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Posts tagged ‘Obesity’

Fats- What are they and how do we classify them?

We always talk about fats, protein and carbohydrates but a lot of people really don´t know what they are. So, if they don´t know what they are, how are they going to understand what we are talking about? So in my next blogs I will just try to give a brief description of each macronutrient and some vital information that most people should know. Today we will start with FATS.

We should all know that 1 gram of fat contains 9 calories, this is more than 1 gram of carbohydrates (which contains 4 calories), and 1 gram of proteins (which also contains 4 calories).

Fats can basically be divided into:

  1. Saturated fats (read more here)
  2. Unsaturated fats.

We used to think that saturated fats were really bad for us (and I did 2 blogs on it), but now we know they are not that bad and should be included in our diet once in a while. You can find saturated fats in these foods: butter, cheese, dairy fat, chocolate, egg yolk, meat fat….with the exception of the tropical oils, saturated fats are primarily animal fats. Saturated fats lack the essential fatty acids you need, so you must balance them with the unsaturated fats.

Unsaturated fats can be divided into:

  • Monounsaturated fats
  • Polyunsaturated fats. These contain the healthy essential fatty acids.

Essential Fatty Acids- are those that your body can´t make on its own, so they must be supplied through your diet. The two primary essential fatty acids are omega 6 and omega 3. The modern Western diet today is very high in omega 6 fatty acids as compared to omega 3- with a ratio of 20-1. The optimal should be 2:1 (click here for more information).

One of the reasons for this imbalance is our increased consumption of refined grains and decreased consumption of omega 3 rich fish. As well as the industrial production of animal feeds containing grains high in omega 6 fatty acids. Since animals are what they eat, their meat becomes high in omega 6, unlike the leaner and higher omega 3 wild game that our ancestors once ate. As we consume high-omega 6 meats and refined grains, we lose the natural balance we once thrived on and begin to suffer from inflammatory and cardiovascular disease that were once unheard of.  Many of the current diseases develop and exist as consequence of chronic inflammation, such as cancer, heart disease, hypertension, osteoarthritis, diabetes, osteoporosis, etc. (1-4)

FATS TO AVOID: HYDROGENATED AND TRANS-FATTY ACIDS-  We could say these are the ¨processed fats¨. Hydrogenated oils contain large amounts of chemically altered fats know as trans-fatty acids and these are one of the unhealthiest foods you can eat.  You find these fats in food like: MARGARINE, CRACKERS, DOUGHNUTS, PIES, BISCUITS, FRIED FOOD.  Epidemiologic evidence has linked trans fatty acids (TFAs) in the diet to coronary heart disease in human populations. It has been estimated that dietary TFAs from partially hydrogenated oils may be responsible for between 30,000 and 100,000 premature coronary deaths per year in the United States.  (5).

So in conclusion: Saturated Fats are not that bad and once in a while you can eat them. Unsaturated fats are called the ¨healthy fats¨ and again we should be eating them in our diet. On the other hand, we should really try to stay away from the hydrogenated and trans fats!

Hoped you liked it.




  1. Balkwill F, Mantovani A. Inflammation and cancer back to Virchow? Lancert.2001;357:539-45.Ban WA, Man SF, Senthilselvan A, Sinn DD. Association between chronic obstructive pulmonary disease and systemic inflammation: a systematic review and meta-analysis. Thorax 2004;59:574-80.
  2. Fernandez-Real JM, Ricart W. Insulin resitance and chronic cardiovascular inflammatory syndrome. Endo Rev 2003;24:278-301.
  3. Ross R. Atherosclerosis-an inflammatory disease. N Engl J Med 1999;340:115-26.
  4. Seaman DR. THe diet-induced proinflammatory state: a cause of chronic pain and other degenerative diseases? J Manipulative Physio Ther 2002;25:168-79.
  5. Zaloga GP1, Harvey KA, Stillwell W, Siddiqui R. Trans fatty acids and coronary heart disease. Nutr Clin Pract.2006 Oct;21(5): 505-12

International Chair on Cardiometabolic Risk part 2

Since my last blog was so popular and so many people liked it, I wanted to do a part 2 on it. But this part 2 is going to be a little different. It´s going to be only about facts and statistics. Most people seem to remember the information better when given only numbers. Remember, all this data was given by the International Chair on Cardiometabolic Risk.

  1. 1.5 Billion Adults are overweight – 500 million of them are OBESE. These numbers are projected to reach 2.3 Billion and 700 million, respectively, by 2015.
  2. The childhood prevalence of childhood overweight and obesity increased from 4.2% in 1990 to 6.7% in 2010, with 43 million children estimated as overweight or obese in 2010!!
  3. The International Diabetes Federation estimated that in 2012 there were over 366 million people worldwide with type 2 diabetes. By 2030 this is projected to reach 552 million.
  4. SSBs are sugar-sweetened beverages. They include the full spectrum of soft drinks, fruit drinks, and energy and vitamin water drinks containing added sugars. Beverages that do not contain added sugar, such as 100% fruit juice are not considered SSBs. SSBs offer only ¨empty¨ calories and provide almost no nutritional value. A typical 12-ounce (355mil) soda contains about 35-40g sugar and 140-160Kcal.
  5. Numerous studies have linked consumption of SSBs to weight gain and obesity in children and adults. In one study it was seen that for each additional serving of SSBs consumed each day, the odds of becoming obese increased by 60% after 1.5 years!!
  6. In another study individuals with the highest SSB intake (usually1-2servings/day) had a 26% greater risk of developing diabetes compared to those with the lowest intake (none or less than 1 serving per month).
  7. One serving (12oz) daily increment in SSB consumption was associated with a 22% increased risk of developing type 2 diabetes.
  8. Women who drank more than 2 servings of SSBs had a 40% higher risk of heart attack or death from heart disease than women who rarely drank sugary beverages.

Now I will give stats about different European countries. These stats are from the World Health Organization. According to the WHO, you are overweight if your BMI is equal or greater than 25, and you are obese if your BMI is equal or greater than 30. BMI stands for Body Mass Index. Remember in my last post that, although the BMI is important, it is more important where that fat is distributed.

  Overweight                                                 Obesity

  1. Turkey 63.6%                                         1. Turkey 29.3%
  2. Czech Republic 61.7%                            2. Czech Republic 28.7%
  3. Malta 61.6%                                           3. Malta 26.6%
  4. United Kingdom 61.5%                          4. Israel 25.5%
  5. Ireland 60.9%                                         5. United Kingdom 24.9%
  6. Israel 60.1%                                           5. Russian Federation 24.9%
  7. Spain 58.2%                                          6. Ireland 24.5%
  8. Russian Federation 57.8%                       7. Spain 24.1%
  9. Luxembourg 56.7%                                 8. Luxembourg 23.4%
  10. Poland 55.7%                                         9. Poland 23.2%
  11. Portugal 55.3%                                       10. Portugal 21.6 %
  12. Germany 54.8%                                   11. Germany 21.3%
  13. Finland 53%                                           12. Finland 19.9%
  14. Belgium 51.5%                                     13. Belgium 19.1%
  15. Sweden 50%                                          14. Austria 18.3 %
  16. Austria 49.6%                                         15. Greece 17.5%
  17. Italy 49.2%                                             16. Italy 17.2%
  18. Greece 49.1%                                        17. Sweden 16.6 %
  19. Denmark 48.4%                                     18. Denmark 16.2%
  20. Netherlands 47.8%                                 18. Netherlands 16.2%
  21. France 45.9%                                         19. France 15.6%
  22. Switzerland 44.3%                                  20. Switzerland 14.9%

And the last stats, and probably the most surprising, are the ones that talk about the prevalence of obesity and overweight children among 7 years old. I only have the stats for 12 countries but it is still pretty interesting. This study was done in 2008.


Boys                                                    Girls

  1. Italy- 50% are overweight.                                 42%
  2. Portugal- 41% are overweight                            37%
  3. Malta- 33% are overweight                                29.5%
  4. Ireland-32% are overweight                               28%
  5. Slovenia-32% are overweight                             29%
  6. Belgium-24.7% are overweight                           25.7%
  7. Norway- 22.% are overweight                            22.8%
  8. Sweden-  22.4% are overweight                         21.5%
  9. Czech Republic- 21% are overweight                 20.5%


  1. Italy- 27% boys,                                               17.5% girls
  2. Portugal-17% boys                                           12% girls
  3. Slovenia-16% boys                                           10.3% girls
  4. Malta-14.9% boys                                             12% girls
  5. Ireland-12%boys                                               7% girls
  6. Belgium- 9% boys                                              7.8% girls
  7. Czech Republic- 9% boys                                  6% girls
  8. Norway- 6% boys                                              5.5% girls
  9. Sweden- 6% boys                                              5.2% girls

It is amazing, looking at these stats, that 50% of the population of most European countries are overweight. And that in countries like Spain and Portugal, where the Mediterranean diet comes from, and experts say it´s the best, over 55% of the population are overweight!! But what is more scary and amazing are the stats about the kids. Kids are supposed to be running and playing around all day, but society is changing that. Kids spent more time watching TV, playing video games or at the computer, than actually being outside. They are fed junk food all the time and, what is more worrying, a lot of people consider that normal, they say ¨they are kids, they are supposed to eat those candy’s, chips and donuts¨. I have actually experienced that first hand with family members, where I refused to buy ¨junk food¨ for my nephew and gotten told that ¨I was being mean and that they are just kids¨. The ¨junk food companies¨ have done such a good job on advertisement that it´s ¨normal¨ to give your kid a 12 ounce soda with 35-40 grams of sugar, or candy, or chips, or frozen pizza., and that is exactly what parents are doing, not realizing the impacts that those foods have on kids and on society.

Hopefully by seeing these stats people will start to change the way they think and realize what a huge problem society is facing. So until next time: Eat well, drink better, and move more!

Is food addictive?

Today in age people are getting fatter and fatter. Obesity is now a world wide epidemic. In the USA in 1995 two-thirds of Americans were overweight and obesity was killing 300,000 people a year, sickening millions and costing $99 billion annually. 10 years later and the Americans (the studies I have are from Americans but I bet in Europe it is the same thing) were eating 50 percent more fast food meals and five more pounds of sugar a year. US obesity related health costs have risen to $117 billion!!!(1) So what´s wrong? Why do we keep eating and getting fatter? We know it´s bad for us but we still don´t do anything about it. Are we just plain stupid? Or is there something more complicated that we still don´t understand? Can food be addictive……..


There is growing evidence that sugary foods can trigger changes in the same brain chemicals affected by addictive drugs. Researchers at Princeton have shown that natural opioids are released when rats eat a large amount of sugar and that they are thrown into a state of anxiety when the sugar is removed. Biologist are also finding that overeating on refined fatty meals triggers similar physiological changes. Leptin is a hormone which signals the body to stop eating after a certain point when consuming natural foods (2). Well, researchers at Albert Einstein Medical College saw that when they fed rats unnaturally fatty meals, the rats would loss all of their ability to respond to leptin. They just kept eating!!! The reverse effect happened when they were taken off the high fat for a while. There was also a study at Rockefeller University that showed that a high fat diet reconfigures the body´s hormonal system to want yet more fat. Galanin, a brain peptide that increases eating and slows energy expenditure, rises in rats on a high fat diet (3). In fact, it only takes 1 high fat meal to stimulate galanin release and the craving for fat. So we are beginning to see that food can actually be addictive, but we can also stop this addiction by eating properly. But what is eating properly? Before I answer this question I want to try to clear some terms that I think are important:

  • Refined: We always hear this word but few people really know what it means. When ¨refining¨ flour, sugar or other foods, it means it is removing the hull and fiber, often even the cell wall of plant structures, leaving only simple carbohydrate or clear oil. Farming refines our food all the time. A recent study of nutrients in food found that, in the second half of the last century (1900-2000), fruits and vegetables suffered significant decreases in protein, calcium, phosphorus, iron, vitamin B2 and vitamin C.
  • Insulin: When we eat simple carbohydrates, glucose levels soar in the bloodstream. In the short term, our bodies release INSULIN to store the glucose as fat. Repeated surges in blood sugar make the pancreas work harder and can contribute to insulin resistance, thereby increasing the risk for type 2 DIABETES, in which blood sugar levels remain elevated, causing damage to our kidneys, eyes and immune system (4).
  • Trans Fats- ¨are produced by heating liquid vegetable oils in the presence of catalysts and hydrogen. This gives them a different shape from the original oil or the natural saturated fats found in meat. They don´t fit properly with cell membranes or with enzyme designed to digest fats. Trans fats cause a significant drop in HDL (good) cholesterol and a significant increase in LDL (bad) cholesterol, they make the veins and arteries more rigid, they cause major clogging of arteries and they contribute to the risk of death from heart disease. Because trans fats contain abundant calories without providing the beneficial fats found in natural vegetable oil, they lead to overeating with under nutrition. Trans fats now make up much of the fat in CANDY, COMMERCIAL COOKIES and cakes, and the oils in which FAST_FOOD CHAINS FRY FOOD¨  (*Taken from Waistland by Deirdre Barrett pg 34)



In my next post I will talk about what eating properly is and how we are doing right now the complete opposite. But in the meantime I would love for you guys to take a look at this link. It´s a series BBC did on obesity and it´s called THE MEN WHO MADE US FAT. It consists of 3 parts and each last 55 minutes but it´s very interesting. Here goes the link:




Barrett D. Waistland, The (R)Evolutionary Science behind Our Weight and Fitness Crisis.Norton & Company.2007


Egan S. Making the Case for Eating Fruit. New York Times. July 2013.


Colantuoni C. Evidence that intermittent, excessive sugar intake causes endogenous opioid dependence.Obesity Research 10,6 (2002):478-88.


Martindale D. Burgers on the Brain:Can you really get addicted to fast food?, ¨New Scientist, February 1,2003.


Wang J. Overfeeding Rapidly Induces Leptin and Insulin Resistance. Diabetes 50(2001):2786-91.

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