Team McCallum

R&D for Lifetime of Life

Udiet: the battlefield.

2010 was stuffed with debate over the reasons why people in developed countries are getting heavier.

 The most simplistic explanations focussed on overeating, or inactivity, or both. HFCS (high fructose corn syrup) also came in for a beating. The problem with this is that Europe imports very little HFCS, but countries in Europe are reporting more and more problems associated with obesity. comes up with a much larger range of interesting possibilities. But in 2005, the New York Times linked this site to sponsorship from fast food producers such as Coca-Cola and McDonald’s, in this article.

Two reputable groups of scientists published work where they found that the mantra of ‘eat less and exercise more’ doesn’t cover all of the potential reasons.

 A government group in the UK called Foresight was asked to predict what will happen there over time, based on best evidence, and building in realistic assumptions. In order to do so, they had to scour published research to identify the drivers of obesity and build a very detailed model of which drivers are most important. Written in simple English, this is probably the best explanation there is of the obesity epidemic.

The full report is available as a free PDF download here. However, at over 160 pages, it won’t be everyone’s cup of tea.

The second group of scientists published a summary of obesity drivers in November 2009. Again, this is available free using this link.

Their findings outline the battlefield for the Udiet.

1. Overeating, particularly re heavily marketed energy dense foods.

2. Underactivity, again with an organisation driver behind it.

3. Infection caused by bacteria and viruses.

4. Epigenetics, whereby prenatal and early postnatal exposure to the environment alters how genes are expressed without changing the genes. For example, babies born very underweight at birth who are incubated and fed rich diets to catch up weight have a higher risk of obesity and associated issues later in life.

5. Increasing maternal age. Animal studies have shown that babies born to older mothers are fatter than those born to younger mothers.

6. BMI breeding effect. Studies have found that those with a body mass index somewhat above average are producing slightly more children, on average, than the rest of the population, causing the population BMI to increase over time.

7. Assortitative mating is taking place. This hypothesis is that those with higher BMI prefer partners of similar kind, and due to the genetic effect, this leads to even heavier children. A wide range of population studies support this idea.

8. Sleep debt is happening, and leads to increased eating, increased fat deposition and lowered activity. Research shows metabolic changes occur to support this, and also leads to higher risk of diabetes and heart disease. For example, one study shows that getting one and a half hours less sleep than ideal over a two week period results in a diabetic-like profile for glucose and insulin.

9. Endocrine disruptors interfere with estrogen and androgen signalling, and have been building up in the human environment for some time.  These have been found to be involved in obesity in animals and in humans.

10. Commonly used medicines are known to contribute to weight gain. These include medicines for diabetes, high blood pressure, steroids, contraceptives, and anti-histamines.

11. Artificial ambient temperature. The hotter your environment, the less energy you burn keeping warm. The UK home went from 13 centigrade in 1970 to 18 centigrade by 2000. US homes went from 18 centigrade in 1923 to nearly 25 centigrade in 1986.

12. Mothers input. The state of the mother’s glucose and insulin handling systems directly affect the number of fat cells and the fat cell content of the baby.

13. Reduction in smoking rate. The scientists considered this so well documented they excluded it from their list.

14. Altered US demographics. A 2006 article along the same lines had found that alterations in the US population were increasing the races which tend toward higher BMI, therefore  increasing the average BMI of the nation.

The aim of the scientists’ report was not to remove the first two reasons from focus, but to show that the battlefield is considerably more complex than simply food and exercise.

These 14 points are not comprehensive. For example, other researchers have found that altering the circadian rhythm, by staying up late in artificial light and not synchronising your body clock to early morning light, is also a risk factor for weight gain. Also, breastfeeding v formula milk wasn’t mentioned, although formula milk is associated with higher risk of obesity.


January 9, 2011 Posted by | Activity, BMI - body mass index, Breastfeeding, Child Health, CVD - cardiovascular disease, Diabetes, Environment, Epigenetics, Exercise, HFCS - high-fructose corn syrup, High blood pressure, Obesity, Pregnancy, Pregnancy, Success, Thermogenesis, UK, United States, Weight management | Leave a comment

Why chilis burn fat.

Dr Jong Won Yun’s scholarly study of rats fed the active ingredient in chilis – capsaicin – starts off with “It is well recognized that capsaicin increases thermogenesis through enhancement of catecholamine secretion from the adrenal medulla.” So it is not light reading.

Basically, the scientists from Daegu University wanted to find out why (not if) chilis burn fat, and drilled down into a detailed analysis of the reactions taking place in these rats versus those without capsaicin. Both were on a high fat diet.

This showed that at least 10 proteins were more frequent in the chili rats, while another 10 were suppressed. A number of these changes had not been discovered before.

All of the changes relate to the way the body processes fat, both reducing the laying down of new fat from food eaten by the rats and increasing the rate at which existing fat is burned up for energy.

The science is complex but – the scientists have moved on from ‘does capsaicin cut fat?’ to ‘why does it cut fat?’.

And those rats on a high-fat diet plus 10mg/kg bodyweight of capsaicin lost 8% of their bodyweight.

July 21, 2010 Posted by | Capsaicin - chillis, Diet, Jong Won Yun, Obesity, Success, Thermogenesis, Weight management | Leave a comment

To get slim turn the heat down.

Professor Jens Carl Hansen of Aarhus University has concluded in the journal Medical Hypotheses that people can lose weight by turning the heat in their surroundings down.

“While genetic changes have been discussed as a cause of the (obesity) epidemic, there has been too little time since its start to enable enough genetic adaptation to take place for this to provide a valid explanation. Traditionally positive energy balance and sedentary life style have been regarded as the primary causal factors; however, these factors have so far failed to provide explanations for the entire problem.”

Humans are known to burn white fat in brown fat tissue in order to maintain body temperature (thermogenesis).

Hansen looked at how we have heated up our home and work environments and concluded that this contributes to the obesity problem.

Turn the temperature down a bit and brown fat will work harder to keep body temperature up, burning off weight in the process.

April 7, 2010 Posted by | Brown fat - BAT, Jens Carl Hansen, Obesity, Thermogenesis, Weight management | 1 Comment