Peter Attia – The real cause of obesity (TED Talk Summary)
December 3, 2019
Despite exercising three or four hours every
single day and following the food pyramid to the letter, I gained a lot of weight and
developed metabolic syndrome. I had become insulin resistant and insulin resistance is
when your cells get increasingly resistant to effect of insulin trying to do its job.
You can think of insulin as this master hormone that controls what our body does with the
foods we eat, whether we burn it or store it. Once you’re insulin resistant, you’re
on your way to getting diabetes, which is what happens when your pancreas can’t keep
up with the resistance and make enough insulin. Now your blood sugar levels start to rise,
can lead to heart disease, cancer, even Alzheimer’s disease. I got busy changing my diet radically
– I did this and lost 40 pounds, as you can see, I guess I’m not overweight anymore, more
importantly I don’t have insulin resistance. Most researchers believe obesity is the cause
of insulin resistance. But what if we have it backwards? What if obesity isn’t the cause
of insulin resistance at all? In fact what if it’s a symptom of a much deeper problem?
What if obesity is a coping mechanism for a far more sinister problem going on underneath
the cell? You can think of insulin resistance as the reduced capacity of our cells to partition
fuel. Taking those calories that we take in and burning some appropriately and storing
some appropriately. When we become insulin resistant, the homeostasis in that balance
deviates, so now when insulin says to a cell “I want you to burn more energy” The cell
in effect says “No thanks, I’d actually rather store this energy” The appropriate response
to insulin resistance may actually to be to store it as fat. Not the reverse. What I’m
suggesting is maybe we have the cause and effect wrong on obesity and insulin resistance.
Is it possible that insulin resistance causes weight gain and the diseases assocaited with
obesity? At least in most people? We know that 30 million obese Americans in the United
States don’t have insulin resistance. Conversely, we know that 6 million lean people in the
United States are Insulin Resistant. They appear to be at even greater risk for those
metabolic diseases I mentioned a moment ago than their obese counter parts. If you can
be obese and not have insulin resistance and you can be lean and have it, this suggests
that obesity may just be a proxy. What a cell trying to protect itself from when it becomes
insulin resistant? It’s more likely too much glucose – blood sugar. We know that refined
grains and starches elevate your blood sugar in the short run; Might be our increased intake
of refined grains, sugars and starches that’s driving this epidemic of obesity and diabetes,
but through insulin resistance and not necessarily through just over eating and under exercising.
Our current beliefs about obesity, diabetes and insulin resistance could be wrong and
therefore must be tested.