’t create natural produce with the same look and same texture, how often can we pick two apples that look exactly the same?

So, what is the outlook?

I am actually glad to say the leading trends these days are actually leading us to the right direction: simple, minimum processed ingredients, plant-based diet, organic and Non-GMO. Please remember, the closer bond you have with Mother Nature the healthier you will become. My simple rule of thumb when picking up a prepared food or drink is to ask can I cook each item listed in the ingredient list? I am sure all of us won’t cook with chemicals, we cook with real food. So that is the key to weight loss and staying healthy.

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