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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.

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The other day, I responded to a comment on a conservative American website with regard to diet.

The context was in regard to the reform of Obamacare in the Trump administration. The initial comment referred to Speaker of the House Paul Ryan’s (R-Wisconsin) possible approval of a health auditor, a stranger, to visit someone’s house to assess a family’s lifestyle prior to their obtaining health insurance. Apparently, this is one health insurance idea that has been discussed before.

Ryan’s father died at an unexpectedly early age from heart disease. Consequently, Ryan focussed on diet and exercise to ensure he himself didn’t end up that way. It is thought that he also might well consider that a stranger going into someone’s home to assess their lifestyle — perhaps to check cupboards for snacks or alcohol and sniff walls for evidence of smoking — is entirely acceptable.

That is every bit as frightening as the Vault 7 Year Zero CIA document dump by WikiLeaks on March 7.

There are two things here.

The first is that, as a legislator, Paul Ryan will never have to be part of Obamacare or Trumpcare. He and his colleagues get a traditional health insurance plan.

The next thing is obesity, which Paul Ryan — a thin man — desperately opposes.

As I told the person on this particular conservative website, this notion of a healthcare audit is a plan for the ‘little people’. (They, in Ryan’s estimation, do not understand what their betters do. This, by the way, is Ryan’s ‘magnificent home’ in Janesville, Wisconsin. It has an extensive border fence around it.)

I further commented (same link):

To counter Ryan’s dictating to Americans on their health: my father also died of heart disease at an early age. So did his father, whom I never met. So have some of my friends in the present day. That doesn’t give the right to go around snooping in people’s homes as a precursor to getting health insurance!

Then, I discussed obesity:

Re obesity: severely limit or stop eating starch and sugar, eat more fat (including animal fat) and less protein. Watch the pounds roll off. It’s called the ketogenic diet, which is a permanent eating plan, not a fad diet. I’ve been on it for three years. I lost weight and stabilised. Cholesterol and triglycerides go down with keto.

As we know, there is a particular association between Americans and obesity. It is unclear whether this can be connected with the increase of obesity in other Western countries, because who knows how much corn syrup — rather than sugar — is in their food? Emphases mine below, not in the original comment:

Someone on here was talking about corn. It’s all the corn syrup used in place of sugar which also leads to obesity. Sugar makes you feel more sated than corn syrup. We owe the proliferation of corn syrup to the Nixon administration in the 1970s. Corn farmers, IIRC, had a glut of crop then, so were bailed out with companies producing corn syrup for commercial cake, cookie and candy manufacturers.

Note when obesity started to climb: the late 1970s to early 1980s. It was no big deal at the time. Most people attributed it to Americans giving up smoking. Although that was a factor, I would posit that the increase of sweet snacks and cakes made with corn syrup were a greater contributor — and continue to be today.

Yes, I know I should have said ‘was’ instead of ‘were’ in the last sentence, but only caught it now.

Regardless, that message got through. My sincere thanks to the moderators. I didn’t think anything of it until later. Now read on.

The commenter, with whom I was corresponding, replied:

Salty snacks like crackers and chips also contribute, along with soft drinks and the rest of our favorites (fast food, etc). Eat at home family meals with vegetables and salads have diminished with women working, divorces, unwed mothers with no Dad in the home, increase of addictions, etc.

I’m not in favor of a one-food group diet (animal fat/low carb) diet. Whole grains and vegetables/fruit contain important phytonutrients. Did you know heart attacks diminished in Britain, in WWII, despite the stress of the bombings, when sugar was rationed?

So, appreciating this reply, but differing because of my keto experience — and that of thousands of others — wrote back.

I retyped my reply twice. Both immediately went into spam. A subsequent message, on a different topic, went through, by the way.

The text below is similar to what was spammed. Once again, emphases mine below, not in the original comment. For the overweight:

All starch — whether salty or sweet, from carbohydrate to sugar — should be sharply curtailed or eliminated.

It should be noted that the ketogenic diet — a way of eating and not a fad diet — is not a one-food group diet. It works with a proportion (depending on the individual) of 50% fat, 35% protein and 15% carbohydrate per day. Vegetables should provide most of the 15% carbohydrate. The more you weigh, the more you lose.

Starch comprises bread, cereal, cakes, oatmeal, salty snacks (etc.). Sugars, including those in fruit, are also starches.

Corn syrup has replaced sugar in most sweet snacks. Corn syrup is less satisfying than pure sugar. Americans are eating more corn syrup in cakes, cookies and candies. Therefore, they are getting fatter because the corn syrup is less satisfying.

Eating more fat — including fat from cheese, eggs and dairy products, especially butter — will be more satisfying than eating starches or sugar.

I agree very much with your point on ready-made meals, however, another problem is that Americans — along with many other Westerners — eat five times a day.

I take your point that, during the Second World War, Britons got their nutrients from whole grain bread. However, they needed all the sustenance they could receive. They also had no central heating. They had to walk or ride bicycles to and from work. Rationing in the UK did not end until 1954.

Westerners live an entirely different lifestyle in the 21st century. They eat too many carbohydrates, including sugars — especially corn syrup products, which leave them less full than sugar would. They have heated homes and offices. They drive nearly everywhere.

Low fat foods are another problem. For a decent flavour profile, low fat needs to be offset with high sugar content, most often corn syrup.

My message must have had wording or syntax that instantly caused it to end up in spam — twice.

There is a political point about corn syrup that I want to make concerning the law of unintended consequences. No one could foresee in the Nixon administration that corn syrup would result in a national weight problem.

I know from experience. In the early 1960s, when I was five years old, I was a guest of a young friend at her house for Saturday dinner — pancake night. My mother always bought maple-flavoured syrup made with sugar. This family always bought corn syrup. I still remember eating a plateful of pancakes with syrup and feeling hungry before I went to bed that night. The hosts even told my parents that I had an incredible appetite for such a little tyke. Yet, that was the only time I was ever hungry after eating twice as many pancakes as I would have done at home. The only difference was the type of syrup.

Conclusion

If Americans were still eating sweets of any kind made with sugar, they would be of normal weight.

Corn syrup is making people fat. So are other starches. Anyone who wants to lose weight should try a low-carb high-fat — LCHF — eating plan.

For more information on the ketogenic diet, please read the following. If you are in any doubt or under regular care of a physician, seek medical advice first:

Does low animal fat intake increase hostility or depression? (a hypothesis)

Fat and a balanced mind (low-fat diets can imbalance serotonin and nerves)

Depression and anxiety: the perils of a low-fat, high-carb diet

High carbohydrate intake and depression

Depression and cancer: more evidence against a low-fat diet

High carbohydrate intake and depression (also epilepsy related [Dr Richard A Kunin’s paper])

High-carb, low-fat diets might cause Western diseases (cancer related)

Low-carb diet a migraine remedy

Low-carb, high-fat diets regulate testosterone, cholesterol levels

Ketogenic diet and gout risk — tips for success

Resources for the ketogenic diet

Low carb high fat diet primer

Dietary advice: the old ways are the best (my own story on the ketogenic diet)

High carb, low fat diets bad for brain health — and moods? (more testimonials for the ketogenic diet)

Whilst I cannot guarantee that my original correspondent on the conservative website will see this, I hope that others might find this of interest.

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