Obesity epidemic in the US: Lifestyle changes needed

One third of Americans are overweight and nearly a third of people under 20 are obese. We asked our Zintro experts to discuss the current leading ideas, approaches, or policies that are being developed to address the obesity epidemic in the US.
Mangesius, an expert in systems biology, says that the world has an over-nutrition problem, and the root cause of the obesity problem is that the supply of food has evolved faster than our bodies’ ability to process the excess food intake. “Glucose is the fuel of life, and glucose metabolism evolved over hundreds of millions of years, but humans have evolved over an infinitesimally shorter time period,” he says. “The human mind, always seeking more efficient solutions, found new ways to satisfy the body’s nutritional needs, and the result is an exponential increase in food choices and a matching decrease in physical activity.”

Mangesius says that everything we eat or drink that contains nutrients will sooner or later send glucose into the blood (compartment), and the blood will take glucose to each and every cell (which can be thought of as a bunch of other compartments). “Like everything else in the body, the amount of glucose in the blood is tightly regulated, not only day by day, but second by second; that is to say, any excess glucose produced by processing the food we eat in the digestive system must be stored,” he says. “Carbohydrates currently dominate human nutrition and most engineered foods contain refined sugars which, unfortunately in terms of their dynamics of turning into glucose, provide the fastest glucose bio-availability and thus are the leading cause of excess.”

The body is a 24/7, complex appliance that needs less power than a laptop, says Mangesius, yet is unbelievably efficient: it keeps the body moving, brain thinking, heart pumping five liters of blood, the temperature is maintained, food is processed and digested, and so on. “Because it is so amazingly efficient, your body only has a very limited ability to consume the excess energy: one can easily consume a meal that is much larger than the body needs, but one simply cannot do enough physical exercise to restore the balance within a reasonable time interval afterwards,” he explains. “When too much energy is available from food, but too little energy is consumed through physical activity, the body stores the difference as fat at every step of the metabolic processes. These excess fat deposits have led to the current world-wide epidemic of obesity, pre-diabetes, and type 2 diabetes, plus the huge increases in the incidence of type 1 diabetes. The long term cure must find its foundation in a different approach to nutrition.”

Eileen Enright, a holistic health coach, says that the ultimate approach is not to dwell on calories, carbs, fats, and proteins or create lists of restrictions or good and bad foods; instead, it is to foster the belief that nutrition can create a happy, healthy life in a way that is flexible, fun and rewarding. “I work with clients to reach their health goals in areas such as achieving optimal weight, reducing food cravings, increasing sleep, and maximizing energy. As we work together, clients grasp a deeper understanding of the food and lifestyle choices that work best for them and implement lasting changes that will improve their energy, balance and health,” she says. “It’s easy to overlook all of the things that contribute to our sense of nourishment and fulfillment. It’s not just the food we eat, but all of the other factors present in our daily lives: healthy relationships, a fulfilling career, regular physical activity, and a spiritual awareness. All of these factors are essential forms of nourishment, and when these “primary foods” are balanced, what you eat becomes secondary.”

By Maureen Aylward

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