Fat Fiction Fat, lies and measuring tape

13Feb/112

How the world got fat – the conclusion

What you looking at?

This whole website was borne out of one single idea, after I got gallstones. After researching, I found that the Pima Indians had gone from healthy to fat with the highest incidence of gallstones in the world, by the swapping of corn flour for white flour, and the addition of sugar to their diets. And I had an idea – what if obesity was simply the result of eating more to get all the nutrients you need to live, but not eating enough nutrients to burn body fat? Given white flour represents wheat stripped of all nutrition, this would make perfect sense...

So I started investigating and writing up the full story here right up until this post, the final conclusion. I started out thinking what if this were true. Several months later, I am absolutely sure of it. And it's more important than ever - even today there's a story in the paper's on how "Obesity will bankrupt the NHS".

Why do you get fat?

It’s not simply about carbohydrates. Nor insulin. Nor is it eat less and move faster.

-          Obesity cannot be ‘cured’ by exercise. It is not a sustainable method of weight loss – it increases metabolism so it will have short term effects – but if your metabolism dials down at any stage, you’ll instantly put the weight back on unless you’ve changed your diet. Additionally, you can burn fat through exercise, but if you push your body to do so without the necessary nutrients, you will use muscle to fuel fat burning (see below). Not a good look.

-          Obesity is not about overeating. Greed didn’t start in the 1970s. And sure you can overeat, like Sumo wrestlers are wont to do, but to assume everyone who’s fat is simply overeating is wilfully ignorant of the facts. This doesn’t mean however that fat people are not consuming too much. It means that hunger drives consumption, rather than some intrinsic character flaw.

-          Obesity is not about insulin. Although lack of insulin control may well lead to obesity, blaming the foods that cause the insulin spiking is ignoring the more important control mechanism; and that control mechanism is determined by your intake of nutrients. There’s a reason type 2 diabetics have various vitamin and micronutrient deficiencies; it’s because they’re needed for a metabolism of fat and regulation of insulin. Those nutrients should primarily be found in the diet. Low blood sugar - sugar addiction - is the body's necessary's fight for glucose for the brain. While the body prefers carbohydrates to convert into glucose (it's an easier process), the inability to fall back onto fats to convert into glucose results in a strong preference for sugars (sugar addiction), and resulting mood swings from low blood sugar.

-          Low-carb works but it's not necessary. Nutrient-free and even nutrient-negative foods are mostly carbohydrates but not exclusively. Low-carb eliminates all of these foods (grains, legumes, sugar) and so has  much more pronounced effect, but starchy vegetables like potatoes and parsnips for example are full of nutrition (unless you've processed them out a la french fries in McDs) so don't have to be excluded. Arguably however, meat is the most nutrient-rich food you can eat, which explains the success of diets like Atkins and other carb-restrictive diets (Zone, South Beach etc). All of them work because of one single factor:

You get fat because you don’t have enough nutrients to use body fat as a fuel. And so you eat more.

What nutrients? Protein, vitamins, minerals and fats. And why don’t you have enough? You either don’t eat enough, you eat foods that prevent absorption of minerals, you cannot absorb the nutrients due to damage to your GI tract, or finally you are consuming other foods creating inflammatory response that is diverting your nutrient stores into coping with toxins.

Causes of obesity

The most likely cause of all of these problems are two foods which actively deplete your stores of nutrients - white flour and sugar. White flour in particular represents humanity's biggest nutritional mistake; not only have we bred varieties of wheat that have several times the amount of gluten in them (the protein which demonstrably causes damage to the gastrointestinal tract in everyone to varying degrees, not just celiacs), we have stripped the grain of its protective coating, removed all the nutrition, and left only the damaging part which we then put into millions of foodstuffs across the world.

Other staples have similar issues. Corn used to be processed through a lengthy soaking procedure called nixtamilization, a process only realised to be essential after tens of thousands of people died from the associated nutritional deficiency disease pellagra. However, traditional nixtamilization has been replaced by a high-tech, high-speed enzymatic nixtamalization. The effect? A foundation of nutrient-poor food, that's driven Mexico to be the 2nd in the world obesity league, and prompted the government to consider a mass nutrient fortification programme via tortillas.

How to lose weight

If you reduce calories without addressing nutrients, you’ll get hungry and lose weight by burning off muscles to get the nutrients to fuel your fat loss. In general, unless very well thought out nutritionally, low carb diets maintain muscle. High carb ones do not.
If you’re sensible, you’ll turn to a diet:

  • low in foods that bind to minerals (grains/legumes, watch out for gluten especially)
  • low in foods with a high calories low nutrients (highly processed foods)
  • high in foods that provide the nutrients you need to burn fat: namely protein, healthy fat  (saturated, mono, omega 3), vitamins and minerals. In short, you’ll look a diet that is nutrients in, nutrients out.

Paleo diets, fat loss and vegetarians

How does this tie in with Paleo diets? When I first starting reading about Paleo, I got how it was a highly nutritious diet but knew that to say that paleo was the only way of losing weight was sheer nonsense. Now, a little bit wiser I get it. It's all about nutrients - all of it.

Understanding our true ancestral eating habits unlocks the most nutritious diet there is, and don't forget this is still an exploratory science; there's a reason why Paleo forums argue the toss about potatoes, why saturated fat is given a red flag by Cordain by a green light by Sisson. However, the wider point shouldn't be missed, and although this is sacrilegious in paleo circles, there are vegetarian diets which are highly nutritious too - the Tarahumara spring to mind. Ignore this at your peril, and it's a good job too. If the world were to go paleo, food security would be everyone's number one concern. The occasional war of words you see between dogmatic types in paleo and vegetarian circles are equally pointless. The real question is about sustainability of food sources. What's fascinating here is that while we bloggers have been discovering the dangers of high-phytate (grains/legumes) diets and the importance of omega 3 in diets through our own discoveries, scientists and government have known about much of this for a long time but have been slow to tie it to fat loss. More on that another day.

Shortcuts to fat loss

If you’re fat and hungry, you don’t need fuel – you need the keys to unlock the fuel you’re carrying. How will you know when you’ve found them? You won’t be hungry.

Now obviously whole unprocessed healthy foods are the key to fat loss right? Well, even though I wouldn’t recommend it, no. You think you need organic vegetables and grass-fed steak to lose weight? Of course you don’t. Depending on your deficiencies, adding a simple protein shake to your meals could reduce hunger – and therefore weight in the long run. Ensuring you have enough fats in your diet will reduce your hunger.

And how about vitamins and minerals? How do you think these women lost weight in a double blind placebo-controlled trial when given a multivitamin alone? (more details available here)

Hunger is your body’s search for nutrients. It doesn’t care where it finds them, what they look like, just so long as they can be absorbed.

So now what?

It was only ever going to be a couple of pages and it’s taken me a long time to get to the point. I know. And it would end here, except for the test to see if changing my diet dissolves gallstones (see the clock on the right hand side and D day countdown). Except there’s still one burning question left  – how do you solve world obesity?

But there’s also another question that began bothering me. If the UK along with several other developed countries is in the midst of an obesity epidemic caused by a lack of nutrients, surely obesity is just one expression of malnutrition. How the hell is all this affecting mood, behaviour and society?  Answer: in ways bigger than you’d ever imagine.

Comments (2) Trackbacks (1)
  1. Outstanding article. I was wandering arround low-carb, paleo sites trying to discoer the reality about nutrition, but your site, imho, has found the key. Every other theory has flaws on it, however they all fit with this idea of nutrient deficiency. Great work!


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