Robert H. Lustig, M.D. makes it clear that it’s really not “obesity” that causes illness and death but, rather, the metabolic consequences of obesity — “metabolic syndrome” — that do. Writing in the San Francisco Chronicle, the pediatric endocrinologist explains:
The prevailing wisdom is that obesity is the cause of these diseases. Yet up to 40 percent of normal-weight people also manifest some aspect of the medical disorders associated with obesity – high blood pressure, high cholesterol, heart disease, diabetes – and will die of one of these diseases. Add it up, and more than half of the U.S. population is at risk. We must look past the number on the scale to the underlying cause of this phenomenon.
Dr. Lustig is certain what the underlying cause is:
We can argue our pet theories as to why we’re getting fat and sick, but scientific data are pointing to one big reason – our sugar habit. Our daily median consumption of added sugars is 22 teaspoons, yet the American Heart Association recommends we cut back to 6 to 9 teaspoons. Although soda and juice are responsible for one-third of our excess sugar consumption, the other two-thirds may constitute an even bigger problem because it is hidden throughout our processed food. Until we start ratcheting down our added sugar consumption, expect to keep ratcheting up the health care dollars wasted.
Dr. Lustig has just written a new book: Fat Chance: Beating the Odds Against Sugar, Processed Food, Obesity, and Disease. In an excerpt (available here), he tackles humanity’s overweightness with stunning statistics. Obesity has become a world-wide epidemic with a staggering economic cost. But he makes it clear that the processed foods we eat and drink cause metabolic syndrome even in people who are not obese:
Here’s the kicker. Being thin is not a safeguard against metabolic disease or early death. A full 40% of normal-weight individuals harbor insulin resistance—a sign of chronic metabolic disease—which will likely shorten their life expectancy. Of those, 20% demonstrate liver fat on MRI of the abdomen (see Chapter 8). Liver fat, irrespective of the rest of body fat, has been shown to be a major risk factor for the development of diabetes. You think you’re safe? You are SO screwed. And you don’t even know it.
Read article at SFGate.com here.
Watch Dr. Lustig’s appearance on MSNBC’s Morning Joe here (after the ad).