Category Archives: Obesity

H. Pylori Can Keep You Thin

This month’s Scientific American has an article on a subject close to my heart, “Your Inner Ecosystem.”  Only 10% of the DNA in our bodies is human.  In other articles I have advanced the idea that we are walking colonies of microbes, worms and fungi in a human superstructure, where ecological balance is the goal of health rather than purity.  That begs the question of which creatures might be pathogenic- I certainly don’t want ebola in my ecology. Not only doesn’t  it play well with my other creatures, but it is deadly.

Ebola is easy to classify.  However some organisms are difficult to classify.  Acidophilous is great in your gut, especially if you have difficulty assimilating nutrients but it can eat away at your teeth where you might prefer Streptococcus oralis.  There are benign E. coli strains, sold in Europe but not the USA as probiotics, which  tend to predominate in thin people while firmiciute bacteria like the Lactobaccili predominate in fat people and can make thin rats fat.  Even low level staph infections on the skin may crowd out nasty drug-resistant MRSA.

Heliobactor pylori is another example.  This bacteria increases acidity in the stomach, resulting in both the environment where it thrives and breakdown of food.  However in susceptible individuals, it causes ulcers.  When Dr. Martin Blaser, now professor of microbiology and internal medicine at NYU found H. pylori 25 years ago, he approached it as a simple pathogen causing ulcers- and with antibiotic treatment ulcer diagnoses have reduced by more than 50%.  But in 1998 he published research showing that in the vast majority of people H. pylori is beneficial, regulating the acidity of the stomach properly.  H. pylori was also linked to a reduction in adenocarcinomas.  In 2008 he found that H. pylori regulates ghrelin which tells your body to stop eating.  When ghrelin levels are high you become hungry.  After you eat -unless your H. pylori levels are low- ghrelin levels plummet.  In a study of 92 veterans treated with antibiotics to lower H. pylori for ulcers, gained weight in comparison to uninfected peers.  Lower H. pylori is also linked to higher diabetes rates.

Helicobacter Pylori, Stomach Biopsy, Giemsa Stain
Helicobacter Pylori, Stomach Biopsy, Giemsa Stain (Photo credit: euthman)

One of the curious things is that two or three generations ago something like 80% of children were hosts to H. pylori.  Now fewer than 6% of children have the appetite suppressing bacteria, perhaps because of broader-range antibiotics and the inclusion of antibiotics in meat production which could account for less exposure to seed the microbiota.  There is apparently preliminary information suggesting a second mechanism for this where antibiotics silence bacterial signalling for undifferentiated stem cells to make tissue other than fat.

The hygiene hypothesis also may affect the acquisition of H. pylori.  Water is cleaner.  Plant food trucked across the country may contain fewer live bacteria.  Increased C-section rates may prevent the transmission of a mother’s microbiota to the infant in the birth canal.  We have fewer commensal bacteria now altogether and H. pylori is a stunning example of the reduction of a bacteria that can help keep us thin.

However it appears that adding H. pylori may not be helpful once you are fat and possibly the age of acquisition is important.  In further experiments people who were obese and diabetic had higher levels of H. pylori.  Researchers think lowering H. pylori with antibiotics might help lower A1c levels in diabetics.   Is H. pylori exerting a U-shaped influence where too little and too much cause weight gain?  We don’t really know. In the human body with all its feedback loops, direct interventions work quite differently than in petri dishes.

Still, farmers have known for some time that adding antibiotics and increasing starchy feed is the best way to get animals fat for market.  When we do this to ourselves and our children, it should not surprise us if we get the same result.  While it is not a likely single cause of obesity and diabetes, its effect may be far from trivial.

Sources:

Your Inner Ecosystem: Jennifer Ackerman  http://www.scientificamerican.com/article.cfm?id=ultimate-social-network-bacteria-protects-health

Endosymbiosis: Lynn Margulis http://evolution.berkeley.edu/evolibrary/article/_0/history_24

Ecological and Evolutionary Forces Shaping Microbial Diversity in the Human Intestine http://linkinghub.elsevier.com/retrieve/pii/S0092867406001929

Gut Reaction: Environmental Effects on the Human Microbiota http://www.pubmedcentral.nih.gov/picrender.fcgi?artid=2685866&blobtype=pdf

Immune Gene Evolution May Be Driven By Parasites http://www.dana.org/news/features/detail.aspx?id=22816

The Body Politic http://seedmagazine.com/content/print/the_body_politic/ (picture from this article.)

Gut Bacteria Do More Than Digest Food http://www.hhmi.org/bulletin/aug2010/features/gut_bacteria5.html

Swapping Germs:  Should fecal transplants become routine for debilitating diarrhea? Maryn McKenna  http://www.scientificamerican.com/article.cfm?id=swapping-germs

See Also:

Our Symbionts, Ourselves

Chemicals and Obesity: What if if isn’t all your fault?

Why A Parasite Cleanse Can Make You Worse

Probiotics and Probiotic Foods

How to Make Miso


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Obesity and Swine Flu: A Chinese Medicine Perspective

Flu virus diagramA recent report report from the Center for Infectious Disease Research and Policy indicates that 25% of hospitalized H1N1 victims in a California study were morbidly obese versus 4% of the US population and more than half were obese.  It did not collect data on whether the heavy patients had other underlying conditions although the analysis found that probable. Now the question is, is obesity an independent risk factor or a proxy for other conditions that make flu infection worse? Continue reading Obesity and Swine Flu: A Chinese Medicine Perspective

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Chemicals and Obesity: What if it isn’t all your fault?

Fat babyAs someone who was around in the ’50s and ’60s when there was less obesity, I have to tell you that diets were not that good.  TV dinners, Wonder bread, instant mashed potatoes, fish-sticks and whole milk predominated and vegetables tended towards the overcooked.  Food was cooked in Crisco, full of trans fats, and cotton seed oils.  Fresh vegetables came in during the late 60s, but predominated on the coasts.  There was less soda and no high fructose corn syrup, and portion sizes were somewhat smaller, but the caloric difference may not be enough to explain why we have an epidemic of infant obesity today that we didn’t then.  And I doubt that the babies today are doing any less exercise, although their older siblings may be indoors on computers more instead of riding bikes. Continue reading Chemicals and Obesity: What if it isn’t all your fault?

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Primates Prefer Cooked Meat and What It Means to Us

Richard Wrangham a professor of biological anthropology at Harvard and the author of  “Catching

Richard Wrangham
Richard Wrangham

Fire: How Cooking Made Us Human” was interviewed on NPR.   He worked with Jane Goodall, and is director of the Kibale Chimpanzee Project  in Uganda.   According to Wrangham, great apes prefer cooked food to raw food or they have no preference.  They prefer cooked meat to the raw meat that they occasionally form hunting parties to obtain,  but are hampered by not controlling fire.   Great apes, when given a choice, never prefer raw food to cooked food.  Chimps will go into areas of wildfires and eat foods that they would never eat raw.  Meat (at least wild meat)  is tough when raw, but is much more easily assimilated when cooked.

Cooked food increases the proportion of nutrients that you actually digest. This was not widely appreciated for many years because scientists sampled the food going into the mouth then compared it to fecal output.  But fecal digestibility does not really look at assimilation.  We can only assimilate proteins in the small intestine, not the large intestine.

Continue reading Primates Prefer Cooked Meat and What It Means to Us

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Diets Cause More Harm Than Good

I know, we all want to blame it on studies of bad diets-maybe it included Ornish, or Atkins, or the Standard American Diet or fads, which could muddy the data.  That could be a problem with a mega analysis but this study seems well done.  No one wants to believe that permanent weight loss isn’t possible (unless you didn’t have that much to lose to begin with).  The researchers think that unless you are in the 1-2% who can change your life enough to keep weight off, dieting (as opposed to healthy eating) will only make your weight problem worse.  And it isn’t just psychological feelings of deprivation.

UCLA psychologists Traci Mann (right) and Janet Tomiyama analyzed 31 long-term studies on dieting. (Credit: Image courtesy of University of California - Los Angeles)
UCLA psychologists Traci Mann (right) and Janet Tomiyama analyzed 31 long-term studies on dieting. (Credit: Image courtesy of University of California - Los Angeles)

Dieting Does Not Work, Researchers Report

ScienceDaily (2007-04-05) — Dieting does not work, report researchers who analyzed 31 long-term studies on dieting. “You can initially lose five to 10 percent of your weight on any number of diets, but then the weight comes back,” said Traci Mann, UCLA associate professor of psychology and lead author of the study. “We found that the majority of people regained all the weight, plus more.  Sustained weight loss was found only in a small minority of participants, while complete weight regain was found in the majority. Diets do not lead to sustained weight loss or health benefits for the majority of people”

http://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2007/04/070404162428.htm#

  • The study was perhaps the most rigorously analyzed and most comprehensive of its type
  • At least one-third to two-thirds of people on diets regain more weight than they lost within four or five years, and the true number may well be significantly higher
  • The study underestimates how many people fail at diets since the failures are reluctant to return for follow-ups.  Many studies have less than 50% followup and rely upon self-reporting of weight levels.
  • Several studies indicate that dieting is actually a consistent predictor of future weight gain.
  • One study found that both men and women who participated in formal weight-loss programs gained significantly more weight over a two-year period than those who had not participated in a weight-loss program.
  • Even when you follow dieters four years after the diet, they are still gaining weight.
  • Exercise may be the key factor leading to sustained weight loss. Studies consistently find that people who reported the most exercise also had the most weight loss.
  • None of this means that eating healthy foods in moderation and exercise are not worthwhile.  You can be healthy and improve blood sugar levels or blood lipids.

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Time Article Misses the Point of Exercise in Weight Loss

An article by John Cloud, Why Exercise Won’t Make You Thin on Time.com misses the point of why exercise is important.  Time Exercise IssueIt is true that exercise only burns an infinitesimal number of calories.  If you are into the calories in, calories out frame of mind, you will need to exercise for 10 hours to cover a Big Mac.  20 minutes of jogging barely covers a small chocolate chip cookie.  It isn’t even a matter of converting fat to muscle:  if you converted 10 pounds of fat to muscle, you would be able to burn an extra 40 calories a day, which isn’t that much.  No, the reason to exercise is metabolic, and you need to match that with metabolic eating.

Say you eat an apple which is all sucrose and some fiber.  Half of sucrose is glucose and 76% of that burns off at the first pass while 24 % of it goes into the liver where most of it is stored as glycogen and the rest powers mitochondria for energy.   Maybe a half a calorie goes through the TCA cycle which will turn into VLDL cholesterol, used to store fat.  The other half is fructose of which 72% goes into the liver.  The breakdown products of this fructose in the liver is far more pernicious, including uric acid which causes gout and hypertension, but more importantly Continue reading Time Article Misses the Point of Exercise in Weight Loss

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Fructose, Sugar, Poison and Obesity

The video by Robert Lustig of UCSF is extremely interesting, but wonky. If you work in health care or are dealing with blood sugar issues, I highly recommend listening.   I do anyway.  But here are the highlights for the rest of you:

  • We have a worldwide epidemic of obese six month olds.  Yes, 6 months.  So it isn’t all about more food in and less exercise out.Baby with juice
  • Americans now eat 141 pounds of sugar per year, 63 pounds of which is high fructose corn syrup and over half of which is fructose in all forms.
  • A calorie is not a calorie.  Some calories are nutritious, some are merely empty, some are poisonous.
  • If we are consuming 275 extra calories a day compared to 20 years  ago, it is because our regulatory hormones like leptin are not stopping us.  We had as much food available 50 years ago, but less obesity.  Something in us changed.
  • And it isn’t our fat consumption, which has dropped.  Fat dropped significantly after 1992 when the food pyramid was established, suggesting we increase our carbohydrate consumption.
  • Continue reading Fructose, Sugar, Poison and Obesity

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Ten Things About Being Fat

Joy Nash
Joy Nash of Fat Rant

As someone who has dealt with obesity since kindergarten, when they pulled me indoors from climbing trees all day, I have dealt with fat, diets and fat fallout all of my life.  I was on Metrecal shakes in the third grade, and at 16 my Italian doctor was shocked at the diet pills my US MD had prescribed since age 14.  Every kind of diet- low fat, low carb, low calorie, Weight Watchers, fad diets, macrobiotics, non diets,- lots of exercise, hypnosis, EFT, and positive imagery was tried.  I know all the supplements, the portion sizes, the caloric values, the allergens and the energetics of foods.  And like most fat people I have had the will power to lose weight many times over.  Continue reading Ten Things About Being Fat

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Our Symbionts, Ourselves

Only 10% of the cells in our bodies are human.  Ponder that.  We BodyPolitic_HPhave easily a hundred trillion bacterial cells, not just in our gut but all over our body.  They make us work:  breaking down food into something we can assimilate, fighting infection, signaling our cellular processes, converting sunlight to Vitamin D, forming biofilms to protect us.   We have fungi that break down wastes, yeasts that ferment and transform extra sugars, worms that can prevent autoimmune disease.  Some of our bacteria themselves have viruses.  We are walking colonies of organisms in a human superstructure. Continue reading Our Symbionts, Ourselves

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Breastfeeding May Be Beneficial To Mothers, Not Only To Babies


(Schwarz, Eleanor et al. University of Pittsburgh. Quoted by the New York Times April 22, 2009)

Breastfeeding

A study from the University of Pittsburgh looked at the health history of 139,681 women and concluded that the longer women nursed their babies, the lower their risk of high blood pressure, high cholesterol, diabetes, and heart disease.  While mothers who nursed only one month had lower blood pressure and diabetes, those who nursed at least one year had significantly lower rates of cardiovascular disease as well.

Continue reading Breastfeeding May Be Beneficial To Mothers, Not Only To Babies

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What is the Glycemic Index?

Carbs

Most people with blood sugar problems have noticed that carbohydrates raise blood sugar, often followed by a crash. The various low carbohydrate diets- Atkins, South Beach, Anti-Inflammation Diet, and even the Zone- do somewhat better at weight loss compared to a low calorie diet, but really excel at keeping blood sugar levels stable, lowering triglycerides, lowering blood insulin, and even cholesterol.

But not all carbs are created equal:  a baked Idaho potato with a sprinkle of salt will send your blood sugar spiraling more than an equal weight of even ice cream or table sugar. Continue reading What is the Glycemic Index?

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What is Fatty Liver and How Can Chinese Medicine Help?

fatty_liver_diseaseFatty liver is now recognized as the most common cause of abnormal liver function tests in the western world. Around one in five persons in the USA has a fatty liver and it is poised to be as big a disease as diabetes.  Fatty liver is usually associated with abdominal obesity, insulin resistance and type 2 diabetes.  Fatty liver may be associated with or may lead to inflammation of the liver. This can cause scarring and hardening of the liver. When scarring becomes extensive, it is called cirrhosis, and this is a very serious condition which can lead to liver failure. Continue reading What is Fatty Liver and How Can Chinese Medicine Help?

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