The news was littered recently with lively debate on whether obesity should be classified as a disability after the EU ruling that obesity is actually a disability.
This week I decided to poll about 20 people on this question and interestingly not one said it should be a classified as a disability.
The UK government’s definition of a disability states; “You’re disabled under the Equality Act 2010 if you have a physical or mental impairment that has a ‘substantial’ and ‘long-term’ negative effect on your ability to do normal daily activities”.
If are you are clinically obese, then there is no doubt you will meet the above criteria at some point in time. Even if obese people show little obvious symptoms, they may have underlying depression or related illness, low mood and low energy, sleep apnoea and breathing problems, which impact their day to day lives.
Mechanisms for addiction
All addictions (drugs, alcohol, food etc) follow similar paths from the beginning to fully blown addiction. Why does anyone resort to any type of vice in life? Well it usually has its roots in filling some sort of void in one’s life whether it be loneliness, low mood, financial problems, lack of self esteem, divorce, death in the family; these are all examples of how we turn to certain stimuli in an attempt to fill the void. In the case of obesity, high calorie (usually poor quality) foods in high quantities are the culprit.
Once the addiction, in this case food, takes hold, your brain chemicals and hormones have been hijacked by “foods” designed by scientists and chemists; these neuroscientists create “foods” with optimum amounts of sugar, salt, bad fats and artificial additives in the right proportions to hijack your reward/pleasure circuit in the brain, due to the release of large amounts of dopamine giving you the “feel good” feeling.
Unfortunately the “high” is short lived for reasons we can’t get into in this article, but refer to my other Huffington Post article, “Dopamine: The False Promise of Reward”.
Once obesity sets in there are many complex biological processes that take place; for example your hormone receptors stop receiving the signal from hormones because they have become resistant as a result of excess production and circulation of the hormone. Insulin resistance is an example, which is a result of excess carbohydrates (glucose) and this leads to obesity since the insulin receptors stop listening to the insulin signal to use glucose rather than store it as fat; the receptors have became resistant to the signal from insulin because too much insulin has been circulating for long periods as a result of excess blood glucose from mainly excess carbs.
Similarly your leptin hormone, which regulates appetite, energy balance and metabolism and resides in fat tissue mainly in the abdomen, can no longer be heard by the leptin receptor in the brain; therefore obese people’s brains do not actually get the signal to “stop eating, you are full” from the stomach. They are basically leptin resistant, which is a disaster because leptin resistance actually precedes insulin resistance.
Add in the stress hormone cortisol, which is elevated when the body is under stress (e.g. obesity) and the gut is suffering from inflammation, caused by scientifically designed addictive food, and you have the perfect storm for the onset of disease at some point in people’s lives. Why? Because leptin resistance, insulin resistance and high cortisol levels (adrenal fatigue) negatively influence the P53 gene, a main guardian of our genome, causing genes to become faulty and mutate, resulting in disease like cancers.
Who has fueled the condition?
If the Government are unwilling to guide people with accurate information without vested interests then what do they expect? Their “Eatwell Plate” (should be renamed to “Eatpoor”) is an example of poor advice; heavily biased towards high calorie, nutrient deficient carbs.
It was the third president of the USA, Thomas Jefferson who wisely said over 200 years ago;
“If people let the government decide what foods they eat and what medicines they take, their bodies will soon be in as sorry a state as are the souls of those who live under tyranny.”
What are the UK Government’s efforts to “improve” the obesity crisis? They recommend bariatric surgery, which is a dangerous and life changing procedure that ruins your ability to absorb nutrients and does not address the root causes, which led to the problem in the first place.
They also recommend Weightwatchers, which is a dinosaur in the diet world with their low fat, nutrient deficient, high carb and calorie restrictive diets; a recipe for an obesity disaster; it simply does not work.
They also prescribe obesity drugs that may work to a degree, but like most drugs they have side effects, limited efficacy and do not address the root causes.
What should they recommend? Counselling to address underlying issues, a programme to improve gut flora, proper insulin management to control insulin mainly through controlled carb intake; insulin is not called “the fat storage hormone” for nothing. They should also revamp the “Eatwell Plate”
What is the food industry’s response to “improve” the obesity crisis?
- Low fat dogma, which is blatant lies
- Processed foods high in carbs and refined sugars
- Whole grains, which are junk with a health halo attached
- Dietary toxins like wheat and industrial seed oils that cause leaky gut and obesity
- Artificial sweeteners, which interfere with your brain chemistry and appetite hormones
- Food labelling, which is archaic and pretty meaningless
- GMO foods cause the onset of obesity
- Trans fats and hydrogenated oils, refined vegetable oils, which all cause inflammation and resultant weight gain.
- Pesticides, which damage hormones, resulting in weight gain through various mechanisms.
Tests have shown that what a woman eats during her pregnancy is easily detectable in her amniotic fluid, and the foetus develops a taste for familiar flavours; if these are junk foods, the baby is off to a bad start in life by having key brain chemicals and hormones hacked by scientifically designed, processed foods. Here is a great article on this.
It could also be argued that obesity is also a mental condition, since people are using food to mask underlying problems in their life. However once obesity has taken hold, your body chemistry has been hijacked. Specifically your chemical messengers and their respective receptors are not working or have been effectively disabled in the case of obesity, which leads to other long term disease e.g. cancer.
The obese are easy targets for ridicule from Governments and manipulation from food companies which use it as a deflection tactic (people are eating too much and not exercising) to cover up their own inadequacies; they have effectively fuelled this crisis through the pursuit of corporate profits and tax revenues.
A combination of poor dietary information and lack of counselling services before and after obesity has taken hold, have exacerbated the condition. In a world of mixed messages from very savvy food marketers and Governments reluctant to level the playing field, what chance does the average person stand?
Obesity is a complex multi-factorial problem, with mental and physical impairments, and as such should be rightly deemed a disability; I think the EU are right on this one.