by Joseph Mercola
"Fed Up," narrated by Katie Couric, investigates the
misinformation touted by the processed food
industry, and how these fallacies have created (and
continue to drive) the global obesity epidemic
One widely held belief is that all you have to do to
normalize your weight is to eat less and exercise
more. But just as the fitness craze exploded across
the U.S., so did our waistlines. Between 1980 and
2000, memberships to fitness clubs doubled, and so
did the national obesity rate
The conventional low-fat, high-carb recommendation
created the obesity epidemic. If you struggle with
excess weight, stop counting calories, eat real
food, increase your dietary fat intake and reduce
your net carbs
The film "Fed Up,"
narrated by Katie Couric, investigates the misinformation touted by the
food industry, and how these fallacies have created (and
continue to drive) the global obesity epidemic.
This includes the lies
you've been told about calories and diet versus exercise, government
subsidies that support the junk food industry and government
policies that prop up the processed food industry even though
they're harming public health.
As noted by Couric, obesity has been a topic of discussion for the
last 30 years.
Entire industries have grown around it. All sorts of
diets and exercise programs have promised lasting results. Yet the
problem has continued to balloon, seemingly out of control.
the obesity rate among American adults hit 38 percent - a 3 percent
increase from 2012.1
Researchers looking at obesity rates around the
world note that for the first time in history, obese people now
outnumber those who are underweight.2,3,4,5
One in 5 American deaths is now associated with obesity,6 and the
younger you are, the greater obesity's influence on your mortality.
Considering one-third of American children between the ages of 2 and
19 are now overweight or obese, chronic disease and mortality rates
will likely climb dramatically in coming decades.
The Energy Balance Myth
While the struggles of obesity were initially featured mostly in
magazines and on talk shows, today, obesity has become a genre of
entertainment, with reality TV programs detailing the lives and
weight loss struggles of the obese.
"We get new solutions every
day," Couric says. "Everything in the grocery store is made with
less fat and fewer calories, yet our kids keep getting bigger and
Could there be a link between the ever-growing obesity problem and
the governments dietary guidelines?, the film (at page's bottom) asks.
"That got me
thinking. What if the solutions weren't really solutions at all?" Couric says. "What if they were actually making things worse? What
if our approach toward this epidemic has been dead wrong?"
One of the most widely held beliefs is that all you have to do to
normalize your weight is to eat less and exercise more.
balance, "calories in, calories out" theory, originated with a
simple observation involving mice, in 1953. Up until that point,
exercise was strongly discouraged.
Doctors warned it would cause
heart attacks and lower sex drive.
In his laboratory, the late nutritionist Jean Mayer noticed that fat
mice ate the same amount of food as skinny mice. The difference was
their activity level. The fat mice were not nearly as active as the
The logical conclusion Mayer drew from this observation
was that lack of physical activity must be the cause of weight gain.
"His finding sparked a fitness revolution," Couric notes.
Ironically, just as the fitness craze exploded across the U.S., so
did our waistlines!
Between 1980 and 2000, memberships to fitness
clubs doubled. In that same span of time, the national obesity rate
also doubled. One decade later, 2 in 3 Americans were either
overweight or obese.
The same parallel trend is seen in other parts
of the world.
So, how is it that the more people exercise, the worse the obesity
In recent years, we've also seen a trend of obese
toddlers. Seeing how a 6-month-old child cannot exercise (or diet,
for that matter), how does one explain this phenomenon?
something doesn't add up.
Why Calorie Counting Doesn't Work
As noted by several obesity experts in this film, calorie counting
does not work.
The entire premise that losing weight is a matter of
expending more calories than you put in is flawed in more than one
way. First of all, the average person simply cannot exercise long
and hard enough to burn up the calories they eat in a given day.
To offset a single 20-ounce soda, a child would have to bike ride
for an hour and 15 minutes. To burn off a single chocolate chip
cookie, you're looking at a 20-minute jog; a medium french fry would
require just over an hour and 10 minutes of swimming.
There's simply not enough time in the day to burn off the calories
consumed, let alone burn more than you're putting in.
research has also shown that all calories are not made equal. Some
calories are burned far easier than others, and some will stubbornly
lodge themselves on your frame in the form of fat.
A crucial point
that must be understood is that the metabolic effects of nutrients
(fats, carbs and proteins) differ.
As an example, when you eat 160 calories' worth of almonds, the
fiber in the nuts slows down absorption, resulting in a slower blood
sugar rise and lower insulin release. Contrast that to a glass of
Because it has no fiber and contains processed
liver gets a large, sudden hit of sugar, causing a dramatic rise in
blood sugar and insulin, which is a very potent fat regulator.
Moreover, because fructose is metabolized entirely by your liver,
nearly all of those calories are turned directly into body fat,
opposed to being used up as fuel for energy.
After fructose, other
sugars and grains are among the most excessively consumed foods that
promote weight gain and chronic disease.
Yet the food industry, and especially
the soda industry, keeps
telling us that,
"all calories count, no matter where they come
This simply isn't true, and the science is quite clear on
Yet another part of the problem is a fundamental error in the
understanding of the law of thermodynamics. Energy is actually used
up in making nutrients available in your body.
In addition to that,
your body also self-regulates the amount of activity you engage in,
based on the available energy.
Zoe Harcombe's book, "The Obesity
Epidemic," explains this beautifully.
Food Industry Lies
Obesity is rooted in inappropriate food choices, not lack of
Unfortunately, the food industry has been permitted to
confuse the issue by shifting the focus and discussion to exercise,
completely omitting the importance of your specific food choices.
As you can clearly see in this film, every single family struggling
with obesity is eating precisely what they shouldn't - lots of
cereal, for example, and low-fat or "diet" foods - thinking they're
doing the right thing.
Despite following conventional advice, they
just keep getting fatter and, no wonder, because conventional advice
is in fact dead wrong.
Whole grains are supposed to help you lose weight. They don't. Whole
grains are just as fattening as other grains. Grains and starches
are rapidly converted into glucose (sugar) in your digestive tract,
and are among the foods you should eat as little of as possible if
you're struggling with excess weight.
Low-fat foods are also
supposed to help you lose weight.
They don't. Low-fat foods are typically very high in sugar, and
sugar is what makes you pack on excess weight, and prevents your
body from burning body fat.
Additionally, nearly all grains,
especially whole grains, are high in lectins, which can have very
serious adverse metabolic consequences by increasing inflammation
and autoimmune conditions.
The ramifications of this high-sugar, low-fat trend are dire. We are
now seeing heart attacks and strokes in children as young as 8.
We're seeing 30-year-olds on kidney dialysis after suffering kidney
According to the film, the number of cases of type 2
diabetes among American adolescents in 1980 was zero. Indeed, type 2
diabetes was referred to as adult-onset diabetes and was
historically unheard of in children and young adults.
nearly 57,640 American adolescents were diagnosed with type 2
Why Low-Fat 'Diet' Foods Make You Gain Weight
What happened in the 1980s, food-wise to precipitate this rapid
increase in type 2 diabetes and obesity?
As detailed in the far
the 1977 McGovern Report,7 which warned the U.S. was facing an
avalanche of obesity and ill health thanks to excessive consumption
of animal fats, cholesterol and sugar, was firmly rejected by food
And, while the first-ever dietary goals for the
U.S. were published, the recommendation to reduce consumption of
specific foods were omitted.
Instead, Americans were encouraged to buy leaner meats and foods
lower in saturated fats and cholesterol. This spawned a whole new
industry of low-fat, "diet" foods. Alas, as fat was removed, sugar
was added in. Between 1977 and 2000, Americans doubled their daily
sugar intake, and sugar - not saturated fat and cholesterol - is the
primary culprit causing weight gain.
Eating fat does not make you
fat. Eating sugar does.
According to Dr. Robert Lustig, who is featured in the film, sugar
is a chronic, dose-dependent liver toxin.
Today, of the 600,000 food
items sold in grocery stores, 80 percent of them contain added
sugar. So, far from being relegated to sweet desserts, most
everything you eat is loaded with sugar if you're eating processed
A jar of spaghetti sauce, for example, contains 5.5 teaspoons
more sugar than a snack-sized pack of M&Ms.
Most all commercial yogurts are also notoriously high in sugar, with
some containing upward of 35 grams of sugar in a single-serving - 10
grams over the daily recommended limit for good health.
Sugar also hides under several dozen different names. Some food
manufacturers will hide their sugar content even more by listing
several different kinds of sugar separately on the list of
Since ingredients are listed in order of its ratio to
the total amount of a serving, this little trick makes it look as
though there's far less sugar in it. Were they to lump all the
different sugars together, it might have had to be listed as the No.
Many also make the mistake of switching to artificially sweetened
"diet" foods and drinks to avoid unnecessary calories.
research has conclusively shown artificial sweeteners add to the
obesity problem, and perhaps more so than regular sugar.
Food Addiction Is Real
The film also addresses the very real issue of food addiction, and
sugar addiction in particular.
Studies have demonstrated that sugar
is eight times more addictive than cocaine. The biological
mechanisms behind food addiction were clearly spelled out in a
previous interview with Dr. Pamela Peeke, author of "The Hunger
When babies are fed high-sugar foods from day one, they rapidly grow
addicted to sugar. Few parents would consider doing this on purpose.
They simply fail to realize that many infant formulas are absolutely
loaded with sugar.
They're basically feeding their infant the
equivalent of soda, several times a day.
Many also give their children fruit juice rather than water,
thinking it's a healthy drink loaded with vitamins, again failing to
realize a glass of fruit juice has as much sugar as a glass of soda.
And, as noted in the film, the notion that all you need is the
willpower to resist simply doesn't work when you're addicted.
The other variable that is rarely if ever addressed in these
discussions is the timing of your food. You can eat the same amount
of calories but if you eat them in a time-restricted window, as one
does in intermittent fasting, then you can help your body to burn
fat for fuel and not suffer the metabolic consequences.
recently increased my daily fast up to 18 to 20 hours and exercise
fasting, as I believe that provides me with superior metabolic
I've found intermittent fasting to be a highly effective tool that
helps your body to shift from burning sugar to burning fat as its
primary fuel, and with that change, food cravings tend to simply
While intermittent fasting has not been tested specifically
for people meeting the criteria of food addiction, if you're
struggling with sugar cravings, I believe it would be worthwhile to
give it a try.
Interestingly, I just interviewed Dr. Dale Bredesen for his new book
"The End of Alzheimer's," coming out August 22, and he shared that
the dreaded ApoE4 allele that is highly predictive of Alzheimer's is
actually designed to give us metabolic flexibility to use fat for
fuel and be able to go for long periods without food.
So, if you
have this gene, it means you MUST intermittently fast unless you
want to lose your brain function as you age.
Sugar Industry Recommendations Are a Recipe for Heart Disease and
In 2002, the World Health Organization (WHO) published a technical
report on diet and nutrition for the prevention of chronic disease,
in which they specifically recommend limiting daily sugar
consumption to a maximum of 10 percent of calories to prevent
obesity and metabolic dysfunction.
Not surprisingly, the report was
strongly rejected by the sugar industry, which recommends getting 25
percent of your daily calories from sugar.
Two U.S. Senators, Larry Craig (R-Idaho) and John Breaux (D-La.),
asked then Secretary of Health and Human Services, Tommy Thompson,
to stop the publication of the report as it would devastate the
Thompson complied. He flew to Geneva and told WHO
that if this report was published, the U.S. would withhold $406
million of funding. The extortion had the desired effect.
forward, the sugar recommendation was not included in WHO dietary
What happens when you follow the sugar industry's recommendation to
get 25 percent of your daily calories from sugar? A 2014 study 8 gave
us the answer. It found that 10 percent of Americans consume 25
percent or more of their daily calories in the form of added sugars,
as recommended by the sugar industry.
Those who got 21 percent or more of their daily calories from sugar
were TWICE as likely to die from heart disease compared to those who
got 7 percent or less of their daily calories from added sugar.
risk was nearly TRIPLED among those who consumed 25 percent or more
of their calories from sugar.
How First Lady's Organic Garden Became a Junk Food Campaign
When Barrack Obama became president, first lady Michelle Obama took
a strong stance against the food industry, urging them to
reformulate foods to reduce sugar and rethink their advertising
The food industry quickly took control of the
situation by offering to partner with her, thereby steering her
entire wellness program away from concrete change toward a focus on
physical exercise and teaching kids about the phony theory known as
Her "Let's Move" campaign was a failure, in terms of making a dent
in childhood obesity and related disease.
In fact, research shows
childhood obesity continued to worsen after the launch of this
nationwide program in 2010,9 with severe obesity rising the most.
This was entirely predictable, since the campaign didn't focus on
the source of the problem (toxic, high-sugar, processed foods) and
recommended solutions that don't work (just exercise more).
As noted in the film, the food industry has become expert at
switching the conversation from talk about real food and cooking, to
talk about reengineered processed foods that are lower in calories
and the need for more exercise - both of which obscure the real
solution and perpetuate the problem.
Even the name of the campaign, "Let's Move," was co-opted and
twisted to serve the processed food industry.
Originally, the first
lady said the name represented a call to action - we need to get
moving on this issue of children's diets - but by the end, it became
all about physical activity, and the issue of getting back to real
food was lost altogether.
How to Reverse the Obesity Epidemic
The conventional low-fat, high-carb recommendation has without a
doubt contributed to the obesity epidemic.
If you or your child is
struggling with excess weight, some key facts you need to realize
Calorie counting does not work because the source of the calories is
far more important than the amount, as they are not all metabolized
Calories from carbohydrates (think sugars and grains) raise
your insulin level and turn to body fat, whereas dietary fats and
protein have very little impact on your insulin, and dietary fats
are a far more efficient fuel for your body than sugar
You cannot exercise your way out of a poor diet
A poor diet is one that is high in processed foods, added sugars
(especially processed fructose), harmful fats (vegetable oils and
trans fats, not saturated fats or cholesterol found in whole foods)
and artificial ingredients
I am firmly convinced we can turn the obesity epidemic around, but
it requires a new base of knowledge.
First, we need to return to a
diet of real, minimally processed foods.
Second, we need to educate
people about the importance of eating healthy fats and avoid
consistently eating large amounts of net carbs (carbohydrates minus
Once we are burning fat for fuel we need to cycle
healthy carbs back in to feed our gut microbes.
As a general rule, if the fat is found in a whole food, it's going
to be good for you. This includes the fat found in meat, eggs, raw
dairy, avocados, nuts, coconuts and more. It's the fats found in
processed foods you need to be leery of, along with vegetable oils
for cooking, margarines and vegetable oil spreads.
Last but not least, it would be wise to limit your consumption of
protein to just what your body needs, as excess protein also has
Not so much in terms of obesity per se, but
certainly in terms of heart disease and cancer.
Most people eat far
more protein than their body requires, and most of it is low-quality CAFO beef, the nutritional composition of which is compromised by
the unnatural way these animals are raised and fed.
In my view, the single most important driver of obesity is consuming
over 50 grams of net carbs a day and excessive protein.
Once you get
net carbs below 50 grams, moderate your protein intake to 0.5 gram
per pound of lean body weight, along with higher amounts of high
quality fat, your body will start to regain its ability to burn fat
as its primary fuel.
Once you become an efficient fat burner, it
will become virtually impossible to be overweight.
Regaining Your Health, One Meal at a Time
Many end up throwing their hands up in disgust when trying to clean
up their diet, complaining that once they start to read labels, they
realize there's "nothing safe to eat."
If this sounds like you,
you're probably still looking at processed foods, trying to figure
out which ones are "good" for you, and that's the problem.
serious about losing weight, you really need to avoid all processed
foods and cook from scratch using whole ingredients.
The list of ingredients to avoid is just about endless, starting
with all sorts of added sugars, and keeping track of it can be
really discouraging. The answer is to create a list of healthy
options instead, which is far shorter and easier to remember.
following short list of super-simple, easy-to-remember guidelines
will not only improve your nutrition, it will also help you avoid
countless chemical exposures that can affect your weight:
Eat REAL FOOD. Buy whole, ideally organic, foods and cook from
scratch. First of all, this will automatically reduce your added
sugar consumption, which is the root cause of insulin resistance and
If you buy organic produce, you'll also cut your
exposure to pesticides and genetically engineered
ingredients, and in ditching processed foods, you'll
automatically avoid artificial sweeteners and harmful
Opt for AGA certified grass fed meats to avoid genetically
engineered ingredients, pesticides, hormones, antibiotics and other
growth promoting drugs
Opt for glass packaging and storage containers to avoid endocrine
Reduce net carbs to under 50 grams a day and restrict protein to
0.5 gram/pound of lean body mass. The remaining calories come from
high-quality fat sources like avocados, butter, coconut oil,
macadamia and pecans
Once you've cleaned up your diet, if you're still struggling you may
want to seriously reconsider the timing of your meals.
Intermittently fasting can be very effective for helping your body
shift from sugar- to fat-burning mode. Also consider increasing your
daily physical activity.
Ideally, aim for 7,000 to 10,000 steps a day or even double that if
you have the time. Later you can add on a more regimented workout
routine, which will really help maximize all the other healthy
lifestyle changes you've implemented.
But for general health and
longevity, staying active throughout each day and avoiding sitting