(Updated June 1st, 2021)
In April of 2016, the Lancet published a long-awaited report on world obesity, which was based on 19.2 million people studied from 1975 to 2014. The exponential increase in obesity that they reported is alarming; the authors predict that by 2025, 18 percent of men and 21 per cent of women will be clinically obese across the globe.
Currently in Canada, 60 per cent of adults and 30 per cent of children are obese. This situation has the potential to crash healthcare systems because obesity effectively doubles health care costs and increases the risk of death from Covid-19 and various other illnesses.
When the Human Genome Project was completed in 2003, and only 20K to 25K genes were discovered (about the same as a banana), it became evident that we are not complex machines ourselves. Instead, each one of us is a complex superorganism functioning symbiotically with trillions of microbes resident inside us, each with their own DNA and their own genes. In other words, our survival and the well-being of all our organs and systems, and especially our development from zygote to adulthood, depends entirely on these microbes!
Our 25,000 genes won’t be much use to us if we don’t cooperate with bugs that reside inside of us, collectively known as our microbiome. The dance and hormonal communication chatter of these beneficial bacteria work to run our very lives. So instead of finding a human gene that may turn diseases on or off as scientists had hoped, they found bacteria, viruses, and other microorganisms of far greater importance in orchestrating health and disease.
The most amazing discovery surrounding the disease-microbe connection is its relation to obesity. As microbiome researchers C. Heintz and W. Mair put it: You are what you host!
Obesity is ultimately commercially fuelled; somebody profits from it. Research published in the Lancet has shown that the food industry uses the same strategies to bypass unwanted regulation as the tobacco industry used to. Obese people themselves don’t really understand why this condition is happening to them. This is especially true of the working poor who rely on cheap food, which is highly processed and mostly devoid of nutritional quality and laced with artificially toxic taste enhancers.
In this scenario, the resident microbiome gets starved first, and then the body develops systemic illnesses. Ironically, a healthy diet (i.e. fresh and rich in nutrients for both the microbiome and ourselves) costs a person only about $1.50 more per day than a junk food diet, resulting in an annual increase of $550 per person in their food budget.
Two important events occurred in 2016, in addition to the Lancet review of world obesity. They are of utmost importance to dealing meaningfully with the obesity epidemic.
1. On March 16, 2016, the DARK Act was defeated in the U.S. DARK is the popular acronym given to the proposed legislation: Deny Americans the Right to Know. Monsanto, DuPont, and Dow Chemical had originally drafted this Act and lobbied hard to get it passed by Congress, but the Senate refused to ratify it. If passed, it would have made labelling of genetically modified (GM) foods “voluntary”, not “mandatory,” and thereby would have also wiped out the mandatory labelling legislation which went into effect July 1 in Vermont, and a little later also in other U.S. states.
The DARK Act represented the food industry’s attempt to stop popular opposition to GM foods (about 90 per cent of the public opposes GM foods in the U.S. and 97 per cent in Canada) once and for all, successfully making everybody into force-fed customers.
Genetically modified (GM) foods depend on pesticides to grow. And it turns out that those pesticides, as well as the GM foods themselves, are key factors in making people obese – especially the mass of low-income people who cannot easily afford organic, pesticide-free foods.
2. In June 2016, the European Union decided against renewing Monsanto’s license for Roundup, basing its decision on a petition signed by two million Europeans, as well as the 2015 independent report by the International Agency for Research in Cancer with the World Health Organization. Together, the petition and the report declared Roundup a probable carcinogen. The number of countries refusing to grow, sell, or import GM foods in Europe has now risen to 19. The campaign to stop Roundup in the EU was led by Pavel Poc, the vice-chair of the EU parliament’s Environment Committee.
Also in June in the U.S., a 420-page report was published by the National Academy of Sciences (NAS) claiming that GM crops are safe and that there is no evidence showing harm to human health. This is the usual propaganda – a claim that there is no evidence in such “controversial” matters invariably means that the existing evidence was ignored. It is worth reading an analysis of this bizarre NAS report by Food and Water Watch (founded by Maude Barlow who runs Council of Canadians), an analysis that exhaustively documents the underlying skullduggery.
ENVIRONMENTAL TOXINS – Many years ago, environmental medicine expert, Dr. Jozef Krop of Mississauga, admitted a patient to a Toronto hospital. This patient was in a state of life-threatening obesity, so Krop placed her on a regime of medically supervised basic fluids only. But instead of losing weight, she gained some 10 pounds in the first week! A thorough investigation conducted by the hospital and Dr. Krop revealed that the floor-cleaning detergent used in those days contained potent neurotoxins and allergens. When exposed, the patient’s body reacted by retaining even more water than before. (She subsequently recovered to her normal weight, after her home environment was purged of hazardous chemicals.)
American Academy of Environmental Medicine physician, Dr. Sherry Rogers, coined the phrase: “The solution to pollution is dilution.” Indeed, much obesity is actually the result of water retention as the body attempts, on the cellular level, to protect itself against toxic substances. Much research has been done on how to identify environmental toxins, and as a result, new methods of detoxification have been developed that are measurably effective. Now, thanks to the human microbiome research, we also understand the way that toxins do their work and how our resident microbiome tries to defend its host.
ANTIBIOTICS – The most significant cause of obesity is the use of antibiotics, especially early in life, which interferes with the beneficial microbiome bacteria. In the U.S., 69 per cent of children have had at least one course of antibiotics by the age of one year. It can take a year for the microbiome to recover from a single course of antibiotics. Doctors hand them out like candy without doing cultures for specificity first (something that you can demand they do).
Most frequently used is the broad-spectrum amoxicillin – which not only wipes out any offending pathogens, but also kills off all beneficial gut bacteria. If a child’s food is high in fats loaded with more antibiotics (used in animal farming to increase weight at slaughter), as well as processed foods which tend to include many toxins used as preservatives and even chlorine to ensure longer shelf life, as well as vegetables and fruit loaded with pesticides and herbicides but little fibre – well, there is your obesity recipe in broad strokes. Insulin resistance and diabetes may follow, and fatty liver disease has been diagnosed even in preschoolers. In this context, neither increased exercise nor reducing calories will do much good because any possible gains cannot last unless the influx of dietary toxins stops.
As Martin Blaser explains in Missing Microbes, we are treated by the food industry like farm animals – made obese through antibiotics. What we do to our food-producing animals we do to ourselves.
Following the World Health Organization’s announcement of a world-wide irreversible antibiotic crisis, Health Canada has taken some small steps towards ending the use of antibiotics in food producing animals. Furthermore, the American Medical Association is calling for a total ban of antibiotics in food production (see https://www.organic-center.org).
Persistent organic pollutants (POPs), such as DDT, continue to be used in various parts of the world where they contaminate the foods grown in those areas (e.g. DDT-sprayed rice from India). These POPS have long been known to promote obesity and trigger diseases like arthritis and cancer. Also on the list of obesity-promoting, carcinogenic chemicals are synthetic sweeteners such as aspartame and sucralose, birth control pills, and synthetic hormone replacement medications.
Most importantly, psychiatric drugs, and those used to treat the highly questionable diagnosis of hyperactivity in children, are known to cause obesity as a side effect. Microbiome research shows that diminished microbial diversity can also induce mental health problems. Therefore, improving the quality of a hyperactive kid’s diet is more likely to calm him down than a toxic drug.
The microbiome is also highly sensitive to the toxic impact of the stress hormone cortisol. Chronic stress, including insufficient sleep, or repeated acute stress, will raise cortisol levels such as to kill beneficial bacteria. As well, PTSD has been shown to be causative in the development of obesity.
The process by which our resident gut bacteria are rendered helpless to protect us is through inflammation, specifically through innate immune receptors and sensors called inflammasomes, which respond to enemies – pathogens and stress. (They initiate a cascade of activity measurable by C-Reactive Protein testing.) Their purpose is to raise the alarm and call the immune system to action. A deficiency in inflammasomes is caused by a deficiency in beneficial mircobiome bacteria, which are key communicators in this process.
However, one thing is certain: the microbiome population needs its own food to thrive and thereby sustain us. That’s where the famous prebiotics and dietary fibre come in because they allow for the all-important gut fermentation process to take place. Probiotics stimulate the growth of helpful bacteria. Probiotics, which most of us know about, cannot colonize a gut unless the resident helpful bacteria get their pre-biotic diet first. The two important pre-biotics are known as Inulin and Oligosaccharides. Good health food stores carry these as supplements, or you can use food sources of prebiotics such as raw garlic, bananas, dandelions, raw honey, asparagus, unpasteurized apple cider vinegar, and more.
Losing weight and keeping it off can only be achieved with the cooperation of the microbiome. Prebiotic inulin and oligosaccharides, along with probiotics containing the full spectrum of Bifidobacteria and Lactobacillus, are the most essential supplements needed to reduce weight and keep it off. In extreme cases, studies show that a fecal transplant from a slim person to an obese one can jumpstart the weight normalization process. Rectal implants of pre- and probiotics in a saline solution have also been used successfully to achieve re-colonization of the GI tract with beneficial bacteria, especially after a long course of antibiotics.
Of course, to achieve optimal weight, a person must avoid processed foods, artificial sweeteners, and allergenic foods (often gluten-containing). Further, any meat and dairy products, as well as most vegetables and fruits, have to be certified organic (free of pesticides, herbicides, and antibiotics). One’s diet should also contain a lot more raw foods.
Given that our water supply is contaminated with prescription drugs (which are not fully metabolized in the body and therefore excreted in the urine), it is worth considering the purchase of water purification devices. For example, APF Water technology is now available in GE refrigerators. These filters remove 94 per cent of the residues of the top five prescription drugs, as well as chlorine, etc., from the water. Also, taking high doses of Vitamin C (to bowel tolerance level) is essential because it removes toxic substances without compromising the microbiome.
Exercise and stress reduction measures are equally important. The aim is to enter into a dialogue with one’s body and become mindful of what feels right. Let your gut feeling guide you.
Editor’s note: As a supplementary article to this one, Helke Ferrie has written a “Success Story” about her own recovery from obesity – what caused it and what cured it. That article has been posted on Vitality’s website under the title: “How I Overcame Obesity – More Than Once.”
All research involving the human microbiome is available on the internet for free. The sources listed below are all from open access research.
Basic current facts on obesity:
The determinative role of the human microbiome in obesity:
Cost issues regarding obesity:
Obesity causes: antibiotics, pharmaceutical drugs, pollutants, stress:
Mechanism of action/pathophysiology of obesity:
Most people connect the name Tesla with an award-winning electric car brand or with the… Read More
(Updated July 15, 2021) As an undergraduate student several years ago, I struggled with terrible… Read More
(Updated July 10, 2021) In July 2016, CBC News reported on a study done by… Read More