As a nation the UK is slowly getting fatter to the extent that obesity is becoming an epidemic. It appears that as a more developed nation we do not succumb to diseases related to malnourishment as we see in lesser developed nations. Our problem with obesity is related to excessive consumerism. We are eating more food than we need, it is more available everywhere to the extent the average person is eating 200 more calories than we need per day.
In recent months it seems like the increasing levels of obesity in the UK has corresponded with a rise in the number of TV programs focusing on the subject.
First up was The Biography Channel’s program on the Chawners, a family in the UK who happen to be obese, unemployed and suffering from multiple health difficulties that are attributed to their life style. The show has attempted to literally save their lives and the programme focuses intently on the two obese daughters.
The same channel’s second attempt to tackle the subject of obesity focused on My Big Fat Operation. The new series looks at people suffering from dangerous levels of obesity, and their lives before, during and after bariatric surgery. This form of surgery involves a stomach bypass and having a gastric band put in.
The most recent take on the topic came in episode 11 of the current series of the BBC TV documentary Horizon. The show, titled The Truth About Fat, delves deeper into the scientific myths surrounding obesity. In the program, surgeon Gabriel Weston learns the truth about why so many people are becoming overweight in Britain. In addition to dispelling the obesity mths, Weston also discovers what can lead to people becoming oberweight.
To begin, the investigation takes Weston direct to the source of where this form of fat develops by performing surgery on the carcass of a pig to help show where fat causes problems in humans. Having cut the pig open, she shows our audience that a lower layer of fat known as visceral fat that forms around the stomach is the fat that causes people to put on weight. Visceral fat accumulates when we eat too much food. It is this form of fat that increases and can lead to both diabetes and heart disease.
Weston continues to delve deeper into the issue of obesity as she asks what controls our desire to eat. The answer is attributed to hormones Ghrelin and a PYY Control that are in charge of our appetite and weight. These are the hormones that can talk to the brain and tell it how much food we need to feel full.
Weston engages in an experiment where she eats a meal, and then is asked not to eat until the next day. This is an extreme problem for her will power as only a few hours after eating she is distracted by how hungry she is. Her change in hormones after she had eaten food meant that food was all she could think about.
Given 24 hours, Weston immediately attacks the sweetest fattiest meal on the table and her hunger hormone starts falling. The fullness hormone shoots up when she eats and she feels instantly well again. However, if we look at the fullness hormone in an obese person that hormone is never released so that person is driven to eat more.
I would argue as a nation the UK is quite fattest, and it is very easy to label obesity as a problem that develops as a result of a lack of exercise, overeating and a poor diet. This latest episode of Horizon suggests that obesity can be the result of other factors. These include the mother’s choice of food in take during pregnancy. So in theory, a mother’s lack of food in take during pregnancy can force a child to have to eat excessively once born to curb this pre natal tendency developed in the womb.
So given these scientific discoveries about what makes people obese we should be perhaps a little more understanding of these people who as science shows, can’t help the amount they want to eat. Perhaps therefore we should be a little more acceptant of the gastric bypass, the last resort an obese patient has when they want to make a change. Although the operation is expensive it maybe a better resort to remaining obese and then encountering problems along the way while overweight like heart disease and diabetes.
Horizon: The Truth About Fat is available on the iPlayer (UK only) for three weeks so please watch and tell me your thoughts.