How does obesity begin?
Scientists have proved that overeating is not a cause, but a consequence of obesity
In an article published in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition (Ludwig et al., The carbohydrate-insulin model: a physiological perspective on the obesity pandemic), 17 scientists from the USA, Denmark and Canada – clinical researchers and experts in the field of nutrition and public health – provide evidence in favor of the carbohydrate-insulin model the biological mechanism of obesity. The authors argue that the root causes of obesity are not related to the amount of food consumed, but to its composition.
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), obesity currently affects more than 40 percent of American adults, putting them at higher risk of developing heart disease, stroke, type 2 diabetes and certain cancers. Weight loss guidelines usually recommend reducing the number of calories obtained from foods and beverages and increasing their consumption as a result of physical activity.
This approach to the treatment of obesity is based on the centuries-old model of energy balance, which states that a person gains weight when he consumes more energy than he spends. However, statistics show that, despite active calls to eat less and exercise more, the rates of obesity and overweight-related diseases are steadily increasing from year to year.
The authors propose an alternative carbohydrate-insulin model, according to which the main cause of obesity is not overeating as such, but excessive consumption of food with a high glycemic index, in particular processed foods with a large amount of rapidly digested carbohydrates. According to the researchers' conclusions, such products, which form the basis of the modern Western style of nutrition, cause hormonal shifts that radically change metabolism, contributing to fat accumulation and weight gain.
"When we eat highly processed carbohydrates, the body increases insulin secretion and suppresses glucagon secretion. This, in turn, gives a signal to fat cells to accumulate more calories, leaving less energy to nourish muscles and other metabolically active tissues," the press release says. The words of the head of the study, Dr. David Ludwig, an endocrinologist from Boston Children's Hospital and a professor at Harvard Medical School. – The brain receives a signal that the body is not getting enough energy, which, in turn, leads to a feeling of hunger. In addition, in the body's attempts to save fuel, the metabolism slows down. As a result, we can stay hungry even if we continue to gain extra fat."
According to the authors, the carbohydrate-insulin model better explains obesity and weight gain than the traditional energy balance model, and opens the way for the development of new, more effective methods to combat obesity.
"To understand the obesity epidemic, we need to consider not only how much we eat, but also how the food we eat affects our hormones and metabolism. By claiming that all calories are the same for the body, the energy balance model misses this important piece of the puzzle," says Ludwig.
Instead of encouraging people to eat less–a strategy that usually doesn't work in the long run – the carbohydrate-insulin model suggests another pathway that is more focused on understanding what we eat. Reducing the consumption of rapidly digested carbohydrates, according to the authors, not only eliminates the main cause of fat accumulation in the body, but also relieves the constant feeling of hunger. As a result, people can lose weight without resorting to debilitating food restrictions.
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