The Skinny on Obesity

2013 ,    »  -   16 Comments
Ratings: 8.71/10 from 171 users.

What are the main factors that contribute to the obesity epidemic, and how can we halt the tide of weight gain before it disastrously alters the average life span of the human species? Renowned pediatric endocrinologist Dr. Robert Lustig, the author of the viral lecture Sugar: The Bitter Truth, has spent most of his professional career in search of these answers, and the documentary The Skinny on Obesity provides an eye-opening overview of his considerable efforts in this field of study.

For Dr. Lustig and his colleagues, obesity is our modern plague. "The reason we're in this epidemic can be summed up in one statement," Dr. Lustig contends. "That statement is a calorie is a calorie." In his view, mass-scale weight gain transcends this overly simplistic equation. Instead, obesity is more deeply rooted in the cultural and environmental factors that have worked to redefine our existence in recent decades. Our industrialized diet is designed to provide fast and cheap food on the go, and consists of unfamiliar ingredients and chemicals manufactured in highly profitable food laboratories. These products thrive in the global marketplace because they serve a culture that prides convenience over healthy nourishment, and sedentary lifestyles over physical activity.

Beyond all other considerations, however, the one factor that proves most detrimental to our health is sugar. The presence of these sugars is particularly insidious in foods that advertise low calorie content, since they are often used to supplement a deficiency of taste. Therefore, the high volumes of sugar in the vast majority of processed foods unarguably prove that a calorie is definitely not just a calorie. "Sugar is 50 times more potent than total calories in explaining diabetes rates worldwide," Dr. Lustig explains. It is also the main culprit in the development of metabolic syndrome, and the resulting cases of Type 2 diabetes, heart and liver disease, hypertension, dementia, and cancer which accompany it.

The Skinny on Obesity offers a wholly convincing argument on the dangers of sugars, and sheds light on the means by which we can combat its prominent threat to our well-being. In the larger sense, the obesity epidemic has resulted from a destructive shift in our culture, and solutions may only be met by redefining our relationship to the foods we eat.

16 Comments / User Reviews

  1. LostHearts

    "For decades that 'calorie is a calorie' myth was all that was being taught. Gradually, research has proven that, like everything about the human body, nothing is that simple. The concept of losing weight: Burn more calories than you take in" is also a very simplistic way of looking at things. There are so many reasons why people can or can't lose weight, and much of it is out of people's control.

    If there is one thing we need to learn, it is that our bodies are hugely more complex than we ever could have imagined.

    For years, who knew the dangers of sugar? We grew up eating it in many shapes and forms, sugar laden goodies were given us as treats, and Halloween became the sugar fest of the year. It's no wonder our bodies started going crazy. :(

  2. Diane Whitedove
  3. Diane Whitedove

    This could have been kept very "sweet" and simple eat whole fruits and raw vegetables thereby getting all the fiber and nutrients needed and exercise! end of story....carb the F up! eat 10% healthy fat.

  4. Lz_erk
  5. Lz_erk

    Lovely stuff, and maybe the most informative movie I've seen on the subject, but it's hard to pay attention to someone who follows up "we can't just control behavior [because it's an individual complex biochemical system]" with "oh, but we should regulate the hell out of it."

    There's nothing in here about how the ag industry has been locked into a vicious cycle, and nothing about how we might convert the massive monoculture infrastructure to something better. You can skip the last 15 minutes if you aren't into political propaganda [from the left, if that matters at all]. I'm a firm believer in voting, but if you really want to make a difference, go plant some fruit and nut trees. Politics and corporations will get the message by the time you start cracking your walnuts.

    Edit: oops, there's more info at 54:00. /rant

  6. barryevans
  7. barryevans

    Lustig is a grandstanding alarmist, claiming sugar is causing “the biggest public health crisis in human history. It’s bigger than the bubonic plague, the flu, and AIDS.”
    (The Black Death killed around 40% of Europeans; the 1919 flu pandemic more than were killed in WW1, 80-100 million.)
    He says, “Sugar is the most destructive force in the universe.” The universe?!

  8. Paul Mitchell
  9. Paul Mitchell

    Lustig is not "a grandstanding alarmist". I think you misconstrue his metaphors and need to actually alert people to this actual crisis. In the same way that many chemicals have not been tested for long term affects on human health and are now slowly and insidiously starting to have extremely negative impacts on ourselves and the environment, so to the effects outlined in this
    video are slowly but surely progressing to huge proportions.

    Comparing the overall population of people worldwide
    only a relatively few number of people are and have been effected by the Aids epidemic - proportionally speaking.
    However, the obesity described in this video is all pervasive - I've lived and
    worked in Asia (China, Japan and Korea) and Europe and visited quite a few different places in Europe; as well as visited Africa. Of course live in North America. I see the same thing wherever I go - even in countries where people have always been known for usually having thin, small statures among the general populations of people - but things are different from what they used to be.

    When I was a young person 35 years ago only very occasional people were obese or overweight. Today It is rapidly becoming the exception - not to be obese or at least overweight.
    They've even started to glamorize obesity in the fashion, entertainment and
    model industry (because that is where the profits are) - if
    the majority of the population are overweight today then they will advertise
    and market to appeal that portion of the population - playing on their emotions
    rather than the neocortex of the brain (logic/common-sense). it is becoming the
    "Norm". It is an epidemic.
    The pure scientific evidence offered in this video presentation is not open to emotional debate or shame-based wishful thinking.

  10. Blaice
  11. Blaice

    Well done overall, but yeah, little emphasis on just eliminating fast food completely, and only consuming whole foods with LIMITED ingredients (if processed at all). If the industrialization of food never happened after WWII the obesity rate would be a fraction of what it is now. He did an excellent job not bastardizing all carbs, but rather focusing on fructose and explaining how glucose is necessary. I do believe that more about food physiological effects should have been mentioned though. Such as, phytochemicals bound to carbohydrate structures that induce healthy physiological reactions, but fiber is a good enough summation I suppose, and of course satiation is necessary for a healthy lifestyle and coincides with such.

  12. barryevans
  13. barryevans

    Metaphors? I think you mean, hyperboles. Anyone using his OTT language has forfeited his credibility.

  14. Jon
  15. Jon

    The subject got to include the culture shift directly affected by the modern conveniences of automobile, TV and PC, etc. Transportation and communication have altered human activity and people burn less calories due to the progress and development these delivered.

  16. max
  17. max

    I doubt sugar is the real problem. Sugar is a fuel and found in whole foods like fruit and vegetables. The problem is never a simple as just labeling one ingredient. More likely the problem has less to do with sugar and more to do with the slew of unreadable ingredients that accompany sugar in processed foods.

    It is also a known fact that sugar does not cause cancer. Cancer cells need glucose to thrive like any cell, it's just that they need more of it because they grow more rapidly than healthy cells. There is no cause and effect however to suggest that eliminating sugar from the diet kills cancer cells.

  18. adam
  19. adam

    "Sugar is the only food on the planet that is both fat and carbs at the same time. Olive, avocado. There is no food stuff on this planet that has both fat and carbs at the same time" Nonsense. Just look at nutritional info for avocado or olive. Both have bit of both, carbs and fat. This "documentary" has lost its credibility after this statements, not worth your time.

  20. Alexander
  21. Alexander

    @max: You're wrong, eliminating sugar from the diet does kill cancer cells. When carbohydrates are missing, healthy cells start metabolizing fatty acids for energy. Cancer cells on the other hand, which are healthy cells that have mutated, have dysfunctional mitochondria which are unable to metabolize fat. In other words, the cancer cells rely on glucose and without them eventually starve to death. Look up the German biochemist Otto Warburg, he made this discovery in the 1920's.

  22. Mike sheppard
  23. Mike sheppard

    Brilliant documentary. I've come to the same conclusions doing my own research but it is explained really well! Great job.

  24. Guest
  25. Guest

    I agree with is main point, that we shouldn't be eating as much sugar. But along the way, he lost me with a lot of inaccuracies. He claims, for example, there's no food in nature that has both fat and carbohydrates, and gave coconut as an example, claiming it has no carbohydrates. In fact, half a cup of shredded coconut has 12g of carbs and 27g of fat. A lot of other foods have both fat and carbohydrates too - such as milk, yogurt, nuts, and seeds. He also claimed no one mixed fats and carbohydrates in the same food until the 20th century, which is also wrong. There are tons of very old, traditional dishes that have both fat and carbs in them. Mixing fats and carbohydrates doesn't explain rising obesity rates.

  26. Jimmy
  27. Jimmy

    Adam , I think you got a bit lost in translation.
    His intention was to say that sugar is fat and carbs as it is basically a 50/50 split so it is neither one or the other but both the same time . Coconut, arvo , banana etc are biased in there make-up and are listed accordingly.
    If a horse was half black and half white you would have to say the horse is black and white.
    If it was a black horse with a white tip on its nose it would for most intents and purposes still be called a black horse.

  28. Will
  29. Will

    The documentary lost me once he said no food has both carbs and fat, and then lists avocados, olives, and coconut. All three contain carbs and fat. They are high fat fruits, but all fruits contain carbohydrates.

    @Jimmy, I think you are confused about what sugar is. Sugar (glucose) is only a carbohydrate. It is the smallest form of a carbohydrate. The problem is not with eating sugar. It's nearly impossible to completely avoid sugar. The problem lies with eating sugar alone, i.e. soda or baked goods. When this sugar is digested it immediately floods the bloodstream and the body has a hard time keeping up with this. However, when eating a fruit (which contains a fair amount of sugar) you are getting fiber and other nutrients. This helps slow the carbohydrate metabolism and allows to body to digest the carbs steadily, instead of all at once.

    Imagine wanting only 15 cents in nickels, but you have a quarter. To get the nickels you have to breakdown the quarter into smaller parts--giving you 2 dimes and a nickel. To get the last 2 nickels one of the dimes must be broken down into 2 nickels. Now we have the 3 nickels we want. This is a slow process that happens over time. This is equivalent to consuming sugar from a fruit.

    Now imagine the same scenario, but instead of having a quarter you have 5 nickels. That's more than the 3 nickels we want. We have already met and surpassed our goal. This is a very fast process and nothing needed to be broken down into smaller pieces. This is equivalent to consuming sugar from a soda.

  30. Alex Young
  31. Alex Young

    The obesity epidemic must be blamed on the FAST FOOD INDUSTRY and the HAND HELD GADGETS occupying people day and night. When you eat processed, refined, and manufactured food continuously day in and day out, your busy 24/7 with the electronic gadgets you hold in your hands and you do not move your body = you are and become a glutton and a sloth with an obese stomach and grobin tuchas! What's so difficult to understand?

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