Countless articles, books and videos about diet have been published around the world relating to what has been known for sometime now as ‘the obesity epidemic’.

Despite that, we are still debating what exactly causes obesity. Some say calories do not matter, that it’s the type of food we eat.

Some proponents of that theory say that what we eat determines not only our weight but also our general overall health. That, too, has been ongoing since the 19th century.

Kellogg’s attempted link between food and disease

Dr John Harvey Kellogg, a physician, was the co-father of the original breakfast cereals developed in the 19th century.

At first, Kellogg developed the breakfast cereals with his brother Will. They had a falling out over corn flakes, which, Mental Floss explains, turned into a lifelong feud.

First, there was the question of taste. John wanted them plain. Will thought a bit of sugar made them palatable.

Secondly, the brothers had differing views of sexuality. John developed cornflakes because he thought they would curb the sexual appetite, especially pleasuring oneself. Will had no interest in such associations.

It turned out the Will was the better businessman and founded the Kellogg Company, which continues to produce breakfast cereals worldwide.

Dr Kellogg, his brother, continued to promote his link between food and disease brought on by masturbation at his sanitarium in Battle Creek, Michigan:

Kellogg’s solution to all this suffering was a healthy diet. He thought that meat and certain flavorful or seasoned foods increased sexual desire, and that plainer food, especially cereals and nuts, could curb it.

Obsession with grains exists over a century later

Fast forward to the 21st century, and we are still obsessed with grains, although not quite in the same way as Dr Kellogg.

From the 1970s, corn has increasingly become a staple in American diets, much to the delight of farmers.

Corn can appear as a refined product, either in foods or snacks but also as corn syrup sweetener. Both have been linked to obesity.

In 2007, CNN reported on a plant biologist, Todd Dawson, who developed a hair strand test to see how much corn someone was consuming.

‘If we are what we eat, Americans are corn and soy’ offers an interesting insight into the old adage.

Dawson told CNN’s Dr Sanjay Gupta why he was interested in testing for corn (emphases mine):

We are what we eat with respect to carbon, for sure. So if we eat a particular kind of food, and it has a particular kind of carbon in it, that’s recorded in us, in our tissues, in our hair, in our fingernails, in the muscles,” Dawson says …

“We’re like corn chips walking because we really have a very, very large fraction of corn in our diets, and we actually can’t help it because it’s an additive in so many of the foods we find on the market shelves,” Dawson says.

Foods like ketchup, salad dressing, soda, cookies and chips all contain corn, usually high fructose corn syrup.

“I think where the danger comes in with corn is that much of the corn grown now in North America is going into making high fructose corn syrup,” Dawson says. “So it’s not that corn per se is bad, but it’s the sweetener made from corn that gets into many of the foods that Americans are probably consuming too much of, and we now see that showing up as obesity and heart disease and potential for type 2 diabetes.”

Dr Gupta wrote:

To be fair, researchers say we’re eating too much of all kinds of sugar, not just high fructose corn syrup.

Dawson tested Gupta’s hair:

69 percent of the carbon came from corn.

This may seem high, but it is typical for Americans.

Dawson said that Europeans eat far less corn and have fewer weight issues:

Dawson tested his own hair after three months in Italy: 5 percent corn.

However, the Corn Refiners Association in the United States rightly pointed out that many countries around the world are experiencing higher rates of obesity — corn or not:

many parts of the world, including Mexico and Europe, have rising rates of obesity and diabetes, despite having little or no high fructose corn syrup in their foods and drinks.

What about soy?

Dr Gupta’s article points out that the increase of soy in food products is also a concern:

Checking labels during a recent trip to the grocery store I found soybean oil in everything from tortilla chips to fruit syrup.

Dr. Joseph Hibbeln at the National Institutes of Health says that soy can produce health issues for those who do not eat enough healthy, especially omega-3, fats:

In recent years, a form of soybean oil has been the primary source of trans fats, which raises levels of LDL, or bad cholesterol, in our bodies and is thought to contribute to heart disease.

Our bodies need a balance of omega-6 fatty acids like soybean oil and omega-3 fatty acids like fish oil, Hibbeln says. Over the last century, our diets have shifted almost completely to omega-6 fatty acids.

“It’s quite likely that most of the diseases of modern civilization, major depression, heart disease and obesity are linked to the radical and dramatic shift in the composition of the fats in the food supply,” Hibbeln says.

Our brains are composed of fatty acids, and an absence of omega-3 fatty acids can actually change our behavior, according to Hibbeln.

Hibbeln’s research suggests diets containing omega-3 fatty acids found in fish reduce depression, aggression and anger, while improving mental well-being.

One man’s simple remedy

I owe a hat tip to Twitter’s unseen1 for both the above articles.

This is what he is adopting as an overall health plan:

Thank you for the common sense solution, unseen1: painless and practical.

As he says, if it doesn’t work, go back to junk food.

In closing, here’s a simple rule: ask yourself if your grandparents ate what you are about to consume. If not, leave it to one side.

Advertisements