This is a paper that I wrote following numerous exam room lectures on the topic and finally triggered by a real-life experience. The obesity epidemic is not a mystery but the reader may be surprised at some of the factors involved.
For more insight into the main purpose of fat and the role that viruses play in lipoma formation and obesity, please read my paper Viruses and Obesity – A Forum Post.
Obesity- How It Develops and What to Do About It
I was overwhelmed this week by a simple event that occurred in the checkout line of my local grocery store. I glanced behind me to see a young teenage boy who was morbidly obese (and very likely autistic) eating a big plastic container of macaroni and cheese while his overweight mother was paying for their groceries. There it was- everything I knew that was wrong with the big picture of nutrition in this country staring me in the face. Normally, I would have walked over there and handed the mother my card and suggested that she visit the site. But having worked a very long day and listened to political news all of the way home, I was mentally and physically exhausted and passed on the opportunity. I have regretted it ever since. The scene still plagues me and I pray that they find out the truth or that I see them again some time.
What would I tell this mother in the middle of the grocery store? How do you tell someone that their child is eating exactly the wrong food for their current medical condition when they have been told all of their life that dairy products are “nature’s perfect food” and wheat is good for you? After all, we need multiple servings of grains each day to keep in line with the current food pyramid, don’t we? (Who built the pyramid, anyway?) How do you tell someone that just everything they believe to be true about nutrition is wrong when just about everyone else in that checkout line believes the same thing and has “the big 4” as I call them- gluten (wheat, barley, and rye), dairy, soy and corn- as 80% of their grocery haul?
It’s not an easy thing to do under those circumstances, especially as a veterinarian. So, I have to hope that they find the truth through an enlightened doctor, through a friend, by watching TV or reading the newspaper, or by surfing the net and stumbling onto sites like mine. Thankfully, all of those happen. But sadly, these events are clearly not occurring at a rate that is changing anything. I am still shocked as I look around and see the average physique.
And the solution is really “simple”. Once again, just as in the case of so many other chronic medical conditions about which I write, the answer is “simple” but not easy. We must stop doing what we are doing to ourselves. Obesity doesn’t just happen, it is created. Yes, there are numerous contributing factors, some of which make it much easier for one individual to suffer major weight gain over another. But even in those individuals, this weight gain is avoidable. It may take more effort on their part but it is still remediable.
Here are the main points:
1) There are four main foods that stimulate fat cells to reproduce- gluten grains (wheat, barley, and rye), dairy proteins, corn and soy. Surprised?
2) These foods induce fat cells to duplicate and hypertrophy through direct stimulation once their lectins attach to the cell’s receptors.
The glaring example of this process is corn-feeding beef. You’ve seen this promoted at your favorite steakhouse- “100% corn-fed Angus beef” or something along those lines. Why is that desirable? Because corn or grain feeding makes the meat tender. How does this do that? By causing fat to form inside the meat. Think about that for a moment. Got it? Yes, corn or grain feeding causes the cow to put fat inside its muscle. Do you want fat it your muscle? Not me. That would be a totally abnormal physical trait. And yet, we get cattle (and other food animals) to develop fat in their flesh by feeding them man-made, man-raised grains that they would never eat (or even be exposed to) in nature. We’re doing it to chickens as well. More on that later.
But why does grain feeding cause fat production? We simply need to know what fat is designed to do in our bodies and those of the animals we consume.
3) Fat serves three basic purposes in our body: 1) To store calories for future use in times of inadequate calorie intake; 2) To act as insulation against the cold; and 3) To store toxins that the body does not want in its bloodstream or more vital tissues.
Americans routinely eat more calories than their body requires so we never really utilize the fat for the purpose of being a calorie depot for future use. The lack of proper exercise combined with overly large meals pretty much negates this main purpose of fat and keeps the stored from ever leaving the developed fat cells once it enters them. That much is painfully obvious as is the remedy of eating less and exercising more, neither of which most Americans ever want to be reminded of again. And with the temperature controlled environments to which we have all become accustomed (or addicted), we don’t really utilize the fat in the way it is used by animals to keep warm.
So, the main thing I will focus on is the second (and most interesting, yet disturbing) purpose of fat: The storage of toxins that have been consumed (ingested, inhaled, or absorbed) and that the body does not want in its more vital tissues. Fat plays a very important role here as it holds onto chemicals, hormones, and even some microorganisms until the body has time to process and eliminate them. There are numerous toxins that have been identified in our fat, including pesticides (e.g. DDT), pollutants (e.g.Dioxin, PCBs), and estrogens.
But how and why do these toxins stimulate fat and enter that tissue? More frighteningly, why do some foods do the same thing? (Ahhh, now there’s the real question.) We have something inside each and every cell that determines that cell’s response to challenges. Some simply refer this process as normal cellular function and others refer to the difference in individual responses to the same challenges as “genetics”. Both are right but incomplete answers. Those who want to know how things really work dig a little deeper.
One of the main roles of the virus in nature is to facilitate adaptation on the part of the plant or animal and the individual cell in which that virus resides. Viruses are present in every cell of the body, some being in the cytoplasm (body of the cell) while others are embedded in our very DNA, which is found in the nucleus of that cell. We know all about viruses that insert their genetic information into the DNA of cells and later cause cancer of that cell type. Most people, including researchers, just don’t have a clear understanding of why viruses cause cancer when challenged by what we call “carcinogens”. The fact is that they are simple adapting to that challenge and are creating “cocoons” (tumors) in an attempt to protect themselves and the cell they were charged to protect. (I discuss this in Viruses- Friend or Foe section of this site.)
Using cancer as a model, we can then gain a better understanding of the other processes taking place in our cells when they are challenged by toxins, lectins, and unusual hormones. Viruses inside our cells play a role here and help determine what the outcome of that challenge. Suddenly, what we call “disease” often ends up being little more than a viral adaptation that has spiraled out of control and has done so because we have continued to do what started it in the first place. My celiac disease (gluten intolerance)- and the villous atrophy of my duodenal villi that characterizes this “disease”- can then be viewed as something that was meant to be a temporary adaptation but became a process that reached a serious, pathological level when I continued to eat wheat despite the early warning signs of allergies, gastrointestinal distress, depression, pain, and more. Who’s at fault here- my “overactive immune system”? Not hardly.
Back to obesity: Have you done the search for “virus, obesity” yet? When done, the reader will find what researchers have known for years, which includes the distinct role of certain viruses in the development of obesity in the animal kingdom and man. In one study of chickens, an adenovirus was responsible for tripling the amount of weight gain and fat in a group fed the same amount of calories as those not harboring that virus. Many are convinced that the same thing is happening in people. Why wouldn’t it?
Again, there are viruses inside each cell that react to outside challenges. These include toxins, lectins (including food proteins), and hormones. Viruses are known to react in many ways, including the formation of tumors. One of the most common tumors we see in dogs is the lipoma, a tumor of fat cells. What would be causing the viruses inside the dog’s fat cells to form fatty tumors? Could it be the insecticides we use to control fleas and ticks? Could it be the air and water pollutants that we know cause cancer in man and animals? Could it even be the very same lectins (dietary glycoproteins) in corn that cause cattle to form fat in their muscle that we covered earlier, especially the genetically modified corn that we have determined is unfit for human consumption but is going into animal feed? (Kinda slipped that one in on you, didn’t I? I won’t go down that deeep rabbit hole right now.)
The answer is “Yes, yes, and yes”. All of the above insults are capable of inducing fat and researchers have known this for years. Thanks to Dr. Atkins, most of have now heard that eating fat doesn’t make us fat. This is mostly true except for the fact that when we eat fat, we are eating the very toxins stored in that fat that causes the fat to form in the first place. Uh oh! But, from a purely dietary standpoint, eating (clean) fat does not cause us to form fat. It is specific carbohydrates (e.g. gluten grains, corn, dairy and soy glycoproteins) that stimulate fat cells to duplicate and enlarge. And their elimination can have a profound effect on our weight as many experienced significant weight loss when they applied The Atkins Diet.
But remember: Environmental toxins can cause fat formation and viruses can be involved. This would help account for the variation in response to the Atkins diet. Studies of third world countries have revealed that viruses among the population are playing a role in why some are bone-thin while others are obese on the same diet. Again, “genetics” are not what we once thought they were.
So, how do we lose weight? After reading those “bullet points” (which turned out to be long paragraphs with a big period in front of them), can we affect how our body makes fat? You bet we can. And as usual, I can use myself as a glaring example.
I have always been a bit pudgy. I have often told people that I could gain 5 pounds just walking by a donut shop or pizza place. Why could my brother eat just about everything he wanted and still look like an anatomy study when he took off his shirt while I was embarrassed to wear a bathing unless I dieted and worked out for two months before summer? Was it a “rapid metabolism” as many love to suggest? I think the reader has a better idea now.
Our medical histories tell an interesting tale. I was the chubbier one with many more symptoms growing up- allergies, gastrointestinal issues, and more. He was the “lucky” one who was thin and more symptom-free. But, when the celiac disease came out of the closet, he was the one that became the most seriously ill. He was the one who lost a tremendous amount of weight and became anemic to a life-threatening degree. My plump little body was busy storing toxins as my fat cells reacted to the challenges presented to them by the lectins of gluten along with the routine toxins we are all faced with in this industrialized county. He had no place to put them. And when the time came to pay the piper, he paid dearly. He also had fewer symptoms, which we now know is not always a good thing.
I have written a number of times that celiacs are often not allergic to wheat. This is not a good thing, actually. In fact, all individuals who have gluten pounding away at their intestinal villi and internal tissues (e.g. thyroid, pancreas, joints, blood cells, liver and more) should be allergic to wheat. It is a form of immune deficiency to not be. And, researchers are now finding that those celiacs with the least symptoms in their past can be the most severely afflicted by gluten later on in life. This now makes sense to me.
I have told many people about my miraculous recovery from heartburn, IBS, allergies, fibromyalgia, joint pain, clinical depression, insomnia, and more. But, I haven’t written that much about how I have lost most of that baby fat I carried for years. It was a rapid weight loss at first simply because I couldn’t figure out what to eat once I decided to cut out all wheat and dairy. Of course I lost weight. But the principles outlined above also played a role, including the removal of the lectins that were stimulating the fat. But I quickly found out what I could eat (including gluten-free substitutes for dessert and snacks) and the weight came back. Why? I found out how to over-eat again.
But then, I decided to perform an experiment and cut out all rice and potatoes. I lost eight pounds in ten days. Wow! The weight and fat just peeled off of me. Why? Because those two foods were providing many more calories than I needed for my current demands and when I ate them, I ate way too much of them. I had hurt my heel and had to stop running. The weight was starting to return from lack of exercise. So, I adjusted by reducing my calorie intake. I know: It sounds like rocket science but it’s not. It is that simple once we understand the effect of the “big 4” and how they truly foul up most individual’s attempts at simple dieting techniques.
As I have said, the lectins of wheat, corn, dairy and soy directly stimulate fat. The products that contain these ingredients are also usually very high in calories (cakes, cookies, ice cream, pizza, cheesy snacks and appetizers, etc.) And then there’s high fructose corn syrup, one of the absolute worst of man’s inventions. This is the worst of both worlds as it contains the lectins of corn while packing a real wallop calorically. And it is in everything, including sodas, juices, and just about anything else than needs sweetening. It is a plague on this country and one of the single-biggest factors in the obesity epidemic. Now you know why.
So, here is how to lose weight:
1) Avoid “the big 4”, which are gluten (wheat, barley, rye), dairy, soy and corn. These are unnatural, unhealthy, and afflicting millions of people and pets with numerous specific and non-specific symptoms and illnesses. This includes all forms of these lectins, including high fructose corn syrup, corn starch, soy protein isolate, and other hidden forms of these proteins and glycoproteins, all of which can directly stimulate fat production.
2) Eat an appropriate amount of calories. This sounds so elementary that I can’t even believe that I am writing it. But, it is that simple. If we want to eat more, then we have to exercise. If we can’t or don’t like to exercise (which is crucial for many other reasons), then we simply have to eat less.
3) Try to think “organically” and avoid as many environmental toxins as possible, knowing that they do play a role in fat production.
4) Take dead aim at your immune system. In other words, focus on staying immunologically healthy by eating right, getting enough sleep, exercising, and getting a proper amount of sunlight. If needed, take appropriate supplements to augment these things. For example, a study recently reported that if all Americans took an effective vitamin D supplement we could cut cancer rates by 37%. Wow! Yes, we are just now seeing how crucial vitamin D is in the health of the immune system and the main source of this crucial nutrient is….sunlight. (Better rethink that sun-block thing.) And now that we know that viruses can be involved in obesity, we can see the importance of a healthy immune system in the maintenance of our proper weight.
To me, the real key is the avoidance of those foods that I keep calling “the four horsemen of the apocalypse”. People often chuckle when I call them that in conversation. I usually keep a very straight face as I use that melodramatic term because I know just how true it is. I look forward to the day that the rest of the world recognizes them for what they are.
As always, I hope this helps,