Wednesday, July 31, 2019

Retrospective #165: Obesity is Not the Problem

David Lustig’s 10-year old UCTV YouTube video sensation, “Sugar, the Bitter Truth,” has now been seen 8.5 million times. Here’s a 45 second excerpt I transcribed from “Sugar” that fits in with a theme I’ve been beating the drum about since I published The Nutrition Debate #9, “The Metabolic Syndrome,” almost 9 years ago.
Lustig: “Obesity is not the problem. It never was. They want you to think it’s the problem, but it ain’t the problem. What is the problem? Metabolic Syndrome is the problem. The cluster of diseases that I’ve described to you. That’s where all the money goes. Obesity costs almost nothing. Metabolic Syndrome is 75% of all health care costs today. And there’s the list. [Slide lists: DIABETES, HYPERTENSION, LIPID ABNORMALITIES, CARDIOVASCULAR DISEASE, NON-ALCOHOLIC FATTY LIVER DISEASE, POLYCYSTIC OVARIAN DISEASE, CANCER, DEMENTIA].
What is Metabolic Syndrome? And how is it diagnosed? Most definitions have five “risk factors” in common, with the first always being obesity. It is variously defined as “central obesity,” or a Body Mass Index (BMI) ≥30, or elevated waist circumference (men ≥40 inches, women ≥35 inches). The other four “risk factors” are elevated triglycerides (≥150mg/dl), reduced HDL, the “good” cholesterol (men ≤40mg/dl, women ≤50mg/dl), elevated blood pressure (≥130/85mm Hg, or use of BP medications) and elevated fasting glucose (≥100 mg/dl, or use of medications for hyperglycemia). If you “present” with 4 out of 5, you have Metabolic Syndrome.
The corollary to “obesity is not the problem” is equally riveting: “Everyone’s at risk.” As Lustig explains: “Everyone’s at risk, because everyone is exposed.” That, of course, begs the question: exposed to what?
Dr. Lustig precedes his “obesity is not the problem” mantra with a nice explanation of the implications of the difference between subcutaneous fat (fat near the surface of the skin) and visceral fat (fat around the abdominal organs). The latter is the “bad” type of obesity. He starts with a diagram showing 30% obese and 70% “normal” weight, “and everybody assumes that the problem is this group over here [the 30% obese] because 80% of the obese population is sick in some fashion: type 2 diabetes problems, lipid problems, hypertension, cardiovascular disease, cancer, dementia, non-alcoholic fatty liver disease, polycystic ovarian disease, etc.”
“But,” he continues, “you do the math on this, 80% of 30% [of the 240 million adult population] is 57 million, and it is those 57 million that are bankrupting the country, so it’s the obese person’s fault only, and that’s the way everyone views this. This is wrong. This is a mistake. This is a disaster, actually, ‘cause it’s not correct. Here’s the real story. In fact, 20% of the obese population is completely metabolically normal. They have normal insulin dynamics. They don’t get sick. They die at a completely normal age, cost the taxpayer nothing. They’re just fat.”
“Conversely, up to 40% of the “normal” weight population has the same metabolic dysfunction that the obese do. They’re just normal weight, and so they don’t even know they’re sick until it’s too late; because normal weight people get type 2 diabetes, they get hypertension, they get dyslipidemia, they get cardiovascular disease, they get cancer, they get dementia, etc. etc. And so, when you do the math, that’s another 67 million, and that’s outclassing the 57 million obese, and so the total is 124 million; that’s more than half [the adult population] of America.”
That’s why Dr. Lustig says, “Everyone’s at risk, because everyone is exposed.” Exposed to Metabolic Syndrome! And how do you treat all five risk factors of Metabolic Syndrome? In case you haven’t figured it out yet, the answer is a Low Carbohydrate Way of Eating. No pills, no injections, no surgery. Just a different Way of Eating (WOE).
Okay, you say, I can see how a low-carb Way of Eating can help me lose weight and control my blood glucose. And I can see that as I lose weight, my blood pressure will go down. And maybe I can believe that by eating low-carb, I can lose weight without hunger and without snacks, and even keep the weight off, so long as I continue to eat low-carb. But how can I expect that eating low-carb will cause my triglycerides to go down and my HDL to go up? Well, mine did, dramatically: My HDL average doubled from 39 to 81, and my triglycerides dropped by about two-thirds, from 137 to 49, just by eating Very Low Carb. Of course, scientifically, an N = 1 means nothing, unless that N is you

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