I’ve been speaking to various people and watching a ton of documentaries on various theories on why we get fat. I like to look at all of these theories and throw them at the common sense wall and see if they stick. Here are a few that we can take a peek into:
First and foremost lets do CICO (Calories in vs calories out)
We get fat because we take in more energy than we expend. To quote the great Gary Taubes:
“Saying this is like saying we get rich because we make more money than we spend.”
Sure this is one of the factors involved in getting rich but it explains nothing. How do we get the money? How much money do we have to take in vs how much we spend to be rich? If a financial advisor were to tell this to his clients he wouldn’t be in business very long yet it is perfectly acceptable that the nutrition community spouts this nonsense at us constantly.
Most historians would put the discovery of the calorie in 1848. So since nobody knew how many calories they were taking in before that and surely nobody had a fit bit to see how much energy they were expending back then the obesity rates must have been tremendous. Well since the military had a hard time finding men that weren’t severely underweight to fight in world war II I don’t think calorie counting can be the factor here.
Did we just get lazier? Well since the fitness industry didn’t exist prior to the 1970s and it is currently a 83 Billion a year industry I would say we are expending more energy than ever before. So are we eating more? From what I can find the average consumption in 1949 was 1880 calories compared to 2021 calories in 2010. So we are to believe that 140 calories a day on average has caused the obesity epidemic that we are experiencing today? Not likely. In fact I have a hard time even believing that we are eating more. Maybe the people at the very top of the scale are eating more but from being in the diet industry I can tell you that people on diets, and there are alot of them, are not eating anywhere near this average number.
Here is the problem with CICO. This calculation assumes we are a steady state machine that has a set output of energy. This is simply not true. It is very well documented from over feeding studies that weight does not increase exponentially as calories rise. Sometimes it doesn’t rise at all and sometimes it rises slightly and tapers off. Also from this study below you can clearly see that the more you cut calories and exercise the more the body lowers its output, Base Metabolic rate, to compensate. You eat less and move more and you burn less. You can see that even though the contestants of the biggest loser kept eating less and moving more, they gained the weight back.
CICO is an over simplistic view and if it were true everyone would have been obese before the calorie was discovered. This cannot and will not be the answer as to why we get fat.
Rating: Hits the wall but slides right off
Now lets look at one of the new theories, The Micro-Biome!
This is an interesting field of study. Scientists would have us believe that little bugs in our intestines are making us fat or slim. There is a bit more to it than that and I can agree that various bacteria are beneficial to us. What I don’t buy is that we need to feed these bugs fiber in order for us to be healthy. None of the studies right now are done using a low fiber diet. We have no data showing what effect this has. I believe that eating fiber in the first place necessitates the need for all of the bacteria. It is a parasite/host relationship. The fiber is indigestible and blocks nutrients. In order for us to survive we have to colonize these gut bugs to digest the food for us and give back the nutrients that it blocks. Why not just skip the middle man and not eat the fiber in the first place.
In a recent study they showed that injecting the bacteria from a slim person into a fat mouse made it leaner. So this must prove it right? Bacteria controls how fat or slim we are.
Wrong and here is why.
Here are the questions I have to ask.
1. What was the fat mouse eating before the test? How did they make him fat?
Mice are not naturally fat. Did they make him fat on purpose? Were they feeding him something specific to make him fat?
2. What effect would them making him fat have on his ability to deal with the food they were feeding him during the test period?
If they made him fat eating a certain way and the food during the test period was different from that food then of course he wouldn’t have the gut bacteria to deal with the test food.
3. What was the diet of the person they used to inject the fat mouse with?
If this person ate a diet similar to the nutrient content of the test food then of course the fat mouse would now have the ability to better deal with this diet and get slimmer. He would be getting the nutrients from it that he would not have been able to get prior. This is called stacking the deck.
If we had to feed these gut bugs a certain diet and that diet requires a diverse amount of plant food and fiber, then there is no way I would be as successful as I am at getting people to lose weight. I can assure you that none of the hundreds of people I have helped are eating any amount of fiber. Especially since I have them eating less than 20g of total carbs per day. Try to get any fiber on that amount. Many of them eat under 10g total carbs a day. There are also thousands of people that live a completely carnivorous diet, no plants at all, and these people thrive. I myself have not had any amount of fiber for well over a decade. I am fit and athletic and rarely ever get sick.
In addition, before the advent of green houses and international food transport, there was no way anyone in Canada was eating any amount of fiber for 7-10 months of the year. We would have only had seasonal fruits and veggies and would not have the microbiome in place that “experts” are trying to tell us is the key to being slim and healthy.
Rating: Takes a bit of time but sure enough it hits the floor
This one is a fun one that I just heard. A virus that causes obesity.
In the 80s in India there was a huge epidemic of chickens dying. It was hurting the poultry industry very badly. When they autopsied the chickens they found they all had a lot of fat and very fatty livers. They tested these chickens and found that all the ones affected had a common antibody for a virus. So they started infecting healthy chickens with this virus and low an behold, they got fatty livers as well. They then started trying this in mice and it seemed to happen as well.
They then decided they were going to go to the US and start advancing the study. They actually weren’t able to get the virus imported due to regulations on shipping viruses from one country to another so instead, they went to the virus bank and spun the wheel and picked another random virus. They were floored that when they injected this virus into a chicken it got fatty liver. Wow, amazing. What are the odds.
Now they couldn’t go injecting this into people to see if they got fat so they decided they would test people to see if they had the anti-body for this virus. They tested slim people and fat people. Oddly enough, none of the slim people had ever had this virus while a whopping 1 out of 6 obese people had the anti-body present. Amazing. 1 out of 6 people had this virus. That clinches it. A virus causes obesity.
So how does that explain the other 5 out of 6 people that are still obese? Here is a more likely version of this story.
For those of you that don’t know what Foie Gras is, it is a delicacy that is made by feeding ducks a massive amount of grain and nothing else. This causes them to get fatty liver disease. It also makes it taste amazing but that is besides the point. What do you think the chances are that all these chickens where being fed crappy grain only diets? I would say pretty damn good since grain is cheap and it fattens up the chickens nicely for market. Unfortunately with fat comes fatty liver. Now it is a possibility that having this virus made them more susceptible to an inflammatory state which would speed up the fatty liver or it could also be that the inflammatory grain based diet made them more susceptible to getting the virus. Then injecting healthy chickens would also open them up to being more susceptible to getting fat from likely the same shitty diet they other chickens where being fed. Either way, it was not the virus alone that made the chickens get fatty liver. I am willing to bet that if they were injected with this virus and fed a diet of strictly bugs and worms, they would not develop fatty liver. As we know, this requires excessive carbohydrate intake and cannot happen with a natural diet like a free range bird would eat.
Side note this is what makes me crazy about A&W. They have a sign in the restaurants that advertise that their eggs are from hens fed a vegetarian diet. Well chickens are not vegetarians. They eat primarily bugs and worms and if you ever had chickens and saw one get injured in the pen, they love to eat chicken too. Hens are omnivores so I do not want eggs from a sick vegetarian chicken A&W. But I digress.
So these 1 out of 6 obese people that had this virus. Are they fat because they got the virus or did they get the virus because they were fat? Either way it still comes down to diet. I bet a months salary that I could still illicit weight loss out of these people using a ketogenic diet regardless of this virus.
Rating: Misses the wall completely
Finally Lets look at the insulin model of Obesity.
This theory states that insulin is the driving factor for storage of fat in adipose and if you keep insulin low weight will be lost. Since it is well known that when insulin is high, no energy can be expended only stored , I think this theory is pretty plausible but lets look at a study that claims to disprove it.
I can no longer get the full study as it seems to have been locked down behind a paywall odly enough. Here is the abstract where Kevin Hall claims to have “falsified” the theory that carbohydrate restriction and low insulin are better at weight loss than caloric restriction.
How did he falsify this? Well he took a group of people that were over weight and he put them on a strictly controlled standard diet consisting of high carb and low fat. He put them on this diet for 4 weeks. It was also a calorically restricted diet that caused the men to lose weight. He then took the same group of men, who have been losing weight for 4 weeks, and put them on a low carb diet that had the exact same caloric intake as the high carb diet. He measured weight loss on the high carb diet and then compared it to the weight loss on the low carb diet. Because they were the same amount he claimed that the insulin theory was falsified.
Here is the problem with that. Anyone who has been on a diet knows that it is very unlikely that you would ever lose the same amount of weight for 8 weeks straight. The fact that the men continued to lose the same amount as they did on the previous diet actually completely proves that lowered carb intake and lowered insulin is better for weight loss. In addition, he said there was no benefit in higher energy expenditure because the daily energy expenditure at the end of the low carb phase was within 2 calories of the high carb phase. What he doesn’t tell you is that in the first week there was an extra 150 calories per day being spent with the average difference in energy expenditure being 57 calories per day per man. Just because it tapered off at the end does not mean that it didn’t exist. What should have been done here is have the men on a diet that maintained weight for 4 weeks then put them on the same calories but using low carb. It would have been a dramatically different test.
Kevin Hall has been a long time proponent of calories in vs calories out. All he did here was to spin the data to try and prove his own confirmation bias. If you look at the data you can clearly see the truth.
Now lets look at my favorite example of how this theory works:
Before the advent of exogenous insulin the life expectancy of a type 1 diabetic was short. They would waste away to nothing and die of ketoacidosis. Why? This is how it works:
Without insulin there is nothing to stop the counter hormone glucagon from acting on tissues. Glucagon causes energy to be released from cells. It will cause fat to be released as well as glycogen from muscles. It’s primary job is to maintain blood sugar levels but it is supposed to be controlled by insulin. Without insulin to stop it, glycogen will be pulled from muscles until there is none left and at that point lean mass starts being catabolized to create more glucose. In addition glucagon pulls fatty acids from fat cells and since there is no requirement for energy from fat the body turns it into ketones. The ketones continue to climb without insulin to stop it. The blood sugar also continues to climb. Once ketones reach in excess of 20 mmol/L and blood sugar reaches in excess of 200 mg/DL, the person develops ketoacidosis and soon dies.
Here is an article showing how inhibiting glucagon in mice was able to keep them from getting sick from ketoacidosis.
Here is an article documenting the life of a type 1 in the early 1900s. The only thing that seemed to help him was a no sugar high fat diet. Everything else made him decline rapidly. Odd isn’t it.
Here is an article on how type 1 diabetics have been known to purposely stop or significantly lower their insulin doses to lose weight. They get it a bit wrong in the article stating that they body can’t use food for energy but in reality what is happening is that the body can’t store any energy and without insulin glucagon is pushing energy out without any shut off.
Now if the lack of insulin in a type 1 causes dramatic weight loss, why would low insulin in anybody not result in weight loss? This is why fasting works. Insulin is low so the body is free to use fat stores for energy. Eat some sugar and that stops because insulin is released.
Rating: Sticks like glue
Hope this sheds some light into some of the factors of obesity and which ones stick to the commons sense wall or not.
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