As we begin 2016, the global population has crossed a threshold where more persons are overweight or obese than are malnourished and chronically underweight. Assuredly nobody wants to ignore dire poverty, but outside of Africa and Southeast Asia, the major public health threat is overnutrition, not starvation. Once a problem of Western countries, obesity is rising to epidemic proportions in developing countries. And as obesity rises, so does inflammation.
Medically, obesity can be described as a state of low-grade, chronic inflammation. Immune cells infiltrate fat deposits: excess bodyfat causes hormonal disturbances and forces high concentrations of inflammatory biochemicals into the bloodstream. As the pounds go on, inflammatory conditions from asthma to arthritis crank up. Further, it’s thought that most cardiovascular disease originates from inflammation of the arteries, which is clearly exacerbated by excess bodyfat.
While this is frightening enough, political correctness has prevented the dissemination of bodyfat-induced inflammation’s most devastating side effect. Unfortunately, obesity also results in brain inflammation, which directly correlates with multiple cognitive deficits, mental illness and early-onset dementia. Imagine how chronic inflammation in your joints or airway prevents you from being as active as you’d like. Then think about how chronic inflammation of your brain may keep you from learning as much or fast as you’d like, and perhaps it’s causing depression, as well. Excess bodyfat is the leading cause of type 2 diabetes, and diabetics have an increased risk for early-onset dementia. This was thought to be caused by impaired circulation to the brain, but recent research also points to inflammation and insulin resistance in brain tissue as culprits.
We simply cannot go down a path where one-third of the world’s population is eating themselves into stupidity. There’s no curbing chronic inflammation or obesity without returning to a whole-foods diet. The most important steps are listed below. Never has our industry been more important, and we must lead in providing “brain-specific nutrition."
- Tripling our fish oil and seafood intakes, while greatly decreasing the amounts of high linoleic acid oils such as soybean oil. Monounsaturate-rich oils (olive, peanut, palm, high-oleic safflower) are better choices. No trans-fats, and low to moderate intakes of saturated fats.
- Quadrupling our vegetable intake starting in infancy and continuing life-long. Notice I’m silent on fruit: seedless watermelon and grapes are not a substitute for okra, spinach and green beans; they should be added to them.
- Minimum 1000 mg vitamin C per day for adults and 500 mg for children.
- Using bee pollen, green drinks, herbal supplements to fill in when diets are inadequate.
- PS: Caffeine counteracts obesity-induced inflammation. A topic for another day!
C. Leigh Broadhurst, Ph.D, is a research geochemist and geobotanist at a government agricultural research facility and a leading state university in Maryland as well as a consultant for Ark Naturals, a science-based natural pet products company. Her research publications span scientific fields from high temperature magmatic simulations to the origin of type 2 diabetes. In addition, she participates in a cross-disciplinary scientific collaboration which investigates the impact of brain-specific nutrition on the origin of modern human intelligence. The author of Prevent, Treat, and Reverse Diabetes, Broadhurst has been a lecturer and consultant in the natural products industry for almost 20 years.