Why We Get Fat
Why We Get Fat was published in The New York Times last year by David S. Ludwig and Mark I. Friedman.
It’s an enlightening article reviewing the old concept of how we get fat, and a new hypothesis that sheds some much needed insight into what is most likely really happening in the human body which causes excess body fat accumulation.
Discover How You Too Can Lose Belly Fat
FOR most of the last century, our understanding of the cause of obesity has been based on immutable physical law. Specifically, it’s the first law of thermodynamics, which dictates that energy can neither be created nor destroyed.
When it comes to body weight, this means that calorie intake minus calorie expenditure equals calories stored. Surrounded by tempting foods, we overeat, consuming more calories than we can burn off, and the excess is deposited as fat. The simple solution is to exert willpower and eat less.
The following video has been viewed by over 1 million people. It provides an excellent explanation of how the fat storage process works. The animated visual aid adds a dramatic, yet clear view of what is happening when body fat is stored. Be sure to watch the video now.
Why We Get Fat
Our efforts to use willpower to cut calories by eating less are frustrating and futile.
In the long run, this approach doesn’t work for the majority of people who try it. The good intentions to make this work just don’t last. People get disillusioned and give up before any lasting results can be seen.
Obesity Continues on the Rise
Obesity continues to grow even while the government health organizations, and the food industry keep telling us to concentrate on counting calories.
But what if we’ve confused cause and effect? What if it’s not overeating that causes us to get fat, but the process of getting fatter that causes us to overeat?
The more calories we lock away in fat tissue, the fewer there are circulating in the bloodstream to satisfy the body’s requirements. If we look at it this way, it’s a distribution problem: We have an abundance of calories, but they’re in the wrong place. As a result, the body needs to increase its intake. We get hungrier because we’re getting fatter.
It’s like edema, a common medical condition in which fluid leaks from blood vessels into surrounding tissues. No matter how much water they drink, people with edema may experience unquenchable thirst because the fluid doesn’t stay in the blood, where it’s needed. Similarly, when fat cells suck up too much fuel, calories from food promote the growth of fat tissue instead of serving the energy needs of the body, provoking overeating in all but the most disciplined individuals.
Give up in Frustration
If the above is correct, it’s no wonder we get so frustrated in our dieting efforts and end up giving up. Because we don’t understand why we get fat, we either don’t lose much weight, or worse yet, we gain it all back as soon as we go back to normal eating.
We discuss this hypothesis in an article just published in JAMA, The Journal of the American Medical Association. According to this alternative view, factors in the environment have triggered fat cells in our bodies to take in and store excessive amounts of glucose and other calorie-rich compounds.
Since fewer calories are available to fuel metabolism, the brain tells the body to increase calorie intake (we feel hungry) and save energy (our metabolism slows down). Eating more solves this problem temporarily but also accelerates weight gain. Cutting calories reverses the weight gain for a short while, making us think we have control over our body weight, but predictably increases hunger and slows metabolism even more.
Consider fever as another analogy. A cold bath will lower body temperature temporarily, but also set off biological responses — like shivering and constriction of blood vessels — that work to heat the body up again.
In a sense, the conventional view of obesity as a problem of calorie balance is like conceptualizing fever as a problem of heat balance; technically not wrong, but not very helpful, because it ignores the apparent underlying biological driver of weight gain.
Cutting Calories Results in Failure
Thus we can understand why the struggle to cut calories usually results in failure. In a nation-wide survey, overweight adults were asked whether they kept the weight off after a successful diet.
Only one sixth of respondents said they kept a 10 percent weight loss for one year. It is common for survey respondents to over estimate results when asked to recall their success rate in self reporting surveys. Therefore even this 10 percent result may be overstated.
In studies by Dr. Rudolph L. Leibel of Columbia and colleagues, when lean and obese research subjects were underfed in order to make them lose 10 to 20 percent of their weight, their hunger increased and metabolism plummeted. Conversely, overfeeding sped up metabolism.
For both over- and under-eating, these responses tend to push weight back to where it started — prompting some obesity researchers to think in terms of a body weight “set point” that seems to be predetermined by our genes.
But if basic biological responses push back against changes in body weight, and our set points are predetermined, then why have obesity rates — which, for adults, are almost three times what they were in the 1960s — increased so much? Most important, what can we do about it?
More Research Needed
This alternative view as to why we get fat will hopefully be followed by more studies that will give us further insights into the causes of the obesity epidemic we are witnessing in this country today. Be sure to read the second part of this enlightening article. Be sure to click the link below to continue reading.