Still more causes of Obesity

Medicine Globally by Dr. Rene Menguy



Dr. René Menguy


All I have to do to gain weight is look at food.

Anyone having read the last three postings on this problem might conclude, frustrated, that anything one does makes one gain weight. That’s right, that’s just the way it is.

An INEQUALITY OF WEIGHT BLANCE characterizes our metabolism. This means that losing weight is very hard but gaining it is incredibly easy. Our genetic make-up favors food (energy) consumption and discourages energy expenditure in the most miserly way. In other words, we gain weight effortlessly but controlling our weight demands a conscious effort, an effort that for some seems impossible. This built-in behavior, functioning independently of cognitive thought, facilitated survival during our early years on earth. It was a time when a naked man lacking natural means of defense faced ferocious predators competing with him for scarce food; a scarcity that demanded he eat before the arrival of another predator drawn by the scent of a fresh kill. That’s how many of us still eat; we inhale our food.

Childhood obesity deserves our special attention.

A child’s familial environment is where healthy eating habits are learned. Too often, schools are asked to assume the responsibility of forcing “healthy foods” upon children through cafeteria programs. Children and young adults should want to eat what’s healthy and not be told: “do this because it’s good for you”. It starts with the mother whose fundamental role has always been feeding her infants. She really gets worried when the infant refuses the nipple or turns out to be a finicky eater. Conversely, an infant lunging at the nipple or the bottle gives her pleasure.

Studies of childhood obesity have shown that infants who suck avidly tend to gain more weight than the “finicky” feeders. The same is true for infants who prefer sucking a sweetened solution.

Mothers play a vital role as children grow. They select the food, prepare the meals and allocate the portions. They derive pleasure from seeing the plates liked clean and begin to worry when appetites slacken. Meals, especially dinner should be en famille, where the parents enjoy their children who, in turn, learn what to eat as well as proper manners. Sometimes trouble begins here. The caloric needs of children and adolescents are far greater than those of adults. Nevertheless, well-meaning parents may exceed those needs by unknowingly encouraging overeating, which may lead to overweight adolescents and obese adults.

During childhood, our bodies form fat-storage cells (adipocytes) at a more rapid rate than later. Any energy (calories) consumed in excess of the body’s needs, is converted to fat stored in these cells, which is the only way the body can handle excess energy. The numbers of these “fat cells” increase in proportion to the amount of excess energy consumed. Since their numbers never change, childhood overweight can lead to a lifetime of obesity.

Food should never be used for reward and punishment.

"You finished your homework already. Here’s an extra helping of chocolate ice cream."

Good behavior has its own set of rewards and need not be "bought" with food. A child who begins to associate “being good” with the pleasure of eating has taken the first step on the path to obesity.

Punishing a child at the dinner table is not healthy.
"Leave the table and go to your room."

It’s a mistake to impress upon a child’s mind an association between "bad" behavior and food, because there is evidence to suggest that this might cause eating disorders characterized by an aversion for food in general.

Now, what about sugar? Several “diet gurus” have suggested that we eliminate sugar from our diets on the grounds that it causes the pancreas to release the hormone insulin. The latter would cause "blood sugar to fall which would, in turn, stimulate hunger and more eating".

I disagree. After a meal containing either free sugar or a complex carbohydrate, blood sugar rises, an event sensed by the pancreas, which responds by releasing Insulin. The latter promotes a rapid glucose uptake by the body’s cells, blood sugar returns to normal and the pancreatic release of insulin ceases. The contention that sugar might cause hypoglycemia (low blood sugar) and hunger is nonsense. Were this true, we would faint when drinking orange juice because our brain cells can only use glucose. QED?

ROLE OF ALCOHOL? Oops, I’ve reached my “word limit”. This is such an important topic that I’ll save it for a separate posting.

To be continued

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