Obesity: Deadlier than smoking
A verbatim extract from the article: The foresight report, written by 250 leading scientists, says Britain’s obesity crisis is so severe that it would take at least 30 years to reverse. If current trends continue, by 2050 about 60 per cent of men, 50 per cent of women and 25 per cent of children in the UK will be clinically obese. At present around a quarter of adults are obese.
The scientists call on the Government to make the problem a priority, perhaps forming an independent committee similar to the one being developed on climate change to bring together government departments and industry.
Peter Hollins, chief executive of the British Heart Foundation, said successive governments had ignored warnings of an obesity crisis since the mid-1970′s. It is hardly a wake-up call, he said, Repeated reports like this, which should have had alarm bells ringing in Whitehall long ago, have been met only by repeated pushes of the Government’s snooze button.
My view: The trouble with trying to get the Government to address the obesity epidemic is that, the advice that the Government has been giving out for years and continues to believe is, in my opinion, more likely to be the CAUSE of the obesity epidemic than the CURE.
The advice of the Food Standards Agency in the UK and the US National Institutes of Health is essentially to ‘Eat less, do more.’ Quite specifically, the dietary advice from UK public health bodies is:
To lose 1lb of fat per week, you need to either reduce your calorie intake by 3500 a week, or increase your exercise, or do a combination of both.
The advice from the American Department of Health and Human Services is: (Specifically from the National Heart, Lung and blood institute: Obesity Education Initiative).
A diet that is individually planned to help create a deficit of 500 to 1,000 kcal/day should be an integral part of any program aimed at achieving a weight loss of 1 to 2 pounds per week.
What this is effectively telling you to do is to drive from John O’Groats to Lands End in the UK, or from the West to the East Coast of America, but without putting enough fuel in the car to do so (‘Eat less’). Worse than that, you are then being told to flog the car even harder, so that it will conk out even sooner than it would have done, had you driven it to conserve energy (‘Do more’).
If a car mechanic seriously told you to do this to your car you would think they were mad and yet millions of people in the ‘developed’ world are deliberately trying to run their bodies on less fuel than they need, every single day.
This is the very idea of the calorie controlled diet; take in less fuel than you need. The theory is that your body will make up for the calorie deficit by burning fat that you have stored already, but it is not as simple as this. Your body first and foremost is a survival machine. The human body has developed over thousands of years and it has survived and adapted to far more challenging things than calorie counting.
Stop Counting Calories & Start Losing Weight: The Harcombe Diet will show exactly what your body will do when you try to follow this advice and it is pretty much the exact opposite of what you want it to do. At every stage your body will do its best to 1) make you eat, 2) store fat and 3) conserve energy; all the things you don’t want to happen.
There are then some indirect consequences of trying to eat less and the book explains them all carefully and the outcome of these is that a calorie counter is virtually guaranteed to develop 3 medical conditions, which in turn cause insatiable food cravings. So count calories and end up a food addict, Stop Counting Calories & Start Losing weight.
For some more evidence, let us look at some direct quotes from the UK Food Standard Agency web site (taken from the site in 2007, so they may have been updated at the time you are reading this):
- ‘The proportion of energy in our diets coming from fat is about the same as in the 1950s. In the 1960s and 1970s the energy from fat in our diets increased but since the late 1980s we have been consuming less total fat and we’ve also cut down on saturated fat’;
- ‘Since the 60s we’ve been consuming fewer calories from household food. However, there are an increasing number of people who are overweight or obese. The reasons for this are not clear’;
- ‘Following significant changes over the past few years, the British diet is probably as healthy as it’s ever been’;
- ‘Levels of obesity have tripled since 1980 in England, and there is no sign of the upward trend stopping’;
- ‘The UK has the fastest rising obesity rates in the developed world’.
So, let me understand this, the UK has been following the diet advice; we are eating less fat, we are eating fewer calories, our diet is probably the best it has ever been, but levels of obesity have tripled since 1980 and we have the fastest rising obesity rate in the world. If this were a scientific experiment, you would stop it immediately and conclude that it isn’t working. What happens instead is that the advice is shouted even louder and stronger by most governments, doctors and dieticians. ‘Eat less, do more’; that’s the only advice they can give us.
If only it were that simple, we wouldn’t have an obesity problem, let alone an epidemic. I firmly believe that the calorie theory will go down as one of the most serious myths in history. Just as we came to realise how bad smoking is for people’s health, so I believe that we will come to realise that telling people to ‘eat less, do more’ has caused our current obesity crisis. Far from it ever being the cure, I think that it is the cause.