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Dr. Barry Sears
Dr. Barry Sears
President of Zone Labs
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OMEGA 3 BENEFITS

What Is Really to Blame for Our Bad Health?

Dr. Barry Sears
Zone Living

CBN.com Today, Americans spend more money on health care than anyone in the world, and the results are pretty dismal. By virtually every marker of national wellness, America ranks relatively low compared to other developed countries of the world. I believe much of this is due to the epidemic increase of silent inflammation in our society. The inevitable question is: who is to blame for this dramatic increase in silent inflammation and its negative impact on our wellness?

Technology
Ironically, the answer may be technology. We have become addicted to technology. Technology does increase productivity, but it also compresses time for simple human endeavors like preparing hormonally balanced meals and having the time to eat them at a leisurely pace. We’ve become a fast-food generation, and I’m not just talking about McDonald’s and Pizza Hut. It is the same technology that has given us instant oatmeal that cooks in one minute, instead of 30, sugary breakfast cereals, pre-made sandwiches for lunch and frozen dinners that are microwaved in seconds. “From scratch” cooking with raw ingredients has become a lost art in America because we have simply run out of time.

As a result, a growing number of Americans eat outside the home. Fast food restaurants exist because they prepare food fast, but other restaurants are not far behind in terms of speed. As a result, more than 50% of our meals are eaten outside the home. All restaurants have an overwhelming urge to please you so that you will visit them again. The easiest way to please is to give you a lot of food and use the most inexpensive ingredients possible. That means a lot of grains and starches and extra fat (primarily rich in what we term as pro-inflammatory omega-6 fatty acids) to make the food taste better. We have become victims of our success in the technology of agribusiness. We have the cheapest food in the world today, and as a result eat more and eat out more often.

Our Genes
Our survival as a species was highly predicated on our ability to store excess calories as fat to be used for a rainy day and to mount inflammatory attacks against alien microbial invaders. That was a great advantage during times of famine and when public health was nonexistent. But now the same genes conspire against us in our modern environment of plentiful food primarily composed of inexpensive high-glycemic load carbohydrates and increasing levels of pro-inflammatory omega-6 fatty acids. Together they have made inflammatory diets the norm in America.

The Role of Government
Blaming time compression caused by technology and our genes isn’t much fun, but the government is usually an easy target. The entire infrastructure of the American agribusiness community is based on grain and starch production. The grain lobbies are among the most powerful in the government. The Department of Agriculture is devoted to keeping those lobbies happy, and is far less interested in the impact of their policies on our nation’s health. That is why asking the USDA to develop the Food Pyramid is like asking the fox to guard the hen house.

The problem starts with subsidies to farmers. These were started in the depression to protect the family farm because a significant part of our population worked there. Today, these subsidies are nearly $20 billion per year although less than 1% of Americans work on farms. Technological advances of giant agribusiness corporations have replaced farmers. Agribusiness contributions have become the mother’s milk of politics. Government subsidies continue even though we produce twice as much food as we should be consuming. The question is why do these subsidies continue if we are producing too much food?

The two most powerful agricultural lobbies (and hence the beneficiaries of these subsidies) come from the corn and wheat lobbies. You don’t see a lot of corn consumed by Americans because the vast majority goes to feeding cattle and producing corn syrup for sweeteners. The wheat lobby is just as powerful. The primary use of wheat is for humans, but in the form of high-glycemic load foods such as bread, breakfast cereals, pasta, and bagels. Therefore, the only way to unload the excess wheat we produce is to get humans to eat more of the products that come from it. This is the other mission of the USDA: to make sure that Americans eat excess commodities. No one should be too surprised when the USDA eagerly promotes a Food Pyramid consisting primarily of grains and starches such as wheat and corn.

While the producers of wheat and corn products are living high on the hog of government largess, less than 1 percent of all governmental subsidies go to fruit and vegetable production. In fact, it is estimated that if even if Americans actually ate the meager amounts of fruits and vegetables recommended by the Food Pyramid, the current acreage would have to be doubled from that used in current production. This extra acreage would most likely have to come from acreage currently used for corn and wheat production—a highly unlikely situation.

Another large source of USDA subsidies goes to soybean producers, primarily to produce more soybean oil rich which is rich in pro-inflammatory omega-6 fatty acids. If there were a formula to create an epidemic of silent inflammation in America, then supporting the excessive production of both high glycemic-load carbohydrates and pro-inflammatory omega-6 fatty acids would be a sure-fire winner. But the USDA is not alone. They have an ideal partner in the processed food industry.

Processed Food Manufacturing
Subsidies from the USDA have made vegetable oils rich in pro-inflammatory omega-6 fatty acids and refined products (flours and sweeteners) from wheat and corn the cheapest food commodities in the world in terms of price per calorie. As a result the processed food industry has used every trick in the book to incorporate these cheap commodities into processed foods that not only last forever, but also have much higher profit margins. A large supermarket may contain up to 50,000 items, many of them consisting of processed foods using refined grains and cheap fats. The annual sales of such processed foods are about $175 billion per year. This number is frighteningly close to the $200 billion per year spent on prescription drugs in America.

The processed food industry in the United States is also the most technologically advanced in the world. They can make virtually anything out of cheap refined grains and vegetable oils. More importantly, they also know how to make them taste great. Here is another problem of processed food -- palatability versus satiation. Foods that are very palatable induce hunger (because they are rich in high glycemic-load carbohydrates and fats). Foods that induce satiety (control of hunger) are not very palatable. A candy bar is very palatable, but it doesn’t control your hunger very well. A plate of broccoli is very satiating, but not very palatable. Human nature drives us toward palatability, and the food industry has the rights tools (thanks to the subsidies from the USDA) to make exactly what we like to eat.

For people in lower socio-economic groups, the best economic decision is to buy food products with the greatest number of calories for the least amount of money. In the old days, it used to be rice, bread, and potatoes. Now it is processed food composed of refined grains, sugars and vegetable oils. In fact, the cost of fresh fruits and vegetables is 100-400 times greater per calorie than refined grains, sugars and vegetable oils. Asking the poor to buy more fresh fruits and vegetables to lower the glycemic load of their diets is, according to Adam Drewnowski of the University of Washington, the equivalent of “economic elitism.” It’s simply not going to happen. The underlying reason is that the USDA food subsidies keep the real prices of grains, starches and vegetable oil incredibly low. The processed food industry can then transform these commodities into extremely palatable and profitable foods.

The food industry has also taken a lesson from the tobacco industry stating that you are responsible for what you eat and that if you really want to lose weight then you should “eat less and exercise more.” What they don’t tell you is that you would have to walk for six hours to burn off the calories in one super-size McDonald’s Big Mac value meal. If Americans really did partake in the other part of that mantra to “eat less,” then in a short period of time the entire American agribusiness industry (as well as a significant portion of the processed food, grocery and restaurant industries) would collapse because they need as many people possible eating as much food as possible to make profits.

Are the USDA and the entire food industry the only organizations responsible for the current epidemic of silent inflammation? No, there’s one more unlikely suspect: the American medical establishment.

I Thought It Was Good for You
The road to hell is paved with good intentions. Unfortunately, the good intentions of the medical establishment to fight heart disease were ultimately based on bad science, and indirectly led to our epidemic of silent inflammation. Beginning in the 1950s an increasing number of medical researchers called for a war against fat because fat contains cholesterol. Dietary cholesterol was seen as the causative agent of heart disease (which it is not). And the solution was to remove as many sources of cholesterol (especially animal protein) from the diet, and replace them with fat-free carbohydrates (like grains and starches). If you were going to add any fat to the diet make sure it was omega-6 fats since they appeared to lower cholesterol. In hindsight, these dietary recommendations endorsed by the medical establishment were a sure-fire formula that set the stage for the epidemic increase in silent inflammation.

Nonetheless, the call for action from medical researchers, who knew very little of the hormonal consequences of food, was quickly taken up by a new generation of nutritionists, who knew absolutely nothing of the hormonal consequences of food. The nutritionists quickly mobilized themselves to spread the word that fat was bad and fat-free grains and starchy carbohydrates were good. They never understood that the more high glycemic-load carbohydrates you eat, the hungrier you become. And with increased hunger comes increased calorie consumption, primarily from eating more fat-free carbohydrates. This is why in the past 30 years the average calorie consumption has increased by some 300 calories per day. We are not more active, but simply more hungry.

Although the medical establishment was convinced that dietary fat and cholesterol caused heart disease, one clinical trial after another found virtually no evidence that eating less fat (or cholesterol) had any impact on heart disease. To line up political support—since there was little, if any, scientific support—for the war on fat, the government decided to arrange a “consensus” conference on dietary fat. Government scientists invited a disproportionate number of experts who agreed with the position that dietary fat and cholesterol caused heart disease, and, of course, a few who didn’t. Everyone gave his or her viewpoint, and then they voted. Not surprisingly, the conference issued the statement that if you lowered your intake of dietary cholesterol and fat, you would reduce the risk of having a heart attack.

The fact that there was no scientific study to support that statement did not deter the massive public health campaign to change the dietary habits of Americans. The USDA used this conference as a basis to validate their famous Food Pyramid, which is now recognized as faulty and misleading. As Walter Willett, chairman of the Department of Public Health at Harvard Medical School, has said about the USDA’s recommendations:

“The USDA Pyramid is wrong. It was built on shaky scientific ground.”

“The USDA Pyramid offers wishy-washy, scientifically unfounded advice… nor has it ever been tested to see if it really works.”

Not exactly a resounding endorsement of the USDA Food Pyramid from Harvard. Looking back, the USDA Food Pyramid ranks pretty close to the bottom as the worst government program conceived and implemented. This war on dietary fat and cholesterol was launched with great fanfare by the medical establishment and continues today. The weapons of that war against cholesterol were provided by the government (cheap fat-free high glycemic-load carbohydrates and pro-inflammatory omega-6 fatty acids) and the processed food industry (extremely palatable processed foods based on those cheap commodities). Little did anyone suspect that this war based on good intentions would undermine the health of millions of Americans by unleashing a new and frightening epidemic of silent inflammation that is fueled by obesity.

The newest version of the USDA Food Pyramid still ignores the role of glycemic load in the diet, but it at least recommends more fruits and vegetables. But the new guidelines are so loose that they don’t provide any useful information to reverse our twin epidemics of obesity and silent inflammation. It’s basically business as usual for agribusiness and processed food manufacturing industries. Any major change in the status quo would cause a political shake-up and decreased political contributions from the agricultural industry. And no one in government wants that to happen.

There is one final player in our drama of who is to blame for the epidemic of silent inflammation—us and our failure to heed our grandmothers’ advice on fish oil. Standard issue to virtually every child two generations ago was a daily dose of a tablespoon of cod liver oil. Although it still ranks as one of the most disgusting foods of all time, this dosage did provide about 2.5 grams of EPA and DHA, which provide significant anti-inflammatory properties. The day that parents in America stopped giving their children high-dose fish oil may have been the greatest public health disaster of the twentieth century. Our epidemic of silent inflammation is the result.

Am I pessimistic? Not really. You can’t solve a problem unless you know what actually causes it. Pointing the finger of guilt at the government, agribusiness, fast food restaurants, and the processed food manufacturing industry is easy to do, but misses the mark. The real problem is our lack of knowledge about how to take control of our health. Ultimately, you have to decide to take control of your future by getting your hormones back into Anti-Inflammation Zone.

The fastest and most efficient way to reach the Anti-Inflammation Zone is by following the OmegaZone™ Diet. High-dose fish oil is a critical part of the OmegaZone™ Diet—without adequate levels of long chain Omega-3 fatty acids provided by fish oil, your body suffers as inflammation begins to rise.

The only way to maintain lifetime wellness is to control inflammation. The OmegaZone™ Diet is simply the easiest and most consistent way to reach the Zone and stay there for life.


Excerpted from The Anti-Inflammation Zone - Reversing The Silent Epidemic That's Destroying Our Health. Copyright 2005 by Barry Sears, Ph.D. Used by permission.


*These statements have not been evaluated by the Food and Drug Administration. This product is not intended to diagnose, treat, cure, or prevent any disease. As with any natural product, individual results will vary.

For more information about Dr. Barry Sears, his incredible fish oil supplements, or the popular Zone Diet, please visit www.zoneliving.com.

If you purchase any Zone Labs, Inc. products, part of the proceeds support CBN ministries.

Dr. Barry Sears is a leader in the field of dietary control of hormonal response. A former research scientist at the Boston University School of Medicine and the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, Dr. Sears has dedicated his efforts over the past 25 years to the study of lipids and their inflammatory role in the development of chronic disease. He holds 13 U.S. patents in the areas of intravenous drug delivery systems and hormonal regulation for the treatment of cardiovascular disease.

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