I feel blessed to have had a front row seat to observe the remarkable advances in technology that have taken place over the past century. During this time, we went from traveling by a horse and buggy to just about everyone owning and driving their own automobile. My dear father worked on the Apollo space project that put a man on the moon, and today we have Elon Musk shooting rockets into space. Elon also gave us electric vehicles, and an endless stream of Tweets! Steve Jobs gave us the iPhone where all the knowledge of mankind is stored on a device the size of a deck of cards. Andrew Weinreich gave us the gift of social media, and Mark Zuckerberg ran it into the end zone with Facebook. My previous wife passed away from chronic myelogenous leukemia (CML). At that time the mortality rate was close to 100%. Today the disease is completely curable using a miracle drug called Gleevec, developed by Brain Druker. There have been many similar success stories in all areas of medicine. We now have artificial intelligence in the form of ChatGPT. I just downloaded this program to my iPhone, and my 9-year-old daughter loves it because she can finish her homework in less than a minute! This same program has somehow managed to pass the medical school entrance exam, and who knows what’s next? We now have 3D printing that can make just about any physical object you can imagine.
Obesity—The Only Exception to These Modern Miracles
The list of modern miracles goes on and on, except for one big exception: obesity. Over the same period that we have witnessed the above technological revolutions, the rate of obesity in humans everywhere on the planet has skyrocketed. The current prevalence of obesity in the United States is over 42% based on body mass index (BMI) measurements. My recent blog on the topic points out the problems with using BMI to diagnose and manage obesity. Obesity is defined as excess body fat, so the scientifically correct way to diagnose obesity is to measure body composition. In my medical practice I took over 10,000 such measurements over decades. Because BMI tends to underestimate the true rate of obesity, the incidence of obesity in this country is likely over 70%. Because metabolically-active visceral fat is much more dangerous than subcutaneous fat, combining waist to hip ratio (WHR) with body composition measurements is likely the best way to access the health risks of obesity. It’s obvious that we have a worsening worldwide healthcare disaster washing over humanity. With all our modern technology and scientific advancements, why the heck haven’t we solved this serious problem?
Who’s Driving the Obesity Bus?
Regardless of the exact definition of obesity, virtually everyone recognizes that the incidence of obesity continues to increase despite our best efforts to overcome the problem. If you hope to fix a medical problem, you first must understand the underlying pathology of the problem. For years obesity was defined as an energy imbalance—too many calories consumed, and not enough calories burned through basic metabolic rate and activity. The medical profession spent years promoting this idea and pushing calorie restriction and exercise as the cure for obesity. There’s only one problem with this approach. Although short-term weight loss often occurs, usually the weight is regained at some point in the future, resulting in no permanent weight loss. Even worse, weight often rebounds to a higher level than the person’s baseline. The CDC proposes that the following factors are driving the obesity bus:
- Eating patterns (too much food, too much highly-processed food)
- Inadequate sleep
- Social determinants of health
- Certain medications
- Lack of physical activity
I think they forgot to include howling at the moon! The obesity experts that I refer to as “fatheads” have used these factors in designing treatment protocols for obesity. How far have the fatheads managed to reverse the obesity trend? Zippo, nada, zilch, nothing! The incidence of obesity is clearly going in the wrong direction. From a scientific standpoint, what does that tell us? That the fatheads have yet to understand the true underlying pathology driving the obesity bus, and I’m here to fill in the gaps!
Diet Induced Brain Dysfunction: CARB Syndrome
I developed my own perspective on the pathology of obesity by following the science. For decades I measured the body composition on every patient at every visit, eventually taking over 10,000 such measurements. I also had an interest in neuroscience, and over time I noticed a strange correlation between certain brain dysfunction symptoms and changes in body composition. It soon became clear to me that when it comes to fat storage, Mother Nature set it up so that the brain is driving the fat bus. This seems to fit the pattern of a disease that I named Carbohydrate Associated Reversible Brain syndrome or CARB syndrome. The 22 symptoms of CARB syndrome overlap with many traditional brain and psychiatric disorders. Patients with CARB syndrome are often misdiagnosed with these conditions, and are treated with medications that don’t fix the problem and often cause more fat storage. In other words, you would end up with a complete medical mess as we are now experiencing throughout the developed world!
Toxic Highly-Processed Food
Over time I discovered that highly-processed food is the primary trigger of CARB syndrome. This type of food has three main components:
- Excess fructose mainly from added sugar or HFCS. HFCS is the worst.
- Excess high-glycemic carbohydrates with very little fiber
- Excess omega-6 fatty acids relative to omega-3 fatty acids
This type of food produces glucose spikes and crashes that lead to the depletion of monoamine neurotransmitters like dopamine and serotonin, leading to the symptoms of the disease. I learned that by providing the precursors like L-tyrosine and 5-htp which needed by the brain to make these neurotransmitters I could suppress the 22 symptoms of CARB syndrome. As a bonus, patients would automatically start to lose excessive body fat at virtually any caloric intake. I outline this disease process in more detail in my book “Brain Drain”. Years ago, I developed my own supplement called CARB-22 to effectively prevent or reverse this disease process. When you effectively treat CARB syndrome, there are two primary outcomes:
- Body composition improves with loss of excess body fat regardless of caloric intake.
- Brain function returns to baseline.
Don’t get me wrong. I fully accept that obesity is an extremely complex topic. Numerous research studies have clearly shown that weight lost from any dietary change or exercise program is eventually regained over time. The weight often rebounds to even higher than it was originally.
My friend and colleague Robert Lustig brings up a very salient point when it comes to diet and obesity. He states, “First fix the food”. You can effectively reverse CARB syndrome and lose excess body fat by following my plan and avoiding highly-processed food, but what about the other eight billion people on the planet? Are we going to allow them to be flushed down the toilet? If we are going to have any hope of reversing the world-wide epidemic of obesity and brain dysfunction, we need to completely revamp the food industry and our food supply. I would start by banning high-fructose corn syrup (HFCS). This challenge will take a massive amount of hard work. I’m game, but what about you?
Follow the Science
The above factors listed by the CDC as the causes of obesity do play a role in the pathology of excessive fat storage. In my opinion, they only do so after the CARB syndrome disease process has triggered pathological fat storage. Thus, they should be considered secondary triggers of obesity. You will never fix obesity by just focusing on these secondary factors. First treat the primary pathology that is driving the obesity bus–CARB syndrome, and then go to work on these secondary triggers. It ain’t rocket science, but it is science!
Note: I would like to thank my friend and high school classmate Andy Steinfeldt for helping to edit this post.