Posts Tagged ‘Obesity’

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“I’ll have a large fries and a heart stent, please…”

Wednesday, August 7th, 2013

My, how time flies. It seemed just a few decades ago – it was 1986, to be exact – when the first human heart stent was put in place. A revolution in cardiovascular medicine ensued. With coronary arteries closing down faster than record stores these days, stents are the prop that allows these clogged and clogging vessels a handful of additional years of breathing room.

Ex-President George W. Bush – you remember, the one who loved to bike and hike and work out and all that -is the latest star to have a stent put in place. He joins an illustrious crowd, including Bill Clinton, Dick Cheney and about a million other people who get a stent every year in the United States. The cost of placing a stent in a patient ranges from $30,000 to $48,000. Multiply that by a million people and it works out to be exactly a lot of money.

So what advice do doctors typically give in order to reduce the risk of cardiovascular disease, the very kind that leads toward stents being needed? Stay active, get lots of exercise, and eat a healthy diet. But wait, didn’t George W Bush do all of that? Well, not exactly. We know that he hiked and biked and worked on his ranch. But his diet? Here’s what the White House chef had to say about adjusting his cooking to the Bush food preferences:

Hummus was definitely out. Tex-Mex and beef tenderloin was in. Like his father (and president) before him, George W. didn’t care much for green foods.

Arteries don’t clog up randomly. They clog because the factors that cause clogging are present. And those factors are the mainstays of the All American Way of Life: carbohydrates, stress and fried foods. The way they work their plaque-building magic is a bit roundabout, but not by much.

Plaque in arteries forms primarily in response to insulin. Insulin causes both direct and indirect damage, ultimately leading to cholesterol production in the liver and in the lining of arteries. Other research has shows, as long ago as 1961(!), that slow infusion of insulin into the vein of a dog will cause an increase in cholesterol and fatty acid content of the arteries. What is striking is that the insulin-exposed arteries exhibited thickening after just 26 weeks of exposure.

So how do we mimic a slow insulin infusion into the vein of a dog? Easy: eat a diet that is heavy in carbs. They turn into sugar in your blood in a matter of minutes or, at most, an hour or so, and arterial walls thicken within a few weeks. Give it a few decades in a large population and, well, about a million people a year will need their arteries propped open. Exercise alone might stall things by even some years, but it is no “get out of atherosclerosis free” card.

Now, what do stress and fried foods have to do with it all? They, too, are indirect, but no less integral. Oxidative stress is the sine que non of disease. The balance of our lives tips either toward excess of the oxidants or toward the antioxidants, with the oxidants working to tear things down and the antioxidants working to stop their onslaught. If, like ex-President Bush, vegetables are eschewed, it removes one of the only sources of antioxidants from life. Then, to dump enormous amounts of oxidants into the body there are lots of options, but two that are very effective are stress and oxidized oils, aka fried foods.

Could Bush have saved himself a stent if he had liked broccoli? We don’t know. Nothing about health is a guarantee, but we can certainly hedge our bets. You are more likely holding a full house if you are dealt 6 cards vs 5 cards, and 7 cards vs 6. If you want to avoid your day at the hospital getting some scaffolding inserted into your arteries, hedge your bets. Eat vegetables, and don’t fry them first. What else can you do?

  • Reduce the amount of carbs you eat
  • Reduce your stress (I’ll tell you how to do this soon. Stay tuned.)
  • Don’t eat foods containing fried plant oils (canola, soybean, corn, cottonseed, etc.)
  • Make an appointment to see a doctor who can run labs and interpret them in a way that is relevant to your ongoing wellness. The value of blood work is not simply to tell you which of your values is “high” or “low.” The value is in seeing patterns of numbers and how they shift, even within their reference ranges. Physicians should use labs to prevent disease, not to diagnose them.
  • Finally, if you don’t have a naturopathic physician as your primary care physician, seek one out. Make it happen. It just might change your life, and you can donate your unused stent to someone less fortunate.


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Obesity Now a Disease

Tuesday, August 6th, 2013


In June of this year the American Medical Association voted to classify obesity as a disease. This was done against the recommendation of the AMA’s own Council of Science and Public Health, which researches and offers its recommendations on these matters. Over 26% of American adults met the criteria of being obese in 2012, meaning a Body Mass Index (BMI) over 30. An additional 36% were officially overweight, with a BMI 25-30. Perhaps an even greater tragedy is that around 25% of children aged 2-5 are overweight or obese, as are a full 1/3  of school-aged children. The number of morbidly obese adults, those with a BMI over 40, is now up to 6%.

Obesity is a scourge, to be sure. It sits stubbornly at the confluence of some moderately influential genetic and hormonal factors, and an absolute deluge of social and environmental assaults. In any respectable court of law, an obese individual offering a defense of their weight could present a rock-solid case that they were framed, completely set up. Billions are spent every year to convince us to consume all manner of substances that masquerade as food. The least healthy of these are also the most easily accessible, whether that is measured by the  ubiquitous corner location of the fast food dispensaries, or the eye-level grocery shelves replete with artificially colored, ultra-refined and thoroughly preserved packaged foods.

The greatest mystery is not that so many people are obese, but that more aren’t. Among other reasons, fat accumulates on our bodies in a desperate attempt to encapsulate the persistent organic pollutants (POPs) that perfuse our foods, as well as our home and working environments (sourcesource). Both diabetic and obese patients frantic to lose their excess weight are often mystified that their most heroic dietary and exercise efforts have no effect.

What is not realized is that the fat stores chemicals that are better kept out of circulation. The POPs sit for years, even decades, quietly acting as endocrine disruptors in their gracious hosts. Accumulation of fat is, in this circumstance, a byproduct of simply living in the modern world. Obesity is the exhaust of an industrial engine that roars on. Evidence of these things can be seen on lab work, but only in hints, so it remains hidden to the eyes of doctors not trained to look for clues regarding environmental contributions to our maladies.

The medical system’s interest in bringing obesity into the land of disease has to do primarily with economics, not health. We should not be appalled by this, even if we’re saddened. Modern medicine does reasonably well with acute illnesses. No one, though, has acute obesity; it is a chronic condition. In fact, as a percentage, those with acute illness are a trifling next to those with chronic illness.

Ironically, we have a medical system that does virtually nothing to reduce the burden of chronic illnesses, or even to alter their course beyond the superficial suppression of symptoms. The system manages, when it works, to poorly manage some of those chronic symptoms into perpetuity. The great majority of health care expense is racked up in the ongoing treatment of chronicity: diabetes, heart disease, cancer, respiratory disease, and now obesity officially joins this team.

Like smallpox, asthma and cancer, obesity is now a diagnostic island unto itself. No longer simply a confluence of circumstances, it stands alone,  and as such it is calling out for treatment as a billable medical condition. Sure, it was recognized as a problem before, but being billable makes all the difference. Advocates of the change have suggested, apparently with a straight face, that this disease classification will bring doctors to finally give it the attention it deserves.

“(Diagnosing obesity as a disease) acknowledges that obesity is a chronic health condition that has genetic as well as environmental causes that requires lifelong treatment using medical and psychological support,” said Connie Crawley, a University of Georgia Cooperative Extension nutrition and health specialist in the College of Family and Consumer Sciences. (source)

One can imagine an almost palpable wave of renewed compassion sweeping through the medical community as physicians, who once thought obesity to be a problem of self-control, now understand it as a disease that takes hold and, in its chronic way, doesn’t let go of its target.

Would that this were the case. In reality, the new classification means that instead of offering generic advice about exercise and eating healthier, physicians can prescribe medications to their frustrated but hopeful obese patients. What is treatment, after all? In a system of for-profit medicine, it’s hardly noteworthy that the diseas-ification of obesity comes less than a month after FDA approval of two new drugs to “treat” obesity. They each cost about $150/month.

Consuming pills, we should come to believe, will shrink our waistlines, tighten our thighs, and negate a lifetime of exposures and patterns of eating. Our medical system is expert at seeing a raging fire, and finding ways to make money off of the smoke. This is not conspiracy; it is a fact of daily business.

In the conventional model of health and disease, chronic illnesses don’t go away. Obesity is now officially granted a lifelong sanction, the medical seal now firmly in place, tens of millions of obese individuals – men, women and children – are a welcome new market. The commercials are not far behind, where the actor, heavy and moribund, convinces viewers that there is new hope in these pills to manage obesity.

Regardless of its new classification, obesity is still sitting, unchanged, at the tangled intersection of individual and social/environmental influences. Opening it up to management by prescription does little to address these underlying causes except in the most trivial way. But a new market has been created, and enormous amounts of money will be made from obesity’s medical management.

The culprits who have set us up for this disease – through cheap and degraded foods, through the chronic stress of financial and food insecurity, through the obfuscation of basic relevant health information, and through allowing an environment laden with the chemicals that push us toward accumulation – have no reason to fear they will be asked to account for their contributions to this epidemic. Like obesity itself, these circumstances are now permanent,  invisible aspects of this modern world.


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Hypertension in Children: A Symptom of a Much Deeper Problem

Monday, July 16th, 2012

A recent review of the reasons for children being admitted to emergency rooms found that admissions for high blood pressure doubled between 1997 and 2006. Hypertension accounted for almost 25,000 admissions to the emergency room for pediatric patients in 2006. This is tragic enough, but add to this the finding that up to 30% of kids diagnosed with hypertension already have signs of damage in their blood vessels caused by the condition.

The experts, of course, offer their sage advice regarding this issue. Dr. Joshua Samuels, writing in the journal Hypertension, states the conventional case clearly: “Now is the time to invest in early detection, prevention, and treatment of elevated BP in children.” He goes on to write that there is “an array of pharmacological interventions with pediatric dosing, safety, and often even labeling. If the current study tells us anything, it is that we cannot afford to wait.”

What is most telling is that Dr. Samuels – as well as the authors of the study – believes that the main cause for the increase is the rising tide of obesity in the pediatric population. So the mystery is this: if these doctors believe they know what is causing the increase, and they are working in a profession called “health care,” why are their treatment recommendations not focused on treating the cause of the hypertension? To advocate for the use of medications is simply to accept the inevitability of obesity in kids, and to medically manage the resulting diseases.

The real tragedy is that, as a society, we have come to accept these after-the-fact drug-based proposals, and even to refer to them as “health care.” They aren’t. To medicate children with high blood pressure is to ignore its preventable and treatable underlying causes. That our medical system doesn’t focus there says nothing about the challenge of managing pediatric hypertension. It says volumes, though, about the unwavering commitment of our medical system to profit-generating disease management rather than life-enhancing care for health.



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Excessive intake of omega 6 and deficiencies in omega 3 induce obesity down the generations

Wednesday, July 28th, 2010

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Fighting Fat With Chili Pepper Ingredient: New Evidence

Tuesday, July 27th, 2010

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Vitamin Deficiency After Weight Loss Surgery Can Cause Vision Loss In Newborns

Wednesday, July 21st, 2010

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Spicy peppers may cause your body to burn more calories

Saturday, July 10th, 2010

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Study: Higher-protein diets support weight loss, but may lower bone density in postmenopausal women

Wednesday, July 7th, 2010

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Manipulating Microbes in the Gut May Remedy Disease and Enhance Health

Monday, June 28th, 2010

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Resveratrol Supplement Leads To Weight Loss In Lemurs

Friday, June 25th, 2010

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Women With Polycystic Ovary Syndrome Have Higher BPA Blood Levels, Study Finds

Friday, June 25th, 2010

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Size of Prostate Tumor Linked to Patients’ Weight

Wednesday, June 2nd, 2010

A study of over 3,300 prostate cancer patients found a direct correlation between patient weight and size of tumor.

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Big Belly In Middle Age Linked To Higher Risk Of Dementia

Tuesday, May 25th, 2010

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Lifestyle factors significantly impact survival of non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma patients, study finds

Thursday, May 13th, 2010

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Big belly raises a woman’s pancreatic cancer risk

Monday, May 10th, 2010

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