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The Ongoing Question: What Is That We Eat That Piles on the Pounds?

By Dr. Arthur Lavin

Paleo, low carb, hi-protein, fasting, every which way we turn, another diet pops up promising that we can live in the abundance of food in America and stay trim.

Over and over these diets fail us, and we ask again, what are the real choices in food that will determine our weight?

This post does not deliver this answer, but it gives a great hint.

Why wait to the end of the essay, the answer from the current study is right in line with so many others, and even our intuition.  Foods that make us hungry when we eat them will make us gain weight.

The Study of Two Types of Food and their Impact on our Hunger

The study was reported in the NY Times:  https://nyti.ms/2Qaeugr

Here’s the actual study: https://bit.ly/2WOx7ZZ

It’s a small study, 20 adults, on the trial for 4 weeks- the concept and findings were fascinating.

In this study, the scientists took two groups of volunteers who agreed to stay cooped up in the study center with no access to any food but what the study offered.

One group got a diet made up of whole grains, fruits, and vegetables, eggs, chicken, and meat.

The other group got a diet made up of what they called ultra-processed foods.

A word on processed.  Processed means you can’t find the food in the forest or field.  You can find an apple on a tree, but you can’t find pretzels there.

Now, the plates the subjects got had the same:

  • Number of calories
  • Ounces of sugar
  • Ounces of fat
  • Ounces of fiber

Subjects, however, were free to have seconds, really as much as they wanted, beyond the first plate, in both groups.

While eating away, all the subjects, from both groups, were studied intensely, including hormone levels, body fat, other tests, and of course, weight.

Here is what they found- the group eating ultra-processed foods ate an average of 500 calories more, the extra mainly from carbs and fats.  This sort of choice led those in the group to gain 2 extra pounds in 2 weeks.  If sustained, that would lead to 50 pounds extra a year!  The group eating whole foods, none processed, actually got a little trimmer.

The ultra-processed foods led to changes in hormones that explained that group eating more.  Ultra-processed foods make you hungry when you eat them!

Ultra-processed Foods

Have you ever eaten an ultra-processed food?  In the United States, the average proportion of calories we get from eating ultra-processed foods is 50%.  Take a moment to consider this fact, half of all the calorie we ingest are from ultra-processed foods.  Further, this pattern is being peddled very effectively across all nations.  Readers of Real Answers with Dr. Lavin will recall reports of food companies blazing trails deep into villages in the Amazon to get them to start eating ultra-processed foods, and it’s working.

Here is the problem, the more ultra-processed foods we eat, the shorter our lives.  Eating more of this stuff increases the chances of dying earlier from heart disease and cancer.

Another key point, ultra-processed foods are not the same as junk foods.  All junk foods are ultra-processed, but many ultra-processed foods are not junk.   The group fed ultra-processed foods included Cheerios, blueberry muffins, orange juice, diet lemonade, mashed potatoes from a packet.

Why do we in the US get half of all our nutrition from ultra-processed foods?

Two answers:

  1. We, like all people, love them, the desire is strong.
  2. Companies sell based on desire and they produce products we are more likely to buy.

It creates a perfect loop:  we crave ultra-processed foods, manufacturers concentrate on creating and marketing them, our desire for them only grows, production of them grows in turn, before you know it 50% of the food we eat is in this category.

This cycle of our desire, of industry production, of industry fanning the flames of our desire, of our going along, also has led to these ultra-processed foods being supported by subsidies by our country.

In this study, the food in the ultra-processed food side cost 40% less than the whole food choices, again with the same calories, sugar, fat, and fiber per plate!

BOTTOM LINES

  1. This study makes dramatic what many have long known or suspected- ultra-processed foods enhance desire to eat, they make you hungry, so you eat more, and gain weight.
  2. Ultra-processed foods, a category of food that includes all junk food, but many other foods, present a clear and present danger to our health.  We know the more you eat of them the more likely one will develop heart disease or cancer at a younger age.  And now this study makes clear they play a central role in our struggle with obesity.
  3. We are in trouble.  Our national community has decided to subsidize the manufacture of ultra-processed foods, so they cost about half what healthy foods cost.  Our food industry has gone whole hog to creating more and more such goodies, our desires for them only increase.  We are at 50% of our food being ultra-processed with no end in sight.  This winning formula to push purchase of these goods is spreading wildly across the globe.  In its trail come obesity, heart disease, and cancer.
  4. The time is now to feed our children whole grains, vegetables, fruits, unprocessed animal foods, and to clear our home and habits of ultra-processed foods.

We are so used to these treats, we even call them treats, but this study makes clear they don’t treat us well.  It’s time to stop.  If we stop eating them, industry will change, and subsidies will alter to support the good foods we do eat.

To your health,
Dr. Arthur Lavin

 

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