OSG

The Obese Problem of Obesity

In Uncategorized on December 16, 2012 at 10:36 pm

obesityfacts

Often, when the topic of “eating right” is raised, many people automatically tune out the truth about the food we are eating. This sort of response is very understandable. Becoming educated about what foods are “good” and what foods are “bad” is no easy task, as such matters are never black and white and many times information is not readily available, especially on labels. Furthermore, many people assume the position that it is not easy or affordable to completely alter the way they eat every day even if they wanted to. Sometimes the proper options aren’t available, such as the inflexible menus in schools. Many times people find it more convenient to write-off the damaging evidence concerning every day foods as conspiracy theories, so they may continue their diet even thought it may be doing irreparable harm to their bodies. But the reality of food, primarily in America, lies in the overall health of our consumers. In 2011, it was concluded that 25.8 million children and adults in the United States have diabetes, and more than one-third of U.S. adults are obese (“Diabetes Basics”). Obesity is an epidemic similar to cancer or any other disease, but the difference is that obesity is completely preventable. Over the course of this semester in OSG’s Global Issues class, we have studied various issues  around the world such as globalization, sustainable development, and women’s rights. Improper nutrition on the level of poverty was addressed when evaluating developing countries, and the “business” aspect of the food industry was also included in our lessons on fair trade and sustainable development. I even focused specifically on the fast food industry in a previous OSG blog post. But the absence of proper nutrition in the form of obesity is also an extremely important issue in-and-of itself. It is time that we take responsibility for our own health, because the change is doable and imperative to our well being.

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One of the most important things to remember about avoiding harmful foods is that they often hide behind a non-threatening mask. Medical Doctor William Davis wrote an informative novel called Wheat Belly about the dangers of wheat, which contradicts the idea that consuming “whole grain” bread on your sandwich is healthier than white bread. In fact, Mr. Davis himself became diabetic before discovering the truth about our country’s wheat supply after going on a strict diet of fruits, vegetables, and whole grains, and on top of jogging five miles a day. Soon after this revelation, he found that “wheat is no longer wheat”, and the manner in which it is manipulated in growth is harmful (Davis, William, Dr.). Modern wheat is hybridized, backcrossed, and re-hybridized with non-wheat plants. Hybridization is the crossing of different strains of wheat to generate new characteristics, which means that 5% of the proteins generated in offspring are not present in either parent. Moreover, backcrossing is the repeated crossing of strains to produce a specific trait, and re-hybridizing with non-wheat plants produces entirely new genes in the wheat (Davis, William).

“The concept is: wheat has changed…whether it is a Twinkie, or a whole grain bagel, or a big-heavy expensive loaf of multi-grain bread. It is all the same stuff. It is all made from the product of agribusiness and modern agriculture called semi-dwarf wheat. It makes no difference what form it comes in. There are a bit more B vitamins and fiber in whole grain bread than in cupcakes and cookies, but in the end they both end up having the same physiologic consequences.” -Dr. Davis (Davis, William, Dr.)

Dr. Davis’ argument is an interesting one. He stipulates that the new production of wheat is a recent discovery, which is why he wrote Wheat Belly to spread the word about it. In America, many more severe allergies to wheat or gluten (a protein found in wheat) exist today than ten years ago. It is not uncommon for people in today’s society to resort to a “gluten-free” diet. I myself have at least three family members on this diet.

wheat-belly

“Wheat products such as whole wheat bread raise your blood sugar higher than all other known foods. Two slices of whole wheat bread have been proven to raise blood sugar higher than a Snickers bar! And so after having my patients remove wheat from their diet they would come back three months later thirty pounds lighter and their blood sugar dropped from the diabetic or pre-diabetic range to normal. Many other things transpired as well; such as improved asthma even after discontinuing the use of three inhalers, improved arthritis, elimination of acid reflux, a significant reduction of irritable bowel syndrome, and a rash of eight years disappearing. It became clear, the more I heard these stories, that this was not a coincidence. This was real. People were experiencing all of these improvements just by removing wheat.”- Dr. Davis

Although whole grains are commonly known as the “good grains”, it appears evident that it is most likely prudent to be careful. That does not mean that wheat is the worst thing for you, but it should be regarded with moderation like anything else.

Another undercover assailant is the trans fat. Unlike saturated fat, trans fats not only raise your bad cholesterol, but also lower your good cholesterol. This non-essential and possibly deadly fat is meant to enhance the flavor, texture, and shelf life of processed foods, but they actually turn to “sludge” while traveling through your digestive system to your arteries. Many companies hide behind the label of “partially hydrogenated”, but do not be fooled. Hydrogenated is just a sneaky way to say trans fat (“What Are Trans Fats?”).

And of course there are the more obvious-but-tempting packaged foods with lots of high fructose corn syrups and trans fats. Common packaged foods like cereal, crackers, cookies, and bread are worth watching out for. Six European countries (France, Luxembourg, Greece, Germany, Austria and Hungary) have actually banned any kind of genetically modified organisms in crops such as high fructose corn syrup because they do not want it to become a part of their country’s food system. America is ranked number one in the world for obesity at 30.6%, while France rests at 9.4% of obese people in their population. If such products are not at all harmful, then why are these countries refusing to distribute it? (Davis, William).

LetsMove1

 

gethealthy

The silver lining to this massive issue is that we can easily prevent obesity, and you can become the change.

  1. The first step starts with you. Reading labels while grocery shopping goes a long way. Whenever you buy something, you can make a simple checklist in your head. There should not be more than five ingredients on the label, and you should recognize them all. An even simpler trick is to shop the outside aisles of the grocery store; that way you are getting all of your fresh fruits, vegetables, meats, and dairy while avoiding the packaged foods. You can also refer to Michele Obama’s Let’s Move! campaign to learn easy tips and tricks on how to eat healthy on a budget. She suggests using the “3 P’s”- Plan, Purchase, and Prepare food on a budget and even gives a sample meal plan for a week of healthy eating. Another easy way to become more educated about eating right is to download an app such as “101 Revolutionary Ways to be Healthy.” It gives a daily tip or fact about easy every day ways to be healthy.Screen Shot 2012-12-17 at 1.06.57 AM
  2. The next step is to make a difference amongst your peers. You can start by just telling your friends about the reality of trans fats, preservatives and genetically modified food. If people see you choosing to eat a healthier diet, they are bound to ask questions anyway. Many times people complain that the proper food options are not available in the school or work cafeteria scene, and this is very true. Because the administrators in charge of ordering the food are generally not professional nutritionists, they are not educated about the most affordable way to fuel their students without setting them up for future heart attacks. But that does not mean that it cannot be done, and there are easy ways to be the voice of change.
  • If enough people want a change, it will happen. If your parents are involved with the school like belonging to the PTO, encourage them to get educated about nutrition and suggest alternatives.
  • Also, if you present your principal with a petition signed by the majority of your student body, it is a tough subject to shove under the rug.
  • Even putting together a small presentation for your class, school, or administrators will at least get the message out there so people are not oblivious to what they are eating.

3. You can also write letters to your state legislature about school/work lunches, or nutrition companies in charge of listing ingredients on packaging labels. And if you get enough people to call their Senator, change will be brought about!

The reality about much of our food today is staggering, and it deserves more recognition than its “health freak” status. So, while it is easier to continue eating the all-too available vending machine food, I encourage you to just consider the future risks of the unknown ingredients and take action in these small and simple ways. It is exciting to think that you are helping your future and the future of others by doing these things. As a benefit, this does not take a lot of time or money, just initiative.

—————————————————————————————————————————————————-

Davis, William, Dr. “Wheat Belly-wheat Is No Longer Wheat.” YouTube. YouTube, n.d. Web. 17 Dec. 2012.

Davis, William. “Wheat Is NOT “genetically-modified”” Wheat Belly Blog. Dr. Davis, n.d. Web. 17 Dec. 2012.

“Diabetes Basics.” Diabetes Statistics. American Diabetes Association, n.d. Web. 17 Dec. 2012.

“What Are Trans Fats? Food Sources and Daily Limits.” WebMD. WebMD, n.d. Web. 17 Dec. 2012.

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  1. I love this post. I think that you do a magnificent job of examining both the small-scale and large-scale issues that contribute to obesity. I agree that we are all responsible for our own eating choices and for our own awareness, however I feel that there is another huge contributing factor. The industrialization of our food system has turned obesity into an epidemic. The issue of wheat that you mentioned stemmed from agribusiness’ desire to insure that their crops were as fruitful as possible’ disregarding health in the process. While I do agree that we should all take responsibility of what we consume I believe there is a larger issue at stake. The medical epidemic of obesity is not just a personal one, it is a problem that involves things as far flung as privilege, government, and education.

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