Saturday, August 7, 2010

Stop looking for the magic diet bullet!

Feministe has some guest bloggers right now and one blogged about advances in obesity research and how it could be used to castigate pregnant women. Cue the anti science comments.

There are a few problems with talking about obesity research. One is that most are discussing reports (news clips or PR releases) of the research the other is that obesity is a hot-button topic. Women have been rated on looks for so long - and it's rebounded with a vengeance currently due to hypersexuality. Most people have a bias if they are interested enough to read a science paper; I know I do. I follow many obesity research blogs because I want to know what my risks are and what effects of those risks are as I get older. I want to start taking the pill cocktail with each meal as late as possible so I try to keep up with research.

What are the risks of being obese? Weight and health are related. More weight makes your muscles and joint work harder. But fat isn't just like carrying around a bag of rice. My interest in fat cells developed when I noticed, during peri-menopause, that my weight affected whether I menstruated. Then when my SO had elevated cholesterol levels the doctor suggested trying weight loss to see if he could avoid starting on Lipitor for awhile. 10 kgs lighter and no meds. Sure enough fat cells have a metabolic effect.  Recent research shows that obesity related diabetes is can be related to  metabolites from fat cells causing the liver to become insulin resistant. It's long been known that dietary fat can increase cholesterol levels and increase risk for heart disease. Combine the increase in cholesterol levels with the increased difficulty in being active when obese and the risk can skyrocket. Turns out that fat cells become a big problem when they are overloaded and having more fat cells can help with that storage. All of these things are counter-intuitive.

We're entering a very important time in obesity research and weight management. Food companies are becoming much better at marketing poor quality food as healthy.Spokes persons to tout the "no bad food" mantra (who doesn't want to believe that) while emphasizing the possibility of risk in quality foods. There is bad food : it's when the health risks intrinsic to the food outweigh the calories consumed. Yes an Aero bar IS a source of calcium but is it the best source? Red Licorice has no fat but it isn't calorie free so what are those calories from? Exercise is not medicine. BMI is taking a hit since most people outside the BMI limits insist they are muscled way more than the population BMI is based on.

Isn't is less expensive to try and eat well than to take a bunch of medication later?

My SO and I have each lost 7- 10 kg and maintained it for the past 9 years. We did it different ways (low fat vs. food/calorie logging) because we have different belief systems about what works. The reality is that reducing excessive eating lowered weight. The thing we had in common was an increased awareness of what and how much we put in our mouths. I struggle with this much more since I cannot casually skip meals. This has become a lifestyle change reflected in our grocery lists and restaurant choices.

Back to the research finding from the Feministe post - pregnancy is a very difficult time, not just the physical changes (and possibly permanent changes in family life) but the bizarre loss of privacy. It seems that since women no longer hide away they are fair game for everyone with an opinion. (and strangers touching bellies - just yuck). As research continues about how fat tissue physically affects health it is important to monitor how fat affects fetus development. Research provides better perinatal care as well as (in an ideal world) shifting health resources for an aging population. This study isn't saying anything new, it's giving more reasons for encourage pregnant women to be aware of what they are eating.