New research confirms that being on a western diet leads to overeating and then to obesity. The reason for it is the elevation in ‘peripheral endocannabinoid signaling.’
Western Diet – What is it?
The western diet is generally high in sodium, fats, simple carbohydrates and low in potassium. Many types of researches and studies suggest its link to diseases, including atherosclerosis, type II diabetes, hypertension, cardiovascular diseases, and obesity.
The western diet or American standard diet, characterized by higher intakes of:
- Red Meat
- Processed meat
- Processed foods
- High fat dairy products
- Refined grains
- Fried white potatoes (like french fries)
- High sugar beverages
In contrast to healthy diets, the western diet lacks:
- Whole grains
Overconsumption Of Processed Foods
“The biggest features of a Western diet are overconsumption of over-refined sugars, highly refined and saturated fats, animal protein and a reduced intake of plant-based fibers,” told Ian Myles to CNN, from the U.S. National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases.
For the first time, work describes how overeating is associated with chronic consumption of a western diet by an enhancement in endocannabinoid signals generated in peripheral organs.
According to research, the endocannabinoid system, which is located throughout the mammalian body, including the brain and all peripheral organs. It participates in the control of many physiological functions in the body, including food intake, energy balance, and reward.
It is composed of lipid signaling molecules called endocannabinoids which could be thought of as the body’s own “natural cannabis” that bind to cannabinoid receptors on cells throughout the body.
To put it simply, peripheral endocannabinoid signaling is activation of the central endocannabinoid system increases food intake and promotes weight gain.
The endocannabinoid system in the human body, including the brain and all peripheral organs. It controls many functions in our bodies like energy balance, food consumption etc.
If The Western Diet Is So Bad, Why Does It Persist?
Last 100 years have seen more changes than ever. Everything is industrialized and so is food. Food companies around the world are loving the industrialization and ever rising sales.
These companies process food in large quantities, package them and bring it straight to our tables. We love it because it is convenient, fast and cost-effective and food companies love it because they can re-engineer their food products to changing trends and nutritional understanding.
For example, when low-fat diet becomes a craze, food companies can easily re-engineer dairy products, sauces etc. and come up with a low-fat variant. Whereas the same is not possible with whole foods like avocado. Avocado is avocado, you cannot re-engineer it and make it something else.
Processed food gives an enormous edge to food companies, they can offer different flavors, variants to suit different palettes and preferences of consumers. This is where they make lots of money. More the merrier. Start analyzing food TV commercials and you will have a fair idea on the amount these companies spend and how much they make.
For most people, western diet is convenient, cheap and delicious. A plate of pasta made from hybridized wheat, processed cheese, and tomato sauce might be very convenient and tasty, there is something which is not right.
Expert View On Western Diet
Indeed, these foods are much more of a curse than a blessing. Numerous studies attribute industrially processed foods to a long list of diseases which could impact your health negatively.
- Processed foods encourage weight gain and chronic disease
- They are high in sugar, fructose, refined carbohydrates, and artificial ingredients
- They are low in nutrients and fiber
- Processed foods are addictive and designed to make you overeat
- They encourage excessive food cravings leading to weight gain
- Eating processed foods promotes insulin resistance and chronic inflammation
Overconsumption of processed animal products like meat, milk, cheese etc and processed grains are the main culprits of the western diet. To top it up, we have sugary beverages including juices.
Foods like meat, fish, milk, dairy products, eggs, poultry, are all nutritious and good for our health. They are also part of our daily diets.
Though this food group is essential, there are three issues why it impacts western diet.
1- Over consumption of these foods compared to what is needed
2- This food group comes from industrialized animal farms fed on GMO food full of pesticides and antibiotics. There are many studies which have indicated that such foods are not a healthy source of food for human consumption
3- Processed foods like hot dogs, sausages, cheese, burgers, flavored yogurts, creams are all loaded with sugar and chemicals, additives, preservatives, artificial colors etc.
Processed grains like white flour is the second most harmful part of the western diet. The process strips away germ and bran from the grain. It also looses major nutritional aspect including Iron and vitamin B.
The whole process makes the flour devoid of fiber which is so essential for gut bacteria and easy passage through the large intestine.
Western Diet Increases The Risks Of:
There are many studies which have linked certain cancers like colon, prostate to the western diet. This diet increases your risk of dying from it by 2.5 times.
According to a study at The University of Texas MD Anderson Cancer Center, high amount of dietary sugar in a typical western diet increases the risk of breast cancer and lung metastasis.
Harms Gut Bacteria
A study published in the journal Scientific Reports suggests that the western diet created an overgrowth of pro-inflammatory bacteria (such as E. coli), a decrease in protective bacteria and created a specific inflammatory environment in the gut.
And they also found that the Western diet led to an exacerbation of gut inflammation following chemically-induced colitis
So beware, a diet high in processed foods like meats, refined grains, and sugary beverages can cause the good bacteria in your gut to be pushed out and exposing you to the ones which are not good.
Increased Risks Of Obesity and Type2 Diabetes
There are no doubts that obesity is one of the top ill effects of western diets, combined with the sedentary lifestyle leads to diabetes.
If the figures are to be believed, WHO states, there are 600 million obese globally and almost 2 billion overweight adults knocking at the doors of diabetes.
What experts suggest
Your diet plays a vital role in your overall health. What experts suggest people make responsible food choices and be aware of what they eat.
According to Valter Longo, director of the Longevity Institute, the University of Southern California”People need to switch to a diet where only around nine or ten percent of their calories come from protein, and the ideal sources are plant-based,” as told to the Guardian.
“We are not saying go and do some crazy diet we came up with. If we are wrong, there is no harm done, but if we are right you are looking at an incredible effect that in general is about as bad as smoking.”