It’s the Insulin Stupid
In the 1990s Bill Clinton’s campaign team coined the term “it’s the economy stupid” to ensure that their focus didn’t stray from this central message. Today we need an equally compelling message for the health care crisis we face. It should be “It’s the insulin stupid”. Yet most Americans are unaware of this vitally important hormone.
In the middle of the last century approximately 10% of Americans were obese. Today that figure is 33%, and another third are overweight. So two-thirds of us are either overweight or obese. The ramifications of this trend are dire. Obesity is the cause of countless chronic diseases ranging from diabetes, stroke, cancer, blindness, arthritis, Alzheimer’s and more. It translates into a burden on the health care system that is overwhelming and unsustainable.
The current thinking on why we are overweight is that we eat too much and don’t exercise enough. Would that this were true. Then the millions of people that go on diets wouldn’t be put through the agony of putting all that weight back on when they go off the diet. Were it as simple as exercising will-power. But unfortunately for the third of the population that is obese, these diets are not the solution. Most overweight people have tried umpteen diets.
The calories in/calories out paradigm does not work for this group. Prior to WWII, the science of obesity had been settled. Insulin was the culprit. Too much insulin running around the blood stream was converted into fat. And what is the cause of this excess insulin? It is refined sugar, flour and simple carbs. If one can keep insulin secretion to a minimum (by eliminating or reducing sugar, flour and simple carbs consumption), stored fat will be released for energy use, and one loses weight. It is a plain scientific fact.
Somehow this key piece of information on how we get fat was lost in the 1950s. I wouldn’t call it a conspiracy, but Ancel Keys was definitely the villain in this saga. He insisted that fat was the underlying cause of heart disease (we later discover that he cooked his data). Then in the 1960s the sugar industry bribed Harvard scientists to bury their studies that showed sugar as the culprit of heart disease. They instead pointed the finger at fat. Of course there were other developments such as the infamous food pyramid which has recently been revised, but still does not reflect the harmful effects of refined flour and sugar. The food industry was quick to translate the low-fat craze into low-fat food. Unfortunately fat-free food doesn’t taste wonderful and so manufacturers added sugar to compensate.
No wonder Americans kept getting heavier. Certain groups are especially vulnerable to obesity from eating the Standard American Diet (SAD) – such as native Americans and African-Americans. Their bodies do not process refined sugar and flour, high fructose corn-syrup and simple carbs well. For them refined flour and sugar act like an opiate and makes them eat more. And we haven’t even touched upon the pernicious effects of pesticides, hormones and antibiotics the industrial food complex is injecting into our food supply.
Fortunately America is beginning to wake up from the food nightmare that has resulted in two thirds of us being overweight or obese. New studies now advocate eating healthy fats and reducing simple carb intake. But how to put this into practice when we are inundated by marketing messages promoting pastas, pizzas and pastries. For many Americans it will prove hard to give up their comfort foods and to change after a life time of eating the SAD way. But for those that are earnest in wanting to improve their health, who don’t want to be dependent on the pharmaceutical industry, a little perseverance will pay enormous dividends. The cravings disappear after a couple of weeks and suddenly the belly fat shrinks, and you have more energy and less brain fog. Yes there are other factors that influence health that are just as important (sleep, stress, and exercise – think of it as a four-legged stool), but unless we can get a handle on the eating, we will be fighting a losing battle.
It’s imperative that we get this message out to doctors, nurses, health care providers, and schools (10% of children are overweight and many are in danger of getting type 2 diabetes, which used to be called adult-onset diabetes!). There will no doubt be a push back from the industrial food complex who prefer the status quo. But it’s not about them. It’s about us and our right to be healthy. It’s about taking back our power. And it’s about not burdening or bankrupting our health care system with chronic diseases that are entirely preventable. It’s the Insulin Stupid.
This message also needs to get out to businesses, insurance companies, and state governments so that they can start creating incentives for healthier lifestyle choices. Safeway was able to cut its health care costs by providing incentives for employees to quit smoking, lose weight, and lower blood pressure. Not only does this lower health care costs, but it also results in happier employees, lower absenteeism and greater productivity. There is no down side.
Here at Haley Farm we are trying to do our part by raising awareness of the dangers of current eating. We offer one, two, and five day retreats that cover the four legged stool of nutrition, stress reduction, sleep, and exercise. This kind of program is not just for the overweight. The simple carbs and sugar create havoc with everyone’s microbiome crowding out the good bacteria and creating inflammation and bloating. We can all benefit from eating less flour and sugar. We also teach participants how to cook delicious food and start their own victory gardens. Health should be everyone’s priority and here at Haley Farm we make it fun and easy.