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Alarming Rate of Obesity-Linked Deaths

Being overweight was associated with 20 percent of all deaths among adults from 1986 through 2006 in the United States (Am J Public Health, published online August 15, 2013). The association is higher in women than in men. Excess weight was associated with twenty-seven percent of the deaths of black women, 22 percent of white women, 16 percent of white men and five percent of black men. Black men are not less likely to die from obesity; their lower death rate reflects increased risk for other causes of death such as smoking, HIV, violence and other factors. Being overweight increases death rate more in younger people than in older people.

Thirty-six percent of North Americans are obese, or about 35 pounds over a healthful weight. Obesity markedly increases risk for diabetes, heart attacks, strokes and many cancers, all of which can lead to premature death. Once a person becomes obese, it is very difficult to return to and remain at a normal weight.

Children of Obese Mothers have Increased Risk for Heart Attacks

Analysis of data from nearly 30,000 women and 40,000 offspring showed that individuals born to obese mothers are at increased risk for premature heart attack death as adults (British Medical Journal, published online August 13, 2013).

Obesity Increases Prostate Cancer Risk and Deaths

Twenty-three prospective studies show a strong association between being obese and risk of prostate cancer, and higher rates of death in men diagnosed with prostate cancer (Urologia Internationalis, August 12, 2013).

Mechanism of Harm from Full Fat Cells

Empty fat cells are relatively inactive, but when they fill up with fat, macrophages enter the full fat cells to produce cytokines that cause inflammation. Your immunity acts as if you are infected with germs and sets out to attack and kill the invading germs. Inflammation is harmful when your immunity is overactive even though it has no germs to attack and kill.

To protect you against germs, your immunity produces:

• antibodies, proteins that attach to a specific germ and immobilize it,

• chemicals that dissolve the outer membranes of attacking germs, and

• white blood cells that eat the dead germs.

If your immunity turns on even though there are no invading germs to kill, the chemicals that dissolve the outer membranes of germs dissolve the inner linings of arteries and start plaques forming in them, which can eventually lead to a heart attack. In a similar manner, an overactive immunity can cause cancer, diabetes and many other diseases.

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Foods that Cause a High Rise in Blood Sugar Raise Cholesterol

Researchers reviewed the world's medical literature and found four scientifically sound studies that show that as little as four to 12 weeks of restricting foods that raise blood sugar:

• lowers total cholesterol and the bad LDL cholesterol significantly

• does not lower the good HDL cholesterol

• does not affect triglyceride levels (Family Practice, published online June 26, 2013).

Diets high in foods that raise blood sugar levels markedly raised triglycerides and reduced the good HDL cholesterol.

Doctors have used blood cholesterol levels for the last 70 years as a major predictor of susceptibility to heart attacks. From the early 1940s to as recently as 10 years ago, most doctors told their patients that the major dietary factor that raises blood cholesterol is saturated fats in meat and dairy products. Only in the last 10 years have doctors added sugared foods and drinks to their lists of dietary factors that raise cholesterol.

How Extra Sugar Raises LDL Cholesterol

The sugar that you eat is first used for energy and a limited amount is stored as "stored sugar" called glycogen in muscles and liver. Then all extra sugar is converted to a type of fat called triglycerides which spills over into the bloodstream. Triglycerides can be stored in your body as fat to make you fat, or raise cholesterol, or both.

Your body takes 1500 triglyceride molecules and a lesser number of cholesterol molecules and covers them with a fat-protein coating to form a type of cholesterol called VLDL (Very Low Density Cholesterol) which is eventually converted to the bad LDL cholesterol that forms in plaques in arteries.

Harm from Foods That Raise Blood Sugar

High blood sugar levels raise triglycerides and lower the good HDL cholesterol, which can cause a fatty liver and diabetes.

Raise Triglycerides: When blood sugar levels rise too high, your cells convert all extra sugar to triglycerides, so triglycerides rise too high.

Lower HDL Cholesterol: Since high levels of triglycerides can increase risk of forming clots, your good HDL cholesterol then carries triglycerides from your bloodstream to your liver where triglycerides are stored as fat, so the amount of good HDL cholesterol in your blood is used up and goes down.

Fatty Liver: The extra triglycerides stored in the liver damage the liver cells to cause a fatty liver and abnormal liver function tests.

Diabetes: A fatty liver prevents cells from responding to insulin. This causes blood insulin and sugar levels to rise too high and you develop all the signs and symptoms of diabetes.

This week's medical history:
Marie Curie, Genetically Gifted

For a complete list of my medical history biographies go to Histories and Mysteries

Recipe of the Week:

Tropical Shrimp Salad

You'll find lots of recipes and helpful tips in The Good Food Book - it's FREE

August 25th, 2013
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About the Author: Gabe Mirkin, MD

Sports medicine doctor, fitness guru and long-time radio host Gabe Mirkin, M.D., brings you news and tips for your healthful lifestyle. A practicing physician for more than 50 years and a radio talk show host for 25 years, Dr. Mirkin is a graduate of Harvard University and Baylor University College of Medicine. He is board-certified in four specialties: Sports Medicine, Allergy and Immunology, Pediatrics and Pediatric Immunology. The Dr. Mirkin Show, his call-in show on fitness and health, was syndicated in more than 120 cities. Read More
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