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Is obesity a disease? June 22, 2013

Posted by ourfriendben in wit and wisdom.
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Silence Dogood here. The American Medical Association recently joined a number of other major organizations in officially declaring obesity a disease. This has caused considerable debate in the medical community, with some arguing that obesity is caused by poor food choices, eating too much, and lack of exercise, while others insist that it is in fact a disease, a potentially lethal disease (since it ups the chances for a range of diseases, such as diabetes and cardiac arrest).

Whatever it is, a third of American adults are now classified as overweight, and another third as clinically obese. That would be two-thirds of the American adult population, and the number of overweight and obese children is also shooting up.

But, as I just discovered, there is hope for those of us battling belly fat or the extra ten or 20 pounds. Our friend Ben had brought me the July/August issue of Mother Jones because its lead story was “Gagged by Big Ag,” and he knows how much I hate Monsanto and all it and companies like it stand for. But frankly, I didn’t really need to see any more photos of murdered pigs and the like; I know more than enough about the horrors of factory farming, GMOs, etc., and have been a vegetarian and ardent organic gardener my whole adult life as a result. (You can access the article, if you have the stomach for it, at http://www.motherjones.com/.)

What caught my eye was another in-depth article, “Did the War on Microbes Make Us Fat?” (Sadly, I couldn’t find this one on their site, so if you want to read it, you’ll have to buy the mag or download it on Kindle.) It was a fascinating article with no horrible torture photos. And it presented a third view of what obesity is.

The research that it documented suggests that disrupting our intestinal flora, through eating high-fat, low-fiber, sugar-laden foods, is the cause of obesity and the host of ills it contributes to. These foods favor certain damaging gut bacteria and wipe out others, and the damaging bacteria cause inflammation, which at this point is thought to cause metabolic syndrome, diabetes, heart disease, high blood pressure, and cancer, as well as disruption of hormonal functioning, which can lead to everything from sexual dysfunction to depression. Yowie kazowie!

It’s apparently not how much we eat, but what we eat (or don’t eat), that’s causing the damage, coupled with our obsession with anti-bacterials, from mouthwash to hand sanitizers and antibacterial soaps and cleaners of all types, which wipe out the protective bacteria along with the “bad” bacteria. Cultures the world over that are exposed to a wide range of bacteria don’t suffer from obesity and related diseases, even if they indulge in rich, fatty foods. Being exposed to pets and farm animals and soil and other “dirty” (but natural) sources of bacteria is healthful, not harmful.

Short of eating soil, how can we take advantage of these research findings? First, we can eat fermented foods, such as yogurt, miso and shoyu, kimchi, and sauerkraut, all packed with “good” bacteria. (Hey, isn’t wine a fermented food? Just sayin’.) Next, we can eat plenty of whole grains, beans, greens, and fruits—all those veggies your mom always said were good for you—and avoid fatty processed and fast foods. (Sadly, this includes white rice, white pasta, white-flour breads, bagels, grits, popcorn, and anything else that requires plenty of butter, cheese, cream and the like to taste good, not to mention those McMonster burgers, fries, fried chicken, and the like, and of course non-fruit desserts.) Good news: potatoes and sweet potatoes both made the “good guy” list.

Finally, you can try taking probiotics, prebiotics, or a combination (synbiotics) to repopulate your intestines with healthy colonies of good bacteria. The research still is out about the effectiveness of getting your bacteria from capsules rather than nature, but my view is can’t hurt, might help.

As Columbo would say, however, there’s “just one more thing.” And it was a huge shocker. As a vegetarian, I’ve never been on one of those high-protein, low- to no-carb diets. But they sure are popular. The article noted that diets of this kind—mentioning Atkins as an example—created a bacterial profile in the gut that had been linked to colon cancer. Let me just say, it’s not worth dying to be thin.

‘Til next time,



A weighty issue. January 7, 2013

Posted by ourfriendben in wit and wisdom.
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Silence Dogood here. I’ll bet you’re as sick as I am of reading and hearing constantly about our obesity crisis, where it appears that just by breathing we’re magically packing on pounds, and the only sure way to keep weight off is to opt for the terminal solution. (It’s hard to gain weight when you’re dead.)

So today I was astonished to see two sides of the weight-gain spectrum on the Yahoo! home page. Our friend Ben and I don’t get the cable stations and don’t watch the few stations we do get, so I’ve been bemused by the Honey Boo Boo phenomenon. What’s that, a teddy bear? The next (shudder) Barney? And why would anyone care?

I was astounded to see a photo of Honey Boo Boo, a fat little girl, with her enormously fat mother. It turned out to be yet another reality TV show. I’m still not sure what it’s about, or how it came to be to begin with, but I have to assume people watch Honey and her Mama because they’re so grotesquely fat. It’s a form of fat rubbernecking. Yikes!

In the science headlines lurked the other weight-related headline: Even the kilogram is gaining weight. Say what?! If an abstract unit of measure is packing on the pounds, what hope is there for us poor flesh-and-blood mortals? The article explained that 40 platinum and platinum-iridium cylinders, each weighing precisely a kilogram (2.2 pounds), were distributed to the countries that embraced the metric standard in the 1880s so there would be a gold (or in this case, platinum) weight standard across the scientific community.

Unfortunately, over the years, the cylinders, despite being enclosed in glass, have apparently put on weight. Now not only does no single cylinder weigh exactly a kilogram, but each weighs a slightly different amount due to carbon and mercury contamination. These plus-sized cylinders may not really have gained enough weight to be visible to the human eye, but the scale doesn’t lie, and the point is that, in science, precision determines results. Fortunately, the cylinders can be stripped of their excess flab with a simple UV treatment. Unlike us, they don’t have to enroll in boot camp, go on crash diets, endure bariatric surgery, or compete on “The Biggest Loser.”

So, scientists, the million-dollar question: When will you devise a UV treatment that strips off our excess pounds?! The world is waiting…

‘Til next time,


Please pass the fries. June 21, 2012

Posted by ourfriendben in wit and wisdom.
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Silence Dogood here. The part of scenic Pennsylvania where our friend Ben and I live is not, shall we say, immune from the so-called “obesity crisis” sweeping our fair nation. So I was horrified when I first saw deep-fried mac’n’cheese cubes turn up at local diners, and deep-fried pickles given away free at a local steak house. Great, I thought, just what America needs: more deep-fried foods to pad our collective paunch.

Little did I know. Today’s Yahoo! news features a story about the latest fried, uh, treat to debut at the San Diego Fair: deep-fried cereal.

I’ve never understood how anyone could bear to eat the nutrient-free, chalk-dry, garishly colored chemical concoctions that pass themselves off as dry cereal to begin with, when they could be eating actual food. But deep-fried Trix and Cinnamon Toast Crunch?! Eeeewwww!!! (Apparently the majority is with me on this one; a Yahoo! poll showed 87% agreeing with the statement “No, it’s gross on so many levels” as opposed to “Yes, it looks really tasty” when asked if they would try deep-fried cereal.) One actual taster noted that the pool of liquid grease at the bottom of the container “made me clutch my heart a little.”

Even deep-fried cereal pales in comparison to its creator’s debut food at last year’s fair: fried Kool-Aid. (No doubt fried Kool-Aid shots are in the works as I write.) This mastermind, owner of Chicken Charlie’s, offers fried everything on his menu, including fried Girl Scout cookies. I wonder if free defibrillation is offered as an optional side.

What would cause someone to eat fried cereal, or funnel cake, a PA regional specialty of lard-fried dough and powdered sugar, or even fried pickles? Simple: The same urge that makes us reach for that crispy-crackly piece of fried chicken or French fries or mozzarella sticks or fried okra or hushpuppies and fried catfish.

The combination of a crunchy, fatty exterior and a creamy (or at least soft) interior satisfies our most primitive urges.If we can add salt and sugar to the mix, we’re golden: We’ve achieved the gold standard of primitive man’s need to attain as many calories as possible in the most pleasurable possible way. (Preferably accompanied by that other effortless source of pleasure and calories, alcohol.)

Unfortunately for our health, we no longer spend the majority of our waking hours hunting and gathering or toiling in farm fields. Nor are most of us prepared to agree that weighing 300-plus pounds and dying in our mid-thirties is acceptable. The alternative is clear: Steer clear of those chimichangas and deep-fried turkeys and chicken-fried steaks. Run away from deep-fried cereal and Kool-Aid. If you can’t entirely give up that deep-fried craving, try to view it as a treat and go for the fried chicken or fish and fries once a month instead. Your arteries (and scale) will thank you. 

(To read the article, go to “Deep-Fried Cereal Debuts at County Fair” on Yahoo.com’s home page.)

               ‘Til next time,