The Fight for North Carolina Social Security Disability Reform: Does It All Hinge on the Hormone Insulin?

March 3, 2012, by Michael A. DeMayo

In a recent post, we discussed how the challenges of North Carolina social security disability reform can only be met if and when we effectively manage the obesity/diabetes epidemic that’s currently plaguing North Carolina and the rest of the U.S.

But how can we stop the obesity epidemic in its tracks? We’ve been trying pretty hard for quite some time. But the problem seems to be getting worse and worse.

Perhaps we are looking at the problem incorrectly. Almost all obesity researchers, doctors, dietitians, nutritionists, policy makers, and science journalists believe that obesity is caused by something called a “positive energy balance.” In less technical language, we believe that people get fat because they “eat too much” and fail to “burn off” enough energy. Sounds reasonable. Likewise, we believe that the cure to obesity must be a “negative energy balance.” In other words, someone who is obese needs to burn off more calories than he expends by eating less and/or exercising more. So we take these two basic assumptions about obesity and run with them. These precepts are ubiquitously accepted.

But are they valid?

Enter science journalist Gary Taubes. In his books Good Calories, Bad Calories and Why We Get Fat, Mr. Taubes builds an impressive case that refutes these two basic building blocks of our understanding about obesity. Mr. Taubes suggests that thinking in terms of energy balance is silly and misleading. After all, in order to get fat, you need to store that fat in your body. In order to store fat, you need to have the help of hormones and enzymes. The main fat storage hormone is the hormone insulin. Without insulin, it can be very difficult, if not flat out impossible to store fat – ask any type one diabetic.

Conversely, ample evidence abounds to suggest that obesity is a disorder of “insulin resistance” – a metabolic problem, not an “energy balance” problem. If Mr. Taubes is correct, then the solution to the obesity epidemic is not to convince people to “eat less and exercise more” as people like Michelle Obama often importune. Instead, it’s to use dietary therapies and other therapies to help obese and overweight individuals normalize the hormonal/metabolic environment of the fat itself – mainly by controlling and normalizing insulin levels.

If Taubes’ theory is correct, not only might obese and overweight individuals enjoy substantial new hope (evidence suggests that controlling insulin is a more effective long-term therapy for weight loss than controlling calories). It also suggests that we may be able to use this new perspective to solve the seemingly intractable obesity epidemic – and thus ultimately to reform North Carolina social security disability and other programs like it that have been challenged by the obesity epidemic.

More Web Resources:

Is the “Calorie Counting” Approach to Weight Loss Flawed?

The War on Insulin


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