Thousands of Childhood Obesity Articles and Still No Solution

Childhood obesity articles published in prestigious journals such as Obesity, Obesity Research, Science, and Nature will inevitably tell you our kids are getting fat because they eat too many calories and do not exercise enough.

This fundamental assertion--which most of us, including this site’s authors up until two years ago, believe without question--turns out to be based on bad logic.

Yup. Everyone has screwed up. We will explain why.

Before we delve into why childhood obesity articles maintain that overeating/inactivity makes us fat, let’s dial back to something even more fundamental:

The Definition of Obesity

Most of us think of obesity as being too fat or having a high body mass index (BMI). But the technical definition may surprise you. It has nothing to do with BMI; it has to do specifically with a malfunction of fat storage.

As the lead author in a November 2009 article in Nature put it: “obesity is most simply defined as a state in which the total amount of triglyceride stored in adipose tissue is abnormally increased.”

Okay, that sounds technical. So let’s break it down. What this is saying is that when a certain kind of fat known as triglycerides fills up the fat cells of your fat tissue, this is by definition obesity.

Makes sense, right? After all, you accumulate fat in your fat tissue.

Notice: nowhere in the above definition is any mention of the word “calories.” Obesity is primarily a problem of storing too many triglycerides in fat tissue!

Now, the November 2009 Nature article cited above (along with other childhood obesity articles) will tell you later on that overeating and inactivity cause weight gain.

But, in doing so, these childhood obesity articles miss the primary point. Not to flog the horse here, but if you want to find out what causes excess triglycerides to get stuffed into the fat tissue, shouldn’t you ask this simple question:

“What regulates how triglycerides get stored in the fat tissue”?

And it turns out we know the answer. And the answer has nothing to do with calories! The answer is hormones. Specifically, the hormone insulin. When you have too much circulating insulin, this unbalances a cycle in the fat tissue called the fatty acid triglyceride cycle, causing you to store more triglycerides than get broken-up into fatty acids.

Insulin plays a major and undeniable role in the regulation of triglycerides in the fat tissue.

But, for whatever reason, obesity researchers who write these childhood obesity articles almost never mention insulin’s role in the regulation of triglycerides in the fat tissue!

Why?

The long answer would take thousands of pages.

If you are interested, we recommend the book Good Calories, Bad Calories by science author Gary Taubes, which discusses how we came to all believe in the theory that “calories count.”

The short answer is: “group think.”

Like a game of telephone, the notion that excess calories causes obesity spread through the scientific community, in spite of abounding evidence that contradicted it.

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10.18.11 Beyond Caloriegate Cover Art

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