Genetics, a sedentary lifestyle and poor dietary habits have conspired to make millions of Americans obese. In spite of emerging evidence that obesity is in fact, a serious metabolic disease, overweight and obese persons are too often viewed as slothful, reminded by every magazine cover that they are unacceptable in today’s looks-are-everything world. This is especially difficult for teens and young adults who desperately desire acceptance from others while believing that their worth is determined by their dress size or waistline. This must change.
Anthropologically speaking, North Americans have evolved from eating fresh crops and lean game, which had to be planted, harvested, hunted and killed—to hunting and gathering in convenience stores and drive-through windows. Our ancestors did not require gym memberships to sweat out excess calories, nor did they consume 60-ounce diet drinks in hope of losing weight. Until the 20th Century, starvation reigned as the number-one killer of humankind. Today, obesity-related diseases are the number one cause of preventable death in the US.
But overeating and sedentary living cannot fully explain the cause, nor the unprecedented prevalence of obesity. Something else is happening.
Over the last two decades, medical science has identified several key chemical messengers (neurotransmitters, neuropeptides, and hormones) in the brain and the body that play important roles in regulating hunger and satiety, insulin levels, our mood, and even our food preferences. The function of these chemical regulators are determined both genetically and as a result of numerous external factors such as diet, family dynamics, culture, stress, and illness. When these important “regulators” fail to function as they were designed, the metabolic system becomes deranged. High blood sugar, elevated insulin, and fatty liver are early signs of metabolic disease.