Beating the Odds Against Sugar, Processed Foods, Obesity, and Disease

Kristin Davis RD

A few months back I watched Robert Lustig’s video on You-Tube called Sugar: The Bitter Truth. It was very informative and interesting. Take home message? Sugar is bad! So when I saw his book “Fat Chance” I decided to check it out and see what more he might have to say on the subject.

This book is about obesity. It’s about metabolic syndrome. It’s about choosing the right way to eat to lose the weight and the insulin resistance that many obese people have to contend with. So yes, it’s about sugar. But also, so much more.

The section on how to make a fat cell caught my attention so I thought I’d sum it up for you in this short piece.

How do you make a fat cell?

  • Genetics dictate 50 percent of our fate. The other 50 percent comes from our environment. Lustig explains that only 2 percent of morbid obesity is pre-determined genetically. And even those who are genetically influenced to store fat can only blame about 22 pounds of excess weight on genes.
  • Epigenetics is the turning on or off of genes. Unfortunately, epigenetic affects occur before birth so you can be born with a gene turned on. One study showed that epigenetic markers in babies’ DNA predicted their degree of fat by age nine. Epigenetics are determined by life in the fetal environment, i.e. mom’s stress. And once our epigenetic pattern has been altered, we can pass that on to our children.
  •  Developmental programming is different from epigenetics but it still affects an unborn child. Maternal nutrition affects the fetus. Babies born small for their age at birth are at increased risk for obesity, diabetes and heart disease. And if mom has gestational diabetes during pregnancy, her large for size infant is also at risk for obesity and metabolic syndrome in childhood and/or adulthood.
  •  Even environmental toxins can affect our fat cells pre-birth.
  • Once our fat cells are made, there is ample opportunity to fill them. The main way to accumulate fat is to eat foods that stimulate the production of insulin, the energy-storing hormone. Without insulin, there’s no fat accumulation. We are also stressed, increasing the hormone cortisol which promotes insulin resistance in the liver and muscle cells as well as in your brain to make you crave more insulin-producing foods. Even medications such as steroids, antipsychotics and hypoglycemics can drive up insulin and with it, weight.

What Diet Works Best for Weight Loss?

There are many different reasons that people gain weight. Here are some interesting findings from four different studies along with some variations of diet:

  • If your pancreas is releasing a lot of insulin, a low-Glycemic Index diet works best.
  • If you have insulin resistance, a low-carb diet works best.
  • If your insulin resistance is the result of genetics, a low-carb diet can’t fix the problem, in which case a low-fat, high-carb diet is the most effective for weight loss.

Take-Home Message

If there is a take-home message I think it’s that there is not one right answer for everybody. And it’s up to us not just as individuals but also as a community, a society, even a government to help people to help themselves. Lustig goes on to explore ideas to improve our food labels, as well as a call to remove dietary recommendations from the hands of the USDA. He suggests that we may have to take it upon ourselves to use the law to get the attention of our government and big business. Prosecution for deceptive advertising and lawsuits around negligence or failure to warn the public are just two ideas from Lustig.

Overall, a good read with research-backed science, stories and more evidence for what we’re telling you here is right!