Obesity in America

It Is Alive and Well

Obesity is an epidemic in America. More than 65% of Americans are overweight and the trend is rising. Obesity is an important factor in cardiovascular disease, diabetes and cancer. Obesity is a significant factor in sleep disorders, in particular obstructive sleep apnea. Obesity is a result of taking in more calories in the form of food than we need to use as fuel for our body. When we eat more calories than we can burn, we store the excess calories as carbohydrate in the form of glycogen. However, we can only store about 1200 calories. When we exceed our storage capacity for glycogen, the excess calories are turned into fat.

Most women tend to store their fat in the lower body (hips, thighs and buttocks) while men tend to store fat in their belly. Belly fat tends to infiltrate surrounding organs causing these organs to function abnormally. When there is fatty infiltration of the liver, the production of triglycerides increases. This in turn contributes to the production of the “bad cholesterols” or “bad fats”. Higher stress hormones such as cortisol oppose the effects of insulin causing insulin resistance and even greater fat deposition. The obesity epidemic has contributed to over 20 million Americans having Type II diabetes and 40 million people with “pre-diabetes” or “impaired glucose tolerance”.

Interestingly, the consumption of both carbohydrates and proteins trigger the release of insulin while eating fat does not. Fat comes in 4 basic subtypes: monounsaturated, polyunsaturated, saturated and trans fat. Monounsaturated fats have actually been shown to lower insulin requirements and insulin resistance. Monounsaturated fatty acids (MUFAs) are found in many foods and tend to be prominent in the “Mediterranean Diet”.

Examples of MUFAs include:

  • Olives
  • Avocados
  • Nuts
  • Seeds
  • Vegetable oils

Shifting your diet to foods that are high in MUFAs will help lower insulin and triglyceride levels and promote weight loss when combined with a healthy life style consisting of decreased caloric intake and increased exercise. In addition, to increased intake of MUFAs, I strongly recommend increasing your intake of whole grains, low-fat dairy products, chicken and fish. Anti-Oxidants, the new “super vitamin” is contained in brightly colored fruits and vegetables and believe it or not, in dark chocolate (the darker the better).

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