Overeating ‘is NOT the primary cause of obesity’: Scientists claim eating foods high in processed sugars is the real cause of a bulging waist
- Eating foods with highly processed carbohydrates is the leading cause of obesity
- These foods boost fat storage, hunger levels and weight gain, researchers claim
- The focus should shift to what people eat, rather than cutting calories, they said
Overeating is not the main cause of obesity, scientists claim.
They say that consuming the wrong types of food – rather than too much – is the real cause of one of the biggest health crises in the West.
The team of US researchers is calling for a complete rethink of public health messages about obesity, focusing now on foods high in processed sugars.
They say snacks like sweets, fizzy drinks and sugary cereals trigger hormonal imbalances that cause hunger spikes and weight gain.
dr. David Ludwig, an endocrinologist at Boston Children’s Hospital, said it was time to ditch the “age-old” idea that obesity is caused by “using more energy than we use.”
About four in ten American adults and three in ten British adults are obese, putting them at higher risk for heart disease, stroke, type 2 diabetes and cancer.
The report comes as the UK has been chosen by the World Health Organization to work with countries across Europe to reduce national sugar intake.
US experts said that highly processed carbohydrates increase fat storage, hunger levels and weight gain. These foods include sweets, carbonated drinks, and sugary grains, as well as white bread, potatoes, flour, and rice
Despite decades of public health messages telling people to eat less and exercise more, the number of obesity and obesity-related diseases has steadily risen.
In their review, published in the The American Journal of Clinical Nutrition, researchers suggest that a “carbohydrate-insulin model” better explains obesity and weight gain and may help with effective and long-lasting solutions.
The model was first considered in the early 1900s, but there is a growing body of evidence to support it, the experts said.
To tackle the rising obesity rates in the West, there needs to be a better understanding of not only how much food a person eats, but also what kind of food.
“With its claim that all calories are the same for the body, the energy balance model misses this crucial piece of the puzzle,” the researchers said.
Eating highly processed carbohydrates increases the body’s insulin secretion and suppresses glucagon secretion.
This tells fat cells to store more calories, leaving fewer calories to fuel muscles and tissues.
The brain then thinks that the body is not getting enough energy, which leads to feelings of hunger.
It can also slow down the body’s metabolism — the chemical process of converting food into energy — to conserve fuel, meaning a person remains hungry despite gaining fat.
Using the carbohydrate-insulin model in public messages would have “radical implications for weight management and the treatment of obesity,” she added.
It would no longer tell people to eat less “a strategy that usually doesn’t work in the long run,” and focus on what people eat.
dr. Ludwig, who is also a nutrition professor at Harvard Medical School, said that “reducing consumption of the fast-digesting carbohydrates that flooded the food supply during the era of the low-fat diet reduces the underlying urge to store body fat.”
“This allows people to lose weight with less hunger and struggle.”
It comes as the UK has been asked by the HO to work with 50 countries across the EU to share its knowledge on lowering sugar in food to tackle obesity.
Health and Social Care Minister Sajid Javid said: ‘It is testament to the success of our pioneering work in the UK to help people eat healthier that we have been chosen to lead this programme.
“We will work closely with our European partners to challenge the food industry to reduce sugar and calories in its products – reducing obesity, relieving pressure on health services and increasing our resilience against Covid and any future pandemics.” .’
WHAT SHOULD A BALANCED DIET LOOK LIKE?
Meals should be based on potatoes, bread, rice, pasta or other starchy carbohydrates, ideally whole grains, according to the NHS
• Eat at least 5 servings of different fruits and vegetables every day. All fresh, frozen, dried and canned fruits and vegetables count
• Basic meals on potatoes, bread, rice, pasta or other starchy carbohydrates, preferably whole grain
• 30 grams of fiber per day: This is equivalent to eating all of the following: 5 servings of fruits and vegetables, 2 whole-grain cereal biscuits, 2 thick slices of whole-wheat bread and large baked potato with skin
• Have some dairy or dairy alternatives (such as soy drinks) and choose options with less fat and less sugar
• Eat some beans, legumes, fish, eggs, meat and other proteins (including 2 servings of fish per week, one of which is fatty)
• Choose unsaturated oils and spreads and consume in small amounts
• Drink 6-8 cups/glasses of water a day
• Adults should have less than 6 g of salt and 20 g of saturated fat for women or 30 g for men per day
Source: NHS Eatwell Guide