Sunday, April 9, 2017

Fat Plague: Is Obesity Contagious? Part 2

Dr Abe V Rotor
“A fat child is a healthy child,” is Wrong 

     By changing our views, we may change our ways.  We still entertain the idea that a fat baby is a healthy baby. Thus we are made to believe in milk and baby foods advertisements, with a fat baby at center stage.  Baby fat, we are advised, will burn during adolescence. It is therefore a good way of rearing a child. Parents suspect that there is something wrong when their children are not fat. It is better to have children who are neither fat nor thin, but this is difficult to measure.  Being fat at an early age may be sign of incipient obesity, so that medical checkup is advised. Obesity is thought as sign of good health, but in fact it may even lead to incorrect diagnosis and late treatment.

     Because of our limited knowledge on the mechanics of metabolism, we do not realize that a person who is active burns calories faster than one who lives a sedentary life.  In the case of the latter, this equation favors the storage of food in the form of fat. Thus he becomes fat, while his active counterpart remains trim, and even skinny. Too much fat is burden to our organs, such as the heart and kidneys, in fact, the whole body. Thus obesity is associated with heart ailment, high blood pressure, kidney failure, cirrhosis of the liver, allergies, skin diseases, and those who are obese are prone to various infections, from colds to tuberculosis. There is also a higher incidence of cancer among obese.

 Diet and Obesity

     Balanced diet, our doctors and teacher say, is having the right kind and amount of food.  Food is classified into protein, the grow food; carbohydrate, the go food; and minerals and vitamins, the  glow food. Often illustrated into a pyramid to show the approximate amounts of each kind to take, it would be easy to follow a balanced diet formula. But this is easier said than done in modern living, especially in the urban areas. The truth is that we are far from being discriminating when it comes to food.  We have a tendency to overeat, responding more to psychological demand than genuine appetite. The more affluent we are, the more food we take - and more nutritious at that.  It is an indulgence with which our society has evolved in modern times.  

     Our omnivorous nature that enhanced our survival as a species has been vastly changed. Fast foods are part of our lives today. Fast foods are everywhere - turo-turo (just point at your choice), dimsum (packed and ready for pickup), ambulant food stands, and the popular food chains of McDonalds, Jollibee, Chow King, KFC and Kenny Rogers, et al. Fast food share the following characteristics:

-         Livestock and poultry dominate the menu list, while fish is rarely served.
-         Servings are large, predisposing customers to overeating.
-         Fat, oil, and dressing elevate cholesterol level.
-         Fruits and vegetables are seldom served, thus fiber, vitamins and minerals are far from adequate to meet body’s need.
-         Heavy use of additives such as preservatives, coloring, flavoring and other condiments, to increase shelf-life and enhance product presentation. There are those harmful to health like aspartame and monosodium glutamate (vetsin). 
-         Imported ingredients dominate local source, especially for meat and baked products. Frozen products (e.g. hamburger) may be weeks or months old.
-         Fast foods do not offer or display any nutrition/dietary guide.  Choice is based on convenience and price – and it is often limited.

      From these observations fast foods are believed to be progenitors of a lifestyle that predisposes us to obesity.

Fatless Fat and Sugarless Sugar

     First we had coffeeless coffee (decaffeinated, 1895) so that one can have as much as seven cups of coffee a day.  Then came sugarless sugar (diet sugar, 1957) that one can have softdrinks any time and eat unlimited sweets as long as they are made with saccharin, nutrasweet or aspartame. The newest is fatless fat – fat whose molecules are too large to be absorbed by the villi of the small intestine, and beside it cannot be acted upon by digestive enzyme.

     Fatless fat, called Olestra, is made up of six or more fatty acids attached to a sugar molecule, are much bigger then the triglycerides in normal fat. (Normal fat is made up of three fatty acids arrayed around a molecule of glycerol). The developer, Procter and Gamble, claims that a chocolate cake that used Olestra gives only 163 calories per serving as compared to 235 calories if made with normal fat.  Chocolate ice cream would give only 110 calories instead of 270 calories per serving. Reduction of calories in other food preparations, which include our favorite potato fries, is up to 50 percent. The idea is that people can eat all the food they want without fear of getting fat.  And this is favorable to the food industry. 
     One danger of using Olestra particularly in poor countries is that it will exacerbate malnutrition problem, not only in impeding or reducing the absorption of fat and other nutrients, but that it can even mask the lack or absence of much needed nutrients the body needs.  Vitamins A,D,E and K must be dissolved in fat to be able to enter the bloodstream and reach parts of the body.  
Obesity in chicken 
This is not the case with Olestra.  Because of its giant structure it is not an efficient carrier. It freely moves down the alimentary track and leaks out directly with waste, which is very discomforting.

      On the other hand there is available in the market a drug that is claimed to block the digestion and therefore the absorption of dietary fat – Xenical. Promotions show that taking this drug will result to weight loss from fat but not muscles, and that it even helps reduce the risk of diabetes and hypertension.

Mucilage from Saluyot – Natural Reducer

     I know people who maintain their body weight and keep trim by eating a lot of vegetables and avoiding meat and other fatty food.  Ilocanos for one eat saluyot (Corchorus olitorius), a mucilage-rich leafy vegetable cooked with broth, or simply garnished with garlic and vinegar. (Okra – Abelmoschus esculentus - which belongs to the same family Malvaceae is also rich in mucilage.)

     Mucilage makes a coating like a film over fat molecules, and on the surface of the villi, thus regulating absorption. Together with dietary fiber, it also traps toxin which is otherwise absorbed by the body, while it facilitates release of waste because of its laxative property.  As a rule, absorption and assimilation is directly proportional to the length of food retention in the digestive system.  

Junk Food also Contributes to Obesity

     How about  junk foods? They are so-called because the have practically no nutritional value. Nata de coco is nutritionless save the sugar it is cooked with. Gums, agar, and other colloid carriers (alginate and carageenan) have become popular in many food preparations because they add to the bulk in food, and that it contributes to the sense of fullness. These and many other foods dominate stores and eateries today.
     Ironically these foods do not offer solutions against getting fat or becoming obese. The truth is that the more we eat indiscriminately, the more we have the tendency to get fat.  It is because we simply ignore to account for the accompanying ingredients that may contribute to weight gain.

    When the value of a food we take is unknown we become living garbage bins. This is the source of many ailments. The artificial ingredients and imbalance food value have cause in many people in the US to early Alzheimer’s disease to cancer. Others show symptoms of debilitation which doctors cannot diagnose. Thus people are getting more and more conscious of eating natural foods.    

      It has been observed that in the urban areas, eating out is becoming more and more popular.  At the present trend, the urban dweller will be eating in fast foods more often than he eats in his home. The quaintness of cooking and eating at home with the whole family is a vanishing custom.

     On the other side of the picture, people believe that the younger generation is taller and bigger because they are eating more and better food, richer in protein and fats. This could be one of the factors that have led us to modify our model for health and beauty.

Wrong Models of Fitness

     One proof is that we have grown accustomed to RTWs (ready-to-wear clothes) that do not emphasize good physical features, whereas before  clothes were tailored to fit and enhance body physique. The coca-cola body is no longer a strict measure of sexiness. Consciousness of shape, poise and weight is no longer as strict, so with grooming and body language. RTW hides unsightly bulges and curves, and coupled with modern hairstyles, shoes and body ornaments, even obese people are made attractive of sort.

     The marks of a good body were in well-developed and placed muscles, the likes of Arnold Swharzenegger and Victor Mature, and for women, those of Marilyn Monroe and Kim Novak. During our generation, and before, the standards of beauty were the same. But today it is different. There are beauty contests among the obese (e.g. longganisa queen), and beauty contests among the “third sex.”  There is a beauty contest among ginang ng tahanan (Mrs. Housewife). One can only imagine the criteria used judging the winners of these contests.

      One reason why fat people are regarded models to many is that, they look funny, even before they utter a word. In the entertainment world, there are personalities who are popular because of their extraordinary size.  This is not new though. As early as in the 1930’s The Three Stooges, a bunch of funny obese characters, rose to fame. Remember the late flabby Ike Lozada?  Then there are other movie idols like Dely Atayatayan, and Mitch Valdez.  Sumo wrestlers make a rare group with which obesity is looked up to.   Today, there are more and more obese people invading the entertainment world. However with the new findings about the fat plague, apparently their days are counted.

Being Fat is a Liability

     For the 20 percent overweight, there are 25 percent more death for men and 21 percent more death in women than for those of normal weight in the same age group.  For those who are 30 percent overweight, there are 42 percent more death among men and 30 percent more death among women. There may be truth to a statement that people who are twice their normal weights are virtually walking towards their grave. 

      We can imagine an obese strip down at the beach, or ride a bicycle. There are many jokes about obesity.  Don’t hike with an obese too far. Don’t sit beside one at the dining table.  Guess why a car is heavier on one side. There’s a flat tire again. Do you know why transport fares are getting higher? Laki sa kusina kasi, eh. (Referring to one who literally grew up in the kitchen)

      If obesity is contagious, here the is a version of a popular saying, “Tell me if your friend is an obese, and I can already see how you look like.”

     We are creating is a “fourth estate”, a world of the obese.  This means we are going to do a lot of re-designing our articles and facilities of living, from bed to car, clothes to doorway.  There is need to revise policies and conditions of insurance, hospitalization, and funeral services, to name a few.         

Advertisements are misleading and dangerous.

      Take the case of a very young boy, barely of school age, voraciously finishing a whole fried chicken. The advertisement runs counter with values, good nutrition and the kind of economics a country needs. Other than the high food value of chicken that predisposes one to becoming fat, the idea of one child eating a whole chicken is bad economics. For a chicken to gain one-kilogram live weight, it has to feed on 7 to 9 kilos of grain. (Feed to body weight conversion ratio is 8 is to 1, on the average)

       A country like the Philippines which can not produced sufficient grains (staple food) for its population can ill-afford to allow the conversion of precious grains into meat. The child on TV, in effect deprived eight children – especially the poor - from the calories that they badly needed.  Affluence of one is deprivation of another.  This is more so if the affluent is an obese. 

     From this premise a new paradigm emerges, raising a question whether or not obesity is sin.  If this is so, then the atonement for it lies in the very solution to obesity itself – moderation, if not abstinence. For the child on TV, his act shall be regarded as temptation to committing sin, which is naturally abhorred. On the larger scheme there is need to review current economic policies and give a second look at social, theological and philosophical norms and idiosyncrasies.   

      While the new finding continues to shed light to the true nature of obesity, what we can do are the following.

-         Do not pamper your baby or child to becoming fat.

-         Follow a strict regimen of eating food that provides a balanced nutrition.

-         Do not overeat.  Eat on time. Limit snacks, coffee breaks, soft drinks, finger food and sweets.

-         Watch out for your weight.  Keep within your prescribed weight for your height and age. 
-         Do not attempt to lose weight by whatever means without consulting your doctor. Don’t go for liposuction. There are many fatalities resulting from this quick reduction-shape up technique treatment. Operation to shorten the food-assimilating small intestines is not also advisable.
-         Too much TV and computer lead to obesity. It is healthier to be active.  Shake those lazy bones.  Take time out to exercise.
-         Obesity may be caused by hormonal imbalance.  Get early treatment.
-         If you have a history of obesity, there is still chance you do not fall into the same trap. Heredity is just one factor.
-         Change your lifestyle that predisposes you to getting fat.  Be conscious of your shape, poise, and other physical features.
-         Avoid emotional problems that are associated with obesity. See your doctor.  Reflect, meditate, you may need a spiritual adviser, too.

A Damocles sword hangs over millions and millions of people who are potential victims of the obesity. Keep calm.  Let us keep abreast with the developments with hope and prayer that it will not turn out to be a plague or pandemic.  Let us be vigilant at all times.

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