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Why the Rates of Obesity Are Increasing

Obesity is a major public health problem that is responsible for increasing numbers of disabling and destructive medical conditions such as type 2 diabetes, hypertension, heart disease, osteoarthritis and numerous cancers. Currently about 75% of the American population is overweight or obese, 20% of our children are obese and the global rates of obesity have tripled since 1975. The social determents of health (socio-economic status, environment, education, dysfunctional family dynamics, etc.) and the changes in our food, environment, culture and our eating behaviors (over eating larger portions of highly processed sugar and fatty foods that are highly palatable, cheap and readily available) and a reduction in physical activity do not fully explain for the increased rates of obesity. There are probably other explanations.

Clinical experience has led me to believe that in addition to these commonly held causes for weight gain many overweight individuals report a poorly defined but persistent nagging hunger. This type of hunger is different from a physiological “meal time” hunger, or an emotional psychological hunger such as when one is anxious, frustrated, bored or depressed. This type of persistent hunger may possibly be the result from a disruption in an individual’s ability to appropriately recognize the feeling of fullness or satiety. This could be responsible for a feeling of increased hunger, causing increased eating that can eventually lead to obesity.

Epidemiological studies have shown that the production and wide spread use of synthetic chemicals, known as Endocrine Disruptive Chemicals (EDCs) have increased dramatically along with and in parallel with growing rates of obesity. It has been suggested that these EDCs may cause increased rates of obesity by altering and interfering with the brain and the body’s physiological control mechanisms of appetite and hunger and increase energy storage in fat cells. Numerous clinical studies show that some EDC, such as bisphenol A (BPA) and phthalates which are found in health and beauty cosmetic products, plastics, aluminon cans, food and drink packaging and some children’s toys can act as obesogenic agents that can cause the development of obesity. These agents are thought to interfere with and disrupt the body’s normal weight control mechanism. Prenatal exposure to EDCs appears to be associated with the generation of obesity later in life. Research suggests that if exposure takes place in the stages of early life, EDCs could potentially interfere with the programming of the brain’s neuro-endocrine signaling pathway that regulates hunger and eating behavior.

However, until the relationship between EDCs and the overweight condition is clarified and validated, whether obesity is described as a lifestyle condition or a chronic medical disease influenced by these dysregulating chemicals, the medical fact remains true that excess weight is a detriment to an individual’s present physical and psychological health and is a risk factor for future chronic diseases. So, what can be done to help prevent the development of obesity.

Clinical studies have shown that overweight individuals eat too frequently, often snacking throughout the day and after dinner; eat larger portions of calorie dense foods; and eat too quickly, Consequently, to help patients achieve a safe and steady weight loss, I would suggest: eating in a structured manner, 2 or 3 times a day, without snacking and understand that what you eat is more important than at what time you eat; eating smaller portions of reduced calorie meals; and eating more slowly as this allows the brain enough time to register your natural digestive hormones signals of fullness and satiety. Also, I would like to recommend two helpful products that I developed, Attenuate and AttenuSlim, that will help to reduce appetite, decrease hunger, curb carbohydrate cravings and help to mobilize fat breakdown in the abdominal, hip and waist areas to promote smaller abdominal, hip and waist sizes. These non-stimulating and non-pharmacological natural organic agents can be found at attenuatepro.com.

Peter Vash, M.D., MPH

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