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Understanding Jason Fung’s The Code Of Obesity: Why Do We Get Fat?

Understanding Jason Fung’s The Code Of Obesity: Why Do We Get Fat?

By Reena Enjambre |

Understanding Jason Fung’s The Code Of Obesity: Why Do We Get Fat? 

How can we assess the problem if we don’t really understand and know the root of it? How will we get well from coughs if we keep on drinking medicines for colds? Sometimes, the things we do don’t work because we’re not targeting the core of the problem. Do you get what I mean? 

The Code Of Obesity, Dr. Jason Fung went deep and discussed the roots--the beginning--of everything with regards to getting fat, and even debunked some of the common misconceptions we have today. 

So, why do we get fat? 

Is it really because of the calories we eat on a daily basis or more? I am sure this will surprise you. 

In the first part of the lesson, Dr. Jason Fung discussed how this idea and misconception started before the 1960s. 

People during that time believed that decreasing your caloric intake is the key to losing weight. It is believed that plain and starchy food like cereals, breads, potatoes and more are the fattening carbs, and the rate of intake you have of this kind of food everyday is the one making you fat. 

Fattening carbohydrates was directly equated to obesity. However, there was no scientific studies before that eating less calories a day can actually help in losing weight. So, decreasing your caloric intake can make you feel hungry and tired, but might not be able to help you lose some weight. 

The fattening carbohydrates common knowledge, however, changed in the 1960s. This prevalent thinking about carbohydrates and obesity changed because of the so-called Great Epidemic of Coronary Disease. 

Even before, during the 1950s, dietary fats were immensely vilified for heart disease due to its effects on LDL cholesterol. This was called the “Diet-Heart Hypothesis”. Then later on, in the 1960s, the American Medical Association were insisting that low carbohydrate diets were dangerous fads to the point that it was regarded that advocating carbohydrate-restricted diets to the public were equivalent of  “mass murder”. 

The complication started from there because as Low fat, high carbohydrates diets previously unknown in human history BUT the fattening carbohydrates could not be healthy (low fat) and unhealthy (causes obesity) at the same time. 

What did they do to address this issue? Fattening carbs suddenly transformed into a healthy whole grain. Fat with dense calories assumed to cause obesity. Calories in/Calories out model displaces traditional fattening carbohydrate models.

The misconception and initial thinking about carbohydrates and obesity continued in the 1977s as the US Department of Agriculture had told Americans they could improve their health by eating less fat. This is called The Dietary Goals For The United States 1977.

 

It is the first time that a government institution stepped in, making the dietary controversy now a political issue and not a scientific one. 

What are The Dietary Goals For The United States 1977? 

People are encouraged to raise consumption of carbohydrates until they constitute 55-60% of calories and decrease fat consumption from approximately 40% to 30% of which no more than ⅓ from saturated fat. 

Fast forward to 1995, an eating plan for healthy Americans was presented by The American Heart Association which is called the “An Eating Plan for Healthy Americans: The American Heart Association Diet 1995”. 

This eating plan encouraged Americans to control the amount and kind of fat, saturated fatty acids and dietary cholesterol you eat, choose snacks from other food groups such as low fat cookies, low fat crackers, unsalted pretzels, hard candy, gum drops, sugar syrups, honey, jams, jelly, marmalade (as spreads). It didn’t matter how much sugar you have in your snacks, what mattered was how much fat was in your snacks.

How did the Americans do?

American citizens actually did well, there was a conscious effort to eat fat, less red meat, fewer eggs. Average fat intake of Americans (USDA) decreased from 45% of calories to less than 35% of calories. 1976 to 1996 40% decline in hypertension, 28% decline in hypercholesterolemia. 1979 to 1994 smoking drops 33% to 25%. There was clear evidence that the general public listened to the leading authorities of the day and tried to comply. 

However, the rise in obesity was not simply a case of the general public not listening to conventional medical advice and by just doing what they are told, there were also significant changes in US food availability. Butter, eggs and animal meat significantly decreased while grain and sugar massively increased. 

This is the reason why we think and view obesity now as “CALORIC REDUCTION AS PRIMARY”. The key assumption was caloric Intake and expenditure are independent of each other. There were also some implicit assumptions such as calorie is calorie, fat stores are essentially unregulated, intake and expenditure of calories are under conscious control and ignores effects hunger and basal metabolic rates, intake and expenditure of calories are independent of each other, and obesity is not considered as a medical condition but only a psychological condition. 

Obesity was regarded as a personal choice or behavior, it’s the result of not exercising too much and eating more. If you are obese, it’s either you are a glutton or a sloth.

Most experts in this time said and encouraged everyone to EAT LESS and EXERCISE MORE. 

More Studies Conducted to test the correlation between Eating Less and Losing Weight: 

  • The Start of Semi-Starvation Diet
      • 12 young men put on a semi-starvation diets of 1400-2100 calories/day
      • Subjects lost weight, but constantly complained of hunger “almost impossible to keep warm, even with excessive amounts of clothes”
      • 30% decrease in metabolism
      • Reduced energy expenditure so much that they ate more than 2100 calories/day -- would start to regain weight
      • Decrease in BP, HP, inability to concentrate and marked weakness during physical activity
      • Excess eating immediately after the experiment
    • The Biology of Human Starvation (1944 Ancel Keys of University of Minnesota)
      • 36 men put on a 24 weeks semi-starvation diet
      • 1570 calories per day
      • The men’s resting metabolic rates declined by 40%
      • Heart volume shrank by 20% 
      • Heart rate slowed
      • Body temperature dropped
      • Obsessive thoughts about food and binge eating
    • Changes in Energy Expenditure Resulting from Altered Body Weight
      • Rudolph L. Leibel NEJM 1995 March 9, 332 (10); 621-28
      • 18 obese and 23 non obese subjects with a stable weight 
      • Fed a liquid diet of 40% fat, 45% carbohydrates and 15% protein
      • Caloric intake adjusted until weight stable
      • As you gain weight, your body actually starts to rev up and starts to burn off those calories
      • As you lose weight, your body actually starts to shut it down
      • The body has a compensatory mechanism to actually return you to your initial weight 
    • Long term persistence of adaptive thermogenesis in subjects who have maintained a reduced body weight
      • 21 subjects fed liquid diet of 45% carbohydrates
      • Maintained weight loss of 10% of over 1 year
      • Measured total, resting and non-resting energy expenditure
      • Decreased energy expenditure even 1 year after weight loss
      • In response to cutting down calories, after a year of successful weight loss your body hormones furiously want you to eat to get your initial weight

    What do these studies prove and discover? 

    These studies were going into one direction with regards to Body Weight -- Body weight is a thermostat and not a scale. Our body sets an initial weight and a 10% increase weight is a 16% increase in energy expenditure while a 10% decrease weight > 15% decrease in energy expenditure. Also, it adapts to weight loss by reducing energy expenditure and increasing hunger. 

    Yes, our body is smart. Hence, body fat is firmly regulated and the body matches what’s coming in and what’s coming out. So the cruel hoax of STARVATION Diet is that they don’t work. Virtually all studies of semi-starvation diets are remarkably similar and unsuccessful, a perfect 35 year record unblemished by success. 

    What is the major cause of Weight Gain? Why do we get FAT? 

    The answer is INSULIN. Insulin can make you fat, high Insulin (cortisol) Levels results to obesity and weight gain and eating to much and low energy is just the result of being obese and overweight not the cause of it. 

    Even before, insulin was already used as a fattening agent. In 1923 clinicians successfully used insulin to fatten chronically underweight children while the 1930’s clinicians were using it regularly in Europe and USA for pathologically underweight patients. 

    Taking away insulin or reducing insulin intake is the key to losing weight. 

    Hormonal Obesity Theory:

    • Overeating and under-activity are the result not the cause of obesity
    • Calories are primarily pushed into storage leaving inadequate amounts for energy expenditure -- thus either increase caloric intake or decrease energy expenditure
    • We do not get fat because we overeat, we overeat because we get fat!

    Takeaway 

    The absolutely crucial question in obesity is not how many calories I am eating , but Calories are largely irrelevant  because increased caloric intake will be matched by increased caloric expenditure. Calories are compensated every time. Our body is smart, it acts not as a scale but a thermostat. 



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