Quinoa Chocolate Cake

An Epidemic of Food Intolerance and Obesity

How can it be that we have an epidemic of food intolerance and obesity at the same time? The explanation might be be found if you consider the messaging about obesity that bombards us daily. Some people have referred to it as a moral panic and they have a point — even though they take it too far at times.

The messaging about obesity is clearly out of balance. We’ve got plenty of warnings that it’s a crisis, an epidemic, and the biggest threat to the health of Americans for this century. The problem is that we don’t really have solutions that will work reliably. We’ve been saying it’s a preventable cause of death and disease for decades, but the growth of obesity rates says otherwise. All the while we’ve been saying it’s preventable, we have been unable to prevent its growing impact.

People who are not susceptible are especially fond of saying that eating healthy and staying active will fix it. But reams of data from controlled studies show that diet and exercise is an incomplete solution for someone who has significant obesity. The brain has way too many ways to protect a person with obesity from losing more than five or ten percent of their weight.

So as a result, many people resort to the dietary equivalent of sacrificing a virgin to the volcano. They subscribe to the notion that “clean eating” will save them from obesity. They go gluten free or paleo. They try a sugar detox diet. They become a challenge for restaurants that find a growing portion of their customers have strict dietary requirements.

The growing prevalence of dietary restrictions is not likely to solve the problem. A deeper, evidence-based understanding of the disease of obesity will.

Click here to read more perspective from Roger Cohen in the New York Times.

Gluten-Free Quinoa Chocolate Cake, photograph © Karen Neoh / flickr

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October 21, 2015