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It’s official, the world is fat

I’ll have some fries with that shake.  Obesity is now a global trend.

Coming in from the WSJ:

The obesity epidemic is global: 2.1 billion people, or about 29% of the world’s population, were either overweight or obese in 2013, and nearly two out of three of the obese live in developing countries, according to a study released Thursday.

Let’s consult the checklist…
1. wrath (check)
2. greed (check)
3. sloth (check)
4. pride (check)
5. lust (check)
6. envy (check)
7. and gluttony (YES…CHECK).

That takes care of all the seven deadly sins, what happens next? Do we just keep eating until we blow up?  It might actually look that way, because according to all the charts, research and stats, the world population is not looking to trim the fat, but is actually plumping up even more.

The prevalence of overweight and obese people rose by 27.5% for adults and 47.1% for children between 1980 and 2013, according to the study, led by researchers at the Institute for Health Metrics and Evaluation at the University of Washington and published Thursday in the journal the Lancet. In 1980, 857 million people were overweight or obese.

The increases in overweight and obese people “have been substantial, widespread, and have arisen over a short time,” said the study, which analyzed data that included the heights and weights of people in 183 countries. Today, it said, 36.9% of the world’s men and 38% of women are overweight or obese.

Think that your country is immune to the fat trend, think again…

No nation reported a significant decrease in obesity during that period, said Christopher Murray, director of IHME. “The fact that no country has had a statistically significant reduction in the time period was a surprise,” he said, showing that policies to address the epidemic haven’t had an effect yet.

Why do we continue to get big and sexy? Well the fact is that we really do not know, but the usual suspects are at play including diet, physical inactivity, and the gut microbiome that affect metabolism.

Say that again…the gut micor-what?

Micky D’s may pack on the pounds, but a less publicised reason for the sharp increase in weight gain may be attributable to the gut microbiome, or in layman’s speak, the bacteria that lives in your gut to help you digest and absorb nutrients. You really are what you eat and your gut’s digestive bacteria shapes and adapts to be more like the food you digest.

From Scientific American:

Microbiologists have known for some time that different diets create different gut flora, but previous research has focused on mice instead of humans, leaving the actual relationship between our food and our stomach bacteria unclear. A new study indicates that these changes can happen incredibly fast in the human gut—within three or four days of a big shift in what you eat. “We found that the bacteria that lives in peoples’ guts is surprisingly responsive to change in diet,” Lawrence David, assistant professor at the Duke Institute for Genome Sciences and Policy and one of the study’s authors, says. “Within days we saw not just a variation in the abundance of different kinds of bacteria, but in the kinds of genes they were expressing.”

But why do we care about which critters are helping us digest our food? “The incredible quickness of this shifting is interesting,” David says, “for at least two reasons:” The first is evolutionary. These rapid changes, he says, could have been very useful for ancient humans. For hunters and gatherers, diet could be altered quickly and with little transition—weeks of nuts and seeds might be broken up by a sudden influx of meat from a successful hunt—and the ability to rapidly change the microbiome would ensure maximum nutrient absorption from even the most unfamiliar foods.

For modern humans, the rapid shift could be less adaptive. The 10 participants in the study switched to either a plant- or animal-based diet, with the former avoiding animal products and the latter eating milk, cheese and meat. In the subjects eating animal products the researchers saw a significant uptick in Bilophila wadsworthia, a bacteria known to contribute to colitis, a variety of inflammatory bowel disease, in mice. But the link hasn’t been studied in humans, so David does not think that cheese-lovers are necessarily eating themselves sick.

Its all connected then, inside and out. What we eat makes us fat forcing our digestive bacteria to adapt to our diet and through evolution, pass the dietary changes down the blood line. In other words, we are all likely to pump out fatter kids by default.

The world is moving in a dangerous health direction and physically we all can understand the repercussions. Economically it means soaring healthcare costs and more debt burdens shifted on to the fat masses.  While obesity has traditionally been linked to the prosperous west, the rest of the “third” world is catching up as WSJ points out.

Obesity is generally thought of as a disease of prosperity. Indeed, the U.S. had the heftiest population in 2013, with 13% of the world’s obese, according to the IHME study. And obesity rates are highest in the developed world.

But while North America and Europe stood out as the world’s heavyweights in 1980, increases in the prevalence of adult obesity there have slowed since 2006, and now “you see the share in the rest of the world going up very dramatically,” Dr. Murray said.

He cited South Africa as an extreme case: 42% of women are obese, meaning that a country battling malnutrition and a substantial burden of HIV/AIDS also grapples with chronic conditions linked to excess weight.

More than 50% of the world’s 671 million obese people live in 10 countries, the study said, ranking them in order: the U.S., China, India, Russia, Brazil, Mexico, Egypt, Germany, Pakistan and Indonesia.

One of the first things you will hear any card carrying red pill man tell a soon to be red piller is hit the gym. Men to focus now more than ever in bucking the obesity trend and working out, keeping a good diet and staying healthy and fit.  You owe it to yourself, your children, your partner, and your gut microbiome.

References:

http://online.wsj.com/articles/nearly-30-of-world-population-is-overweight-1401365395?mod=WSJ_hpp_sections_news

http://www.scientificamerican.com/article/the-guts-microbiome-changes-diet/

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