Sunday, March 3, 2013

First Reader: Diabesity

Diabetes and obesity together have been climbing to increasingly epidemic proportions throughout the world. Obesity is such a predictive measure for type-2 diabetes, through metabolic processes characteristic of the two, a new term, diabesity, has gain recognition among researchers.

It is easy to understand why these two conditions are becoming frightfully prevalent in our modern society when our metabolic relationship with food is considered. Adaptively, our bodies have been conditioned to deal with fluctuating energy availability under higher energy demands. Hormonally and neurologically our bodies are far more influenced by the drive to eat than the subtleties of satiety.

In a modern world, where food variety is common, sedentism is habitual and the neurological stimulation of physiological hunger is nearly ongoing, the diabesity statistics make sense. That is not to mention that our modern ‘fat-rich, fiber-poor’ diet is abruptly opposite of our ancestors’ Paleolithic diet.

While it makes plenty of sense to blame these conditions for the current crisis, I found it most interesting in the way food is marketed and available to us. Lieberman explains the how the way food is packaged, marketed and enhanced may deceive our bodies’ satiety-related mechanisms into eating more. People often consume a specific amount determined by how much is available. In many cases, what individuals assume to be normal serving sizes, greatly exceed USDA portion sizes (88).

In our society, consumers look for and expect more for their money and this most exceptionally equates to food. Thus ordering a meal in a restaurant that is three times the appropriate portion size is quite normal. It is experimentally expected for the individual to consume more of that meal than what is necessarily appropriate. Lieberman explains that this lack of sensitivity to satiation may have been evolutionarily advantageous so that eating continued whenever food was available (89). It seems only natural then that we would face this diabesity problem when we are evolutionarily urged to eat and more is always available.       


  1. I definitely agree with your focus on the way food is presented to us. It seems like no matter where we go, we are given food in ridiculous amounts compared to portion sizes. Serving sizes and calories are something I've been trying to become more aware of in the past year or so, and what I've noticed is just how normalized our overconsumption is. When I am in line at the dining hall, and I read the serving sizes for each item, I am shocked at how small the recommended servings are.

    Speaking of dining halls, most, if not all, dining halls on campus are run as buffets. Students pay a meal, and then can eat however much they want. What this can lead to is rampant overeating, since many people pile their plates full and then feel compelled to eat all that they grabbed. In the past few years of dorm life, I've had to learn to take only as much as I can eat, which sounds simple, but when presented with so much food, it is often hard to resist grabbing as much as you can.

    One interesting thing to consider is the prevalence of high fructose corn syrup (HFCS) as a substitute for cane sugar. There have been studies recently which have shown that HFCS doesn't properly activate the parts of your brain which tell you that you are full, whereas cane sugar does. If anyone has any comments or thoughts, or manages to find aforementioned study, feel free to post! I'll attempt to locate the study in the mean time.

  2. Paige, I also agree with everything you said; I myself mentioned similar things in my searcher’s post from last week.

    You said that it was most interesting that modern marketing techniques contribute to our society’s current diabesity problem – first of all, I’m wondering how it became this way that such unhealthy foods need to be sold to the masses. I suppose cost is a primary factor, but it can’t be the only one.

    But I thought it was more interesting that we are predispositioned, evolutionarily, to consume more than what is necessary. We are only in the beginning stages of realizing our modern problem so I don’t think we will be able to combat diabesity anytime soon. The fact does remind me of a television program I saw once that mentioned that local food specialties, (something like Italian Beef in Chicago or a Ploughman’s Lunch in England) that used to be eaten by field laborers has carried into modern life for cultural reasons, but doesn’t have as much a place today, nutritionally. I also thought it was interesting that, according to the chapter, diabesity is just as prevalent in India and China – a rare suggestion that the diabesity problem does not just exist in the Western world!

    Fortunately, Lieberman offers possible solutions for our diabesity problem, namely “early life prevention and pharmaceutical intervention” and alterations in food supply. However, I would think that medication and surgery to correct these things cost substantially more when, ironically, people are trying to get the most money out of their purchases by eating more than necessary.