WHY ARE AMERICANS SO FAT?

by Paul A. Stitt, MS, Biochemistry

On January 19, 1994 Paul Stitt spoke for NOHA on "All Calories Are Not Created Equal." The following article is excerpted from his writings.

American calorie counting schemes are a grand failure. After using them for one year, 95% of their users are heavier than before they started.

Why are Americans so much heavier now than when they were first settling this country? Why are Americans so much heavier than Chinese, Italians, Africans, and Spanish people?


[Americans] eat more sugar and artificial sweeteners than any other people on earth. Americans also experience more episodes of acute hunger each day than any other people on earth Ė many people eat 11 times a day. . . . And Americans do less physical work per day than any other nation. We ride more and walk less than other people.


A few reasons stand out. Americans eat more fat Ė especially hydrogenated fat, polyunsaturated fat, and butter fat. They eat more sugar and artificial sweeteners than any other people on earth. Americans also experience more episodes of acute hunger each day than any other people on earth Ė many people eat 11 times a day. Americans also consume less fiber than any other nation. Americans consume less omega-3, an essential fatty acid, than any other nation. And Americans do less physical work per day than any other nation. We ride more and walk less than other people. Could it be this combination that is fattening up Americans? Perhaps the cause is not just one factor, but a combination of factors. Is Americaís romance with fabricated foods killing her by degrees?

Scientists have recently discovered that fat consumed by most people is deposited on their bodies without being metabolized. If oneís favorite fat is from dairy products, oneís body is loaded with butter fat. If itís beef fat, oneís body is loaded with tallow. If itís margarine or shortening (same thing), oneís body is loaded down with hydrogenated fats. The main problem with these fats is that the human body has almost lost its ability to burn them. Unless one is starving and nearly all glycogen (stored carbohydrate) is burned up, the human body wonít burn these types of fat. Most Americans donít like feeling starved for hours while their body is burning stored saturated fat. Therefore, they grab something sweet to give them instant energy.

But in America, nearly all sweet foods are fabricated with high levels of saturated fats. So, with a little rise in energy, people get a lot more fat to store on their hips and waist. A few thousand repeats of this hunger, sweets, and more fat deposits, and dozens of pounds are gained.


The main problem with these fats is that the human body has almost lost its ability to burn them. Unless one is starving and nearly all glycogen (stored carbohydrate) is burned up, the human body wonít burn these types of fat. Most Americans donít like feeling starved for hours while their body is burning stored saturated fat. Therefore, they grab something sweet to give them instant energy.


Even if hungry people grab food that contains only sugar, when the sugar enters the blood stream, the pancreas secretes high levels of insulin to move the sugar out of the blood. While the insulin is circulating in the blood stream, the insulin shuts down the fat burning system, and therefore, no fat gets burned while the sugar is available. Some of the sugar is converted to fat, where the sugar-insulin combination produces more obesity.

Does using artificial sweeteners help people lose weight Ė definitely NOT. Americans consume prodigious amounts of artificial sweeteners, yet total sugar consumption is still climbing. Americans eat 7 more pounds of sugar each year than when Nutrasweet first hit the market. Louise-Sylvestre and others1 found that rats consumed 60% more food when given an artificial sweetener. Thus, the answer to obesity is not artificial sweeteners.


. . . when the sugar enters the blood stream, the pancreas secretes high levels of insulin to move the sugar out of the blood. While the insulin is circulating in the blood stream, the insulin shuts down the fat burning system . . .


When given a pure fat to eat, people refuse it. When given pure white sugar, people shun it. You canít make people fat by giving them pure sugar or pure fat. But when you combine them and call them Twinkies or Girl Scout Cookies, people are crazy about them. Drewnoski and others2 found that although humans dislike the oral sensation of fat per se, when fat is combined with sugar, they find it highly palatable.

Americans have a romance with fabricated foods. Mix almost anything with fat and sugar, put it in a pretty box, give it a jazzy name and people will eat it by the truckload. Sclafani3 found that when switching animals from a natural food diet to giving them access to high-sugar/high-fat supermarket foods, total calorie intake increases by 50-100%

Thomas Hill, and others4 found that adult humans can burn only about 50 grams of fat per day, whether the people are fat or thin. Much of this fat is burned during the night when the people donít have access to foods. . . . The Food and Drug Administration has wisely set the Daily Recommended Value for total fat at 50 grams per day. This is the maximum amount humans should consume, because any more than 50 grams per day is stored in the body as fat. . . .


You canít make people fat by giving them pure sugar or pure fat. But when you combine them and call them Twinkies or Girl Scout Cookies, people are crazy about them. . . . Americans have a romance with fabricated foods. Mix almost anything with fat and sugar, put it in a pretty box, give it a jazzy name and people will eat it by the truckload.


What can you do to burn fat? Itís not easy. One way is to lengthen the time between your last meal and bedtime. Then exercise in the morning when your body is in the fat-burning mode. Also, consume considerably less than 50 grams of fat per day to encourage your body to burn up fat stores. Storlein5 found that adding Omega-3 to the diet would increase the rate of burning fat. Boozer6 found that cutting the fat percentage in the diet from 45% to 12% while keeping the total calories the same, doubles the weight loss in test animals during the same length of time. These are some ideas one can glean from scientific literature.

What can you do if you canít force yourself to eat less food, but still want to lose weight? Bosselaers7 found that if you can increase your muscle mass, your body will burn more calories. How do you "bulk up?" Regular, moderate exercise will increase your muscle mass. Muscle mass is like a horse, it burns calories whether itís working or not.


Does using artificial sweeteners help people lose weight Ė definitely NOT. Americans consume prodigious amounts of artificial sweeteners, yet total sugar consumption is still climbing. Americans eat 7 more pounds of sugar each year than when Nutrasweet first hit the market.


Exercising also burns calories, but not as much as you might expect. One hour of a fast walk burns 400-500 calories. Jogging burns about 700 calories per hour, the equivalent of eating just 7 ounces of potato chips. Itís a lot easier to avoid eating high fat foods than it is to exercise off the fat produced.

People at any age can increase their muscle mass. What it takes is finding an exercise program that uses both the upper and lower body, good music, and a supportive partner and you will thoroughly enjoy your first time spent exercising.


Jogging burns about 700 calories per hour, the equivalent of eating just 7 ounces of potato chips. Itís a lot easier to avoid eating high fat foods . . .


 

So there you have it Ė cut down as much as possible on saturated, hydrogenated, and polyunsaturated fats; cut down on sugars and artificial sweeteners; eat more carbohydrates Ė fresh fruits, vegetables, whole grain breads and cereals; consume more Omega-3 . . . [Flax is an excellent source of Omega-3.] Exercise more often, get into a routine of exercising each day until you sweat. Drink more water to flush waste products out of the body and youíll be a winner because youíll feel better each day.

_________________________

1Louise-Sylvestre, J. and J. Lemanen, "Palatability and preabsorptive insulin release," Neuroscience and Behavioral Reviews, 4(Supplement 1):  43-46, 1980.
2
Drewnowski, A. and M.R.C. Greenwood, "Cream and sugar: Human preferences for high-fat foods," Physiology & Behavior, 30:  629-33, 1986.
3
Sclafani, A., "The psychobiology of human eating disorders: Preclinical and clinical perspectives," Annals of the New York Academy of Sciences, 575:  281-91, 1989.
4
Thomas, C.D., J.C. Peters, G.W. Reed, N.N. Abrumrad, M. Sun, and J.O. Hill, "Nutrient balance and energy expenditure during ad libitum feeding of high-fat and high-carbohydrate diets in humans," American Journal of Clinical Nutrition, 55:  934-42, 1992.
5
Storlien, L.H., A.B. Jenkins, S. Khouri, W.S. Pascoe, D.J. Chrisholm, and E.W. Kraegen, "The type of dietary fat has a profound influence on development of insulin resistance in rats." Diabetes Clinica Practia, 5 (Supplement 1): S267 (abstract), 1988.
6
Boozer, C.N., A. Brasseur, and R.L. Atkinson, "Dietary fat affects weight loss and adiposity during energy restriction in rats," American Journal of Clinical Nutrition, 58:  846-52, 1993.
7
Bosselaers, I., B. Buemann, O. Victor, and A. Astrup, "Twenty-four-hour energy expenditure and substrate utilization in body builders," American Journal of Clinical Nutrition, 59:  10-12, 1994.

Article from NOHA NEWS, Vol. XIX, No. 2, Spring 1994, pages 4-6.