We have more access to food than ever – yet we are also fatter and sicker than we have ever been. Also there are so many cheap foods in the market, so what have been luxury for years, now we can access to it easily.
How can this be in the 21st Century?
The answer, it is claimed, lies in the series of graphs below, which paint a stark picture of our food and drink consumption over the past few decades.
The modern diet is the main reason why people all over the world are fatter and sicker than ever before. Everywhere modern processed foods go, chronic diseases like obesity, type 2 diabetes and heart disease soon follow. When people abandon their traditional foods in favour of modern processed foods high in sugar, preservatives, emulsifiers, gelling agents, antioxidants, acidulants, refined flour and vegetable oils, they get sick. When health professionals started blaming saturated fat for heart disease, people abandoned traditional fats like butter, lard and coconut oil in favour of processed vegetable oils. These oils are very high in Omega-6 fatty acids, which can contribute to inflammation and various problems when consumed in excess. These oils are often hydrogenated, which makes them high in trans fats. Many studies have shown that these fats and oils actually increase the risk of heart disease, even if they aren’t hydrogenated. Therefore, the misguided advice to avoid saturated fat and choose vegetable oils instead may have actually fuelled the heart disease epidemic.
Of course, there are many things that can contribute to these health problems, but changes in the diet are the most important factor. The anti-fat message essentially put the blame on saturated fat and cholesterol (harmless), while giving sugar and refined carbs (very unhealthy) a free pass.
Since the guidelines were published, many massive studies have been conducted on the low-fat diet. It is no better at preventing heart disease, obesity or cancer than the standard Western diet, which is as unhealthy as a diet can get. For some very strange reason, we are still being advised to follow this type of diet, despite the studies showing it to be completely ineffective. Other changes in food purchasing habits are not particularly positive, but closer inspection reveals that the trend has probably served to improve health. For example, the consumption of fat is higher today than it was in 1909, although not as high as in 1956, when fat intake peaked. But the fats present in foods today are in many ways healthier than those used just 50 years ago.
The main question is not just how much food we consume, the quality of the food is much more important as we know a good saying, never eat anything what your grandma would not recognise. Food quality is often associated with the times when the food was produced. So we cannot conclude that people are becoming unhealthier just because they buy more fat-containing food.
For many years scientists thought obesity could be caused by a shortage of leptin that plays a key role in regulating energy intake and expenditure, including appetite and hunger, metabolism, and behavior. It is one of the most important adipose -derived hormones. Leptin functions by binding to the leptin receptor. The gene is located on chromosome 7 in humans. Thinking that without adequate levels, overweight people simply never received the message that they were full. When we eat food, the brain chemical dopamine is released, creating a feeling of pleasure and reward. But more recent studies have shown that obese people have plenty of leptin (in fact, the fatter you are, the more of it you appear to have), but are more likely to be leptin-resistant. This means the cells in the brain that should register leptin no longer read the signals saying the body is full, but instead assume it is starving no matter how much food you continue to eat.
In panic, the brain pumps out instructions like increasing energy storage instigating powerful cravings for high-fat, high-sugar foods because these are the easiest and most immediate forms of energy and conserve energy usage, by dampening any urge to get up and make some exercise, even if it is just a walk. The food cravings are made even more intense and impossible to resist because leptin is supposed to dampen the feeling of pleasure and enjoyment you get from food by suppressing the release of the brain chemical dopamine, helping to decrease appetite. But if you are leptin-resistant, food never stops tasting delicious, no matter how much of it you eat. Insulin resistance may also start in the womb, and that exposure to high sugar diets via the mother may trigger genetic changes that increase a baby’s risk of insulin and leptin resistance in later life.
This is why many overweight people find it so hard to stop eating, and why diets so often fail.
Some tips to avoid these fails: