If we do not make some major changes to our food supply and diet, half of all Americans will be obese by the year 2030. (1)
Today, 37% of Americans are obese, and an additional 34% are overweight. (1)
While a heavier population may be becoming the trend, there are serious health risks hiding behind this issue, including blood sugar concerns, heart concerns and the potential to decrease one’s lifespan by some 14 years.
Obesity also alters the immune system’s ability to fight infection, as well as the body and mind’s ability to sleep deeply and get the exercise needed to stay healthy. (1)
It is safe to say that if dieting alone worked, we would not be facing this epidemic today.
The Science Behind Obesity
Researchers Susan Roberts and Sai Krupa Das from the Tufts School of Medicine have dug into the science of obesity and revealed some interesting facts.
For starters, exercise is not a major tool for weight loss. This is not new information, but many still get frustrated when they work out 7 days a week and don’t lose weight. Once the weight has been lost however, exercise is an important component of keeping the weight off.
They started their research trying to find out exactly how many calories humans need to survive and stay healthy. They found that humans, compared to other mammals, are quite energy efficient.
The average adult male requires only 2500 calories per day, and the average female needs only 2000 calories per day. As a comparison, deer and seals consume 3 times as many calories as we do.
While we may not require massive amounts of food to survive, the average American consumes about 500 more calories a day today than we did in 1970. (1) That adds up to a weight of 33 pounds per year!
The amount of energy we get from proteins, carbohydrates or fats has been known for decades: We get about 4 calories of energy from 1 gram of protein and carbohydrates, and 9 calories of energy from 1 gram of fat. (1)
The trick is uncovering how well these foods are digested and assimilated. The new research is suggesting that weight gain is all about how the food is prepared and how well we digest it.
For example, when we eat raw almonds, we assimilate about one-third less calories than if we eat almond butter – where the almonds are pre-digested for us. (1)
How Packaged/Processed Foods Weigh You Down
In another study, researchers measured the calories digested from a whole grain (whole wheat, oats and a high-fiber cereal) diet that had 30 grams of dietary fiber compared to a typical American processed meal, which contained half the amount of fiber.
They found that the whole grains boosted the body’s metabolism in order to digest it, and a significant amount of the calories were not digested and passed through the feces. They calculated that both of these factors added up to about 100 fewer calories per day being digested and being stored as fat or unused fuel. That one meal adds up to almost 7 pounds of weight loss per year! (1,3)
Once again, we are seeing that the culprit is the processed nature of the foods we eat. Processed foods can include your favorite gluten-free crackers, nut butters, power bars, etc…
Processed foods dump excess sugar into the bloodstream that cannot be used right away and that is eventually is stored as fat.
The more processed a food, the more easily it is digested and the more rapidly sugars and fats are deposited into the bloodstream – a process directly linked to obesity. (4)
In another study performed by Susan Roberts, the caloric consumption after a high-glycemic (processed and refined cereal) breakfast was 29% higher compared to a low-glycemic breakfast of steel cut oats or scrambled eggs. (1,2)
More Motivation to Eat Foods Without Wrappers
Finally, in another study, a group of volunteers who were fed a low-glycemic diet of fish, beans, apples, grilled chicken and wheat berries reported significantly less hunger and reduced appetite.
Surprisingly, they scanned the brains of the volunteers who ate the low-glycemic diet and found that their brains lit up or were more positively active when exposed to pictures of whole wheat, grilled chicken and high-fiber cereals.
When exposed to images of French fries, fried chicken, chocolate bars and other comfort foods, their brains were less responsive or less reactive – suggesting that our brains can actually learn which foods will actually serve us best. (1)
We just have to feed the brain whole foods for a while and, in short order, our desires and cravings for junk food will naturally dissipate.