An Interesting Theory of How We Become and Stay Overweight

An Interesting Theory of How We Become and Stay Overweight

Researchers have long been curious- how does significant weight gain happen?

Most theories propose that the key mechanism is that intake of energy (i.e., calories via food) exceeds output of energy (metabolic rate, exercise).   That is, if you need say about 2000 calories a day to meet all your internal and exercise related energy needs, and you eat 2500 calories a day, you will gain enough extra weight over time to cause severe obesity.

An interesting fact:  A calorie really is a unit of energy.   In fact, it is the amount of energy to raise 1 kilogram (about a quart) of water, 1 degree Celsius.

One observation made many years ago, but seems to be still held as true, is that the average excess intake of calories needed to reach obesity is surprisingly small.  It only takes 2% over your needs for 10 years to add 100 extra pounds.  Using the model of 2000 calories a day for someone, that person would only need to take in an average of 2040 calories a day, for 10 years, to gain 100 extra pounds in 10 years!

The New Observation

The new look at this issue puts more of the blame on insulin- and its great trigger, sugar and starch.
Insulin is a hormone that has many effects, a major one is to store energy.  Whenever you eat more than you need, insulin is produced to help store the extra fuel for later use.

Now, if I boosted my insulin level over where it needed to be, much of the fuel circulating in my body would suddenly be placed in storage.  At that point, my body would suddenly miss its fuel, and my brain would start screaming for more fuel, I would suddenly become wildly hungry, even with plenty of energy and fuel at hand, in storage.

Of course, most people, even those with diabetes, never give ourselves extra insulin beyond what we need.
But there is something any of us can do, and most of us do so frequently, to give ourselves a big jump in insulin levels:  eat sugar or starch.  Starch turns out to be a long string of sugar, and once eaten, becomes sugar.   Whenever we eat sugar or simple carbohydrates, insulin levels are raised.

So, when we eat candy, pretzels, bleached flour bread, cookies, chips, crackers, etc. we boost insulin, fuel gets stored, and appetite soars.  It is this last step that creates a serious urge to eat that then causes the obesity.  If the urge to eat is slaked by sugar or starch, storage is promoted leading to even more obesity.

Bottom Line
Eating more than you need is still a bedrock cause of obesity, but these new observations add another caveat:  not all foods cause obesity equally- cookies, crackers, chips, pretzels, and candy trigger the insulin cycle- increasing obesity and appetite.

Dr. Lavin

*Disclaimer* The comments contained in this electronic source of information do not constitute and are not designed to imply that they constitute any form of individual medical advice. The information provided is purely for informational purposes only and not relevant to any person's particular medical condition or situation. If you have any medical concerns about yourself or your family please contact your physician immediately. In order to provide our patients the best uninfluenced information that science has to offer,we do not accept samples of drugs, advertising tchotchkes, money, food, or any item from outside vendors.

1 comment:

  1. Great article. It may come as a surprise to some in our day, but our parents and grandparents knew that what we now know as high-glycemic carbs - sugars, starches, refined grains, flours, etc. - tend to promote weight gain. They did not know why, but they knew it happened. Now we know why.

    Disturbingly, artificial sweeteners ALSO trigger insulin surges according to some (not all) current studies. They come with significant additional problems as well. I believe they are best avoided too.

    Many of us, myself included, seriously need to learn to curb our cravings for high-glycemic carbs and other calorie-dense foods, and replace them with nutrient-dense foods like raw or minimally processed fruits, colorful vegetables, seeds, nuts, and limited quantities of whole grains.