The last article I wrote dealt with the nature of the relationship between the development of obesity and premature death. I wrote the last article to provide a frame of reference for this one…how does one become obese and what is (are) the most important factors with regard to the likelihood an individual will become obese?
Some experts take deep dives in to the genetic theory of obesity citing the fact that there have been numerous obesity genes discovered and the propensity for certain individuals to have these genes or the trend for these genes to be “up-regulated” in certain prone individuals. Firstly, these are NOT obesity genes, these are genes that are in our DNA which serve to protect us from starvation when food was scarce. These genes control the metabolic processes that allow us to store body fat much more efficiently and help to prevent starvation in hunter-gatherers. During the long course of evolution, these genes remained in those who survived periods of prolonged food shortages and were passed on to successive generations of humans.
As a result, we all have a very good system in place to allow us to store large amounts of body fat rather easily….thanks to evolutionary process, humans are now much less likely to die of starvation!
Of course, the real reason why humans continue to suffer from obesity in such a manner is the fact that we are surrounded by food….most of it very bad for us. Some of this food causes us to gain body fat because of the effects it has upon insulin secretion, caloric concentration and the effects this food has upon hunger, satiation and genetic signalling.
In my professional opinion, the biggest contributor to the global obesity epidemic can be directly traced to the advent of sugary drinks and their increased consumption beginning in the 1960’s. These drinks generally refer to any beverage with added sugar or other sweeteners (high fructose corn syrup, sucrose, fruit juice concentrates, and more). This list is growing but includes: soda, pop, cola, tonic, fruit punch, lemonade, sweetened powdered drinks including sports and energy drinks. One of the biggest contributors (if not the largest contributor) to the obesity epidemic (type-2 diabetes included) was the wide-spread use of high-fructose corn syrup typically used as a sweetener in drinks and other foods by the food industry. This additive has been extensively studied because of the negative effects it has upon your liver, blood sugar, blood fats, levels of inflammation and how it plays tricks on your brain making you eat more.
This is particularly troubling when you consider the fact that the consumption of sugary drinks accounts for the single largest source of calories and added sugar in the North American diet. From a global perspective, the consumption of sugary drinks continues to rise dramatically due to widespread urbanization and beverage marketing.
If you simply consider the the average amount of sugar in a 12 oz. can of soda, you can see the concern. One Tsp. contains 4.2 grams of sugar…multiplied by a factor of 7-10 in a typical sugary drink serving size…you can begin to understand how this could affect your body!
Some simple facts for you to consider: The average serving size of a sugar-sweetened drink provides about 150 calories, almost all of them from added sugar. If a person consumed just one of these sugary drinks every day without reducing calories elsewhere, they could gain up to 5 pounds in a year (every year). Not including weight-gain, routinely drinking these sugar-loaded beverages increases the risk of type 2 diabetes, heart disease, and other chronic diseases in a dose-related/time-related manner. In addition, higher consumption of sugary beverages has been linked with an increased risk of premature death, (from obesity, diabetes, heart attack or stroke).
The most important points to consider really deal with the fact that a plethora of scientific evidence has indicated and continues to indicate that decreasing sugar-sweetened beverage consumption will reduce the prevalence of obesity and obesity-related diseases, (despite what the sugar industry tells you). Unfortunately, the consumption of sweetened beverages continues to be the regular drink of choice for millions around the world. Sadly, adding to the confusion are studies largely funded by the beverage/sugar industry which are four to eight times more likely to show a finding favorable to industry than independently-funded studies. This of course does not account for the effects that this industry has upon youth from the millions spent on marketing annually!
The continued consumption of these drinks is the major direct cause and major contributor to the obesity epidemic!
My best advice: sweetened drinks should be completely avoided. There is a range of healthier beverages that can be consumed in their place, with water being the top option. Sparkling spring water is my favorite?
Until Next Time
The Vitality Project
Dr. Kevin J. McLaughlin