This piece discusses growing medical research which suggests that high intake of carbohydrates and not fat is the culprit of America's obesity problem. Jameson gives a clear and concise overview of how the body digests food and burns calories, and then explains various studies which demonstrate that a low-carb diet does not have adverse effects on health.
Quotes on Obesity and Obesity Prevention Research
"Obesity contributes to over 300,000 deaths per year, principally through its association with cardiovascular disease, type 2 diabetes, and several cancers. Obesity currently is the second leading cause of preventable death and will soon surpass cigarette smoking, the leading cause. Health economists estimate that obesity costs our nation approximately $100 billion a year. And these figures say nothing about the personal suffering of those affected by obesity."
"The three most commonly-cited statistics associated with the obesity epidemic are 1) that obesity causes 300,000 American deaths per year; 2) that 61 percent of Americans are overweight or obese; and 3) that the economic cost of American obesity is $117 billion a year. The Federal Register notice of this very hearing cited two of these three numbers. And all three are seriously flawed."
“The simple fact is that our diets have changed radically within the last 50 years, with great and often very harmful effects on our health. These dietary changes represent as great a threat to public health as smoking. Too much fat, too much sugar or salt, can be and are linked directly to heart disease, cancer, obesity, and stroke, among other killer diseases. In all, six of the ten leading causes of death in the United States have been linked to our diet.
Those of us within Government have an obligation to acknowledge this. The public wants some guidance, wants to know the truth, and hopefully today we can lay the cornerstone for the building of better health for all Americans, through better nutrition.”
"Obesity is a genuine problem in America, but our national debate on the subject has become nothing short of hysterical. And around every corner is a hidden agenda.
Pharmaceutical interests, like the American Obesity Association … promote an alarmist view of the problem, in order to justify increased government support and promotion of new obesity drugs.
Animal rights groups, like the deceptively named ‘Physicians Committee for Responsible Medicine’ … like to inflame the public's obesity fears in order to disparage beef, chicken, pork, milk, cheese, and other nutritious foods that are not ‘animal-rights friendly.’”
"America is at war with obesity. We could eventually come to find, however, that this war’s origins are as dubious as the sinking of the Maine.
None of this is to say extreme obesity is healthy, or even benign (though, as we’ve seen, some studies suggest a few extra pounds may give a mild protective effect, particularly among the elderly). The decline in incidence and deaths from heart disease and cancer are almost certainly due to advances in medical research and technology. We’re getting better at uncovering these diseases early, and with pharmaceutical marvels like statin drugs and chemotherapy, we’re making huge leaps in treatment once we’ve diagnosed them. …
But the notion that our expanding waistlines have put us on the verge of a calamitous offensive against our health-care system simply isn’t borne out by the evidence. And so these incessant calls for immediate, large-scale government interference in how we grow, process, manufacture, market, prepare, sell, and eat our food ring hollow, hyperbolic, and needlessly invasive."
“The body of anecdotal evidence which suggests that large differences in individual metabolic processes exist is enormous. ‘Fad diets’ actually work, for some people. The government diet also works, but again only for a minority of Americans. Some Americans thrive by eschewing all animal products. Others find the occasional beef, pork, or chicken entrée beneficial. Still others eat little else but meat and cheese and live long, healthy lives.”
"Obesity is the leading medical reason young adults are not qualified to serve. Obesity rate among children and young adults have increased dramatically in recent decades. By now most of us have heard that in the past 30 years, child obesity rates have more than tripled. New data from the CDC paints an even starker portrait. In the last decade alone, between 1998 and 2008, the number of states reporting that 40 percent or more young adults were overweight or obese rose from one state to 39. To put this problem into perspective, today’s young Americans between the ages of 18 and 24 would have to collectively lose 390 million pounds in order to be at a healthy weight.”
“In the case of diet and obesity, research based on correlations has provided contradictory evidence on the impact of soda prices or taxes; the most rigorous statistical studies tend to find no impact at all. Most important, there's also evidence from a half dozen or so randomized field experiments in which information, access, or prices were controlled in order to reduce soda consumption while researchers also measured the impact on weight gain. What happened? First, consumption of the targeted beverage was sometimes reduced, just as intended. Second, compensation among various calorie sources was common as subjects adjusted to the new choices they faced. And third, in each experiment the impact on weight gain was either trivial or temporary, disappearing as compensation and other forces did their work. Conducted in the past half dozen years, with subjects ranging from pre-teens to teens and adults, field experiments that are our best science have cast serious doubt on the use of soda taxes to fight obesity.”
"Obesity is not a 'disease' in the traditional sense of the word. It’s not communicable. Obesity is a consequence of our choices. And many of those choices are made passively, in a comfortable but rigor-free environment.
Over the past four decades, many fat-inducing elements of the American lifestyle have driven weight gain. But many health officials and food activists have largely ignored these trends in people’s personal lives or paid lip service to their existence. Instead, in an attempt to influence public policy, they have labeled obesity an epidemic and gone on a witch-hunt for a modern-day contaminated well."
"With fad diets, strict regimes, and lofty promises, the weight-loss industry often perpetuates the problem the industry claims to solve. Food deprivation lowers the body’s basal metabolic rate (BMR) to promote fat storage and energy conservation. Food restriction encourages cravings and leads to binge eating. ... Seemingly unattainable ideals promote depression among participants and cycle dieters back toward overeating. These physiological and psychological mechanisms fight so effectively against weight loss that researchers estimate that the failure rate among dieters is greater than 95 percent."
"While the Food Stamp program has little positive effect on food quality, considerable evidence indicates that the program has the counter-productive effect of increasing obesity. For example, a recent study funded by USDA found that low-income women who participate in the Food Stamp program are substantially more likely to be obese than women in households with the same non-food stamp income who did not receive food stamps. Over the long term, food stamp receipt was found to increase obesity in men as well."
"There is a growing concern among policymakers and educators that junk food availability in schools is a significant contributor to the childhood obesity epidemic. Between 2003 and 2005, approximately 200 pieces of legislation were introduced in US state legislatures to establish nutritional standards in schools or to address the availability or quality of competitive foods .... At the federal level, legislation was passed in 2004 requiring local education agencies to develop a 'wellness policy' by 2006 that included nutrition guidelines for all of the foods available in schools. More recently, there has been debate in the US Congress over enacting an amendment to the farm bill that would further restrict the sale of unhealthy foods and beverages in Schools ....
But it is unclear that the available evidence on competitive foods is sufficiently compelling to warrant such a concerted response. … While estimates from naïve models suggest a positive association between competitive foods in school and BMI, estimates from models that control for observed and unobserved sources of heterogeneity (including baseline BMI) find no statistically significant relationship between competitive food availability and BMI, regardless of how we measure competitive food availability."
"While these numbers sound ominous, it is important to understand what 'food insecurity' means. According to the USDA, ‘food insecurity’ is usually a recurring and episodic problem rather than a chronic condition. … In 2008, around two-thirds of food insecure households experienced ‘low food security,’ meaning that these households managed to avoid any disruption or reduction in food intake throughout the year but were forced by financial pressures to reduce ‘variety in their diets’ or rely on a ‘few basic foods’ at various times in the year. …
While temporary food shortages are a concern, what is rarely discussed is that the government’s own data show, paradoxically, that the overwhelming majority of food insecure adults are, like most adult Americans, overweight or obese. Among adult males experiencing food insecurity, fully 70 percent are overweight or obese. … Nearly three-quarters of adult women experiencing food insecurity are either overweight or obese, and nearly half (45 percent) are obese. Virtually no food insecure adults are underweight."
"Many concerns have been expressed that low-carbohydrate weight loss diets, high in total and saturated fat, will adversely affect blood lipid levels and cardiovascular risk. ... These concerns have not been substantiated in recent weight-loss diet trials. The recent trials, like the current study, have consistently reported that triglycerides, HDL-C, blood pressure, and measures of insulin resistance either were not significantly different or were more favorable for the very-low-carbohydrate groups. ...
The exception to this pattern has been LDL-C concentrations. Two of the most consistent findings in recent trials of low-carbohydrate vs low-fat diets have been higher LDL-C concentrations and lower triglyceride concentrations in the low-carbohydrate diets. … Although a higher LDL-C concentration would appear to be an adverse effect, this may not be the case under these study conditions."
"Many non-economic societal changes do not initially appear to explain why the prevalence of obesity is increasing. Consider the following: (i) an increasing portion of Americans are exercising and dieting, (ii) Americans currently possess more knowledge of the consequences of obesity than ever before via government and medical awareness campaigns, (iii) biological factors, though capable of explaining weight differences within a cohort, should not have changed enough to explain differences in obesity over the last half-century, and (iv) weight is no longer a status symbol indicating prosperity .... Yet, Americans are more likely to be obese now than ever. Perhaps obesity is an economic phenomenon where individuals select their optimal weight, which may not be medically optimal (the weight that minimizes mortality), by comparing the marginal benefit with the marginal cost of losing or gaining weight. If so, then economic factors may serve to explain at least a portion of the increasing prevalence of obesity."
“… I feel the American public would be in a better position to exercise freedom of dietary choice if it were stated in bold print on the Goals and Food Selection pages that the value of dietary change remains controversial and that science cannot at this time insure that an altered diet will provide improved protection from certain killer diseases such as heart disease and cancer.”