Obesity Is A Brain Disease

In Nutrition, Primal Lifestyle by Mikki Reilly

In the U.S., 41.9 percent of adults are considered obese, with prevalence increasing significantly in recent decades.  While not everyone agrees on what is driving this dramatic increase, there is no doubt that obesity is a major health crisis, as it can cause type 2 diabetes, heart disease and at least a dozen cancers.

In a recent “60 minutes” episode, hosted by Leslie Stahl, Dr. Fatima Cody Stanford, an obesity doctor at Mass General Hospital and associate Professor at Harvard Medical School, stated that obesity is a brain disease.  

She also said “The number one cause of obesity is genetics. That means if you are born to parents that have obesity, you have a 50 to 85 percent likelihood of having the disease yourself, even with optimal diet, exercise, sleep management, stress management.”

Her solution is a new “miracle” drug called Wegovy, which can cause gastrointestinal side effects as well as pancreatitis, pancreatic cancer and retinopathy complications, including hemorrhage and blindness!

The idea that genetics are wholly to blame for obesity is completely flawed thinking. Obesity is caused by lifestyle. If you want to lose weight, you do not need better genetics or a medication. You need to remove processed foods and focus on nutrient dense foods like grass-fed meats, unprocessed plant foods, and healthy fats, and consider adding intermittent fasting (IF) and exercise to your lifestyle.

Linoleic Acid and Obesity

While there are numerous dietary factors driving this public health crisis, one of the primary culprits is the excess consumption of linoleic acid, or LA, an omega-6 polyunsaturated fat, or PUFA.

Over the last several decades, dietary recommendations, based on flawed research suggesting saturated animal fat causes heart disease, have caused a dramatic increase in the consumption of LA from seed oils such as soybean, corn, canola, safflower and sunflower. 

We know, from this study, that the estimated per capita consumption of soybean oil, for example, increased 1000-fold from 1909 to 1999, while the intake of linoleic acid increased from 2.79 percent to 7.21 percent from total calories.

And, if you compare pre-agricultural humans, who consumed about 1-3 percent of LA from total calories, to modern humans who consume about 8 percent from total calories, it becomes obvious that we may be consuming more LA than our bodies evolved to handle in the hundreds of thousands of years before the beginning of agriculture and, more recently, the advent of industrial food processing.

How Does Linoleic Acid Increase Our Risk Of Obesity

Interestingly, one of the ways LA increases weight is by stimulating the endocannabinoid receptors. This causes “the munchies,” very similar to cannabis.

In a 2012 study, a research team increased the intake of linoleic acid from 1 percent to 8 percent in mice which caused brain signals, endocannabinoids, that stimulate greater food consumption (the munchies) to increase weight.  This study closely modeled the human 20th century increases in LA consumption, with mice, and found the changes correlate closely to the increasing prevalence rates of obesity.

As you can see, the evidence suggests that excessive LA may be increasing our risk of obesity. The obvious solution?  Radically limit linoleic acid to avoid stimulating the endocannabinoid receptors.

How Much LA Are You Consuming

Primary sources of LA include seed oils used in cooking (such as soybean, corn, canola, safflower and sunflower), grains, processed foods and restaurant foods made with seed oils, some nuts and seeds, most olive oils and avocado oils (due to the high prevalence of adulteration with cheaper seed oils), and animal foods raised on grains such as conventional chicken and pork.

The only way you will know how much you are consuming is by measuring. I like the Cronometer, a free online nutrition tracker that provides an accurate daily calculation. Ideally, you would like to keep your intake of LA under 10 grams per day, or as low as possible.

If you would like to learn more about the fitness and nutrition programs we offer at Fitness Transform, request a free consultation today!