Living Well Blog: Saratoga's Holistic Health Forum

Obesity- A Cause or A Symptom of Modern Day Medicine?


Compiled by Sarah A LoBisco, ND

Could it be that medicine is now a "disease care system" that is missing the mark? In my most recent blog, The Vitamin Attack Scam, I discuss in detail the attack on vitamins and how American health care is deteriorating. Life expectancy increases as quality of life measures decrease. It is estimated that by 2050, over two-thirds of Americans will be obese? Why is this?

The question remains: Is obesity the result of our system or just a symptom of body starvation from nutrient-poor foods and medical mismanagement?

According to Medscape, we should address obesity as the cause:

Although the mechanism for obesity's association with RA is unknown, the researchers write that chronic inflammation from obesity could be leading to rheumatic problems. Other possibilities include the link between obesity and vitamin D deficiency or the higher levels of estrogen in obese individuals. Other research, they write, has pointed toward a possible genetic predisposition to both obesity and autoimmune disease.

"We know that fat tissues and cells produce substances that are active in inflammation and immunity," Eric Matteson, MD, chair of the Division of Rheumatology at the Mayo Clinic and a study coauthor, said in a statement. "We know too that obesity is related to many other health problems such as heart disease and diabetes, and now perhaps to autoimmunity. It adds another reason to reduce and prevent obesity in the general population."

However, if the symptom of fat was truly the issue, wouldn't calorie restriction and "losing weight" have worked? The truth is a calorie is not just a calorie.

I've provided a link to Dr. Mercola's twelve minute video with Dr. Lustig below. (Dr. Lustig is the modern day genius on fructose metabolism). These two allopathic renegades feel obesity is an effect of insulin resistance resulting from our modern day food practices. Processed and chemicalized foods change our metabolic functioning and appetite regulation, not just creating fat, but contributing to most disease processes. Obesity is one symptom of this fatty acid metabolic dysfunction, but it can manifest in many different forms in people.  This includes heart disease, diabetes, arthritis, and more.

The result of eating foods that are bad for our bodies but addictive to our minds is various diseases of inflammation and immune deregulation. This is another reason why I incorporate functional medicine in my practice. As a Naturopathic Doctor, I am naturally treating the cause while looking at triggers and mediators and how each organ system is affected. This is vastly different than telling someone to "lose weight."  What really need to be "lost" is the inflammatory triggers and metabolic imbalance, and then the need for the fat diminishes. This is a whole different approach to the "war on obesity".

The first thing that must be addressed is the addictive nature of food itself. Dr. Hyman explains:

Here are some of the scientific findings confirming that food can, indeed, be addictive(ii):

1.     Sugar stimulates the brain's reward centers through the neurotransmitter dopamine exactly like other addictive drugs.

2.     Brain imagining (PET scans) shows that high-sugar and high-fat foods work just like heroin, opium, or morphine in the brain.(iii)

3.     Brain imaging (PET scans) shows that obese people and drug addicts have lower numbers of dopamine receptors, making them more likely to crave things that boost dopamine.

4.     Foods high in fat and sweets stimulate the release of the body's own opioids (chemicals like morphine) in the brain.

5.     Drugs we use to block the brain's receptors for heroin and morphine (naltrexone) also reduce the consumption and preference for sweet, high-fat foods in both normal weight and obese binge eaters.

6.     People (and rats) develop a tolerance to sugar--they need more and more of the substance to satisfy themselves--just like they do for drugs of abuse like alcohol or heroin.

7.     Obese individuals continue to eat large amounts of unhealthy foods despite severe social and personal negative consequences, just like addicts or alcoholics.

8.     Animals and humans experience "withdrawal" when suddenly cut off from sugar, just like addicts detoxifying from drugs.

9.     Just like drugs, after an initial period of "enjoyment" of the food the user no longer consumes them to get high, but to feel normal.

As with any addiction, balancing biochemistry is a must. However, another major component is social support. In a food addicted society, perhaps the reason we aren't getting anywhere with obesity is that we are "dysfunctionally independent" (a term coined by Robert Holden, PhD). So...let me leave you with a different kind of food for thought....

The Answer in Community (Dr. Hyman):

Here's what the data show to date with more studies coming in every day. Community is more effective than any medication, even though many still use less than optimal and outdated nutritional advice and lifestyle interventions.  I believe much more could be accomplished by translating the latest science into effective treatments and community-based support groups as I have done in my new book The Blood Sugar Solution.

The landmark 2002 study based on the Diabetes Prevention Program[i] and a ten year follow up study[ii] sponsored by the National Institutes of Health proved that lifestyle intervention is much more powerful than any other treatment such as medication to prevent diabetes in those with prediabetes.  With regular lifestyle support and education, participants lost 5 percent of their bodyweight and reduced their risk of diabetes by 58 percent.  This lifestyle-based approach was also proven very effective in the large Finnish Diabetes Prevention Study.[iii]

Part 2:

We got biology to change by using the principles of functional medicine - the science of systems medicine, of network medicine, the science of creating health, through lifestyle-based interventions that optimized our BIOLOGICAL NETWORKS.

But we got behavior to change by using community and the power of positive peer pressure and SOCIAL NETWORKS.

Not only did they lose a quarter of a million pounds, but they also used less medication, and many stayed of the hospital didn't need to go to the doctor as much. And the program was free.   And people reported more energy, better sleep, better blood pressure, better mood and even better skin and a better sex drive.

One man told me last year he was in the hospital 4 times and on 9 medications and this year he stayed out of the hospital and is only on one medication.   People lost 125 pounds, 90 pounds, 80 pounds, got off insulin and diabetes, and high blood pressure medication - it was like a gastric bypass without the pain of surgery, vomiting and malnutrition.

And those who did the plan together lost twice as much weight as those who did it alone.

And...the science agrees:

Group Support and Diet Modification for DM2 (Medscape):

The 4-week behavioral weight and diabetes management program yielded significant weight and health improvements. This is one of the first studies to report rapid and significant HbA1cchanges as a result of following moderate nutrition and physical activity guidelines while receiving diabetes management and weight loss psychoeducation.


Larry Hand. Increase in RA Incidence in Women Associated With Obesity. Medscape Today. April 30, 2012.

Hyman, M. Diet Drinks-Harmful or Helpful in Kicking the Sugar Habit? utm_source=WhatCounts+Publicaster+Edition&utm_medium=email&utm_campaign=drhyma n+newsletter+issue+%2368&utm_content=Get+the+story

Joseph Mercola, OD. Attacks Your Liver Like Alcohol - Is This What's Making You Flabby and Sick? May 7, 2012. dangerous-than-alcohol.aspx?e_cid=20120507_DNL_art_1

Mark Hyman, MD. Can Social Networks Cure Disease? Part I.  April 20th, 2012. utm_source=WhatCounts+Publicaster+Edition&utm_medium=email&utm_campaign=drhyma n+newsletter+issue+%2370&utm_content=Get+the+story

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As a New York State Licensed Aesthetician, New York State Licensed Nail Specialist, and the Director of Living Well Healing Arts Center & Spa, Reisa combines her love of spa services and healing arts to achieve optimum skin and nail health, create greater overall wellness and bring forth our optimal, individual beauty.

"I believe that the day spa should be an instant getaway; a place that is quiet without being stuffy, relaxed, elegant and yet entirely comfy. You should feel warm and welcome, surrounded by people who care about you and what they are doing. This is the environment we strive to create at Living Well Healing Arts Center & Spa. Here, you are never just the "next" number; we allow ample time for your services, offer a flexible schedule and can be reached after hours. After all, to me, spa craft is not really a business, it's a lifestyle." Read more...

About Dr. Sarah Lobisco

Dr. LoBisco has been in holistic healthcare for over 10 years. She became interested in holistic medicine when she was able to heal two herniated discs through nutrition, yoga, supplementation, and chiropractic. She has mentored with holistic practices throughout New York, Vermont, and Connecticut. In addition to her Naturopathic and Functional Medical training, Dr. LoBisco has extensive training in a variety of healing modalities, including therapeutic essential oils, nutraceuticals, herbs, whole food supplements, nutritional medicine, and mind-body therapies. She is a graduate of the accredited, four year post-graduate program in Naturopathic Medicine at the University of Bridgeport in Connecticut. This program includes clinical rotations and a demanding scientific curriculum in integrating conventional and natural medicine. Dr. LoBisco holds her license from the state of Vermont.

Dr. LoBisco has completed her postdoctoral training as a certified functional medicine practitioner. She is also certified in Applied Kinesiology and holds a BA in psychology from SUNY Geneseo. She has contributed as an item writer for the North American Board of Naturopathic Examiners (NABNE)and has several articles that have been published in the Naturopathic Doctor News and Review Digest (NDNR) and the Townsend Letter, both physician- based journals. Dr. LoBisco is also a hired speaker on integrative medical topics for medical professionals.

Dr. LoBisco currently incorporates her training in holistic medical practices and conventional medicine through writing, researching, private practice, and through her independent contracting work for companies regarding supplements, nutraceuticals, essential oils, and medical foods. She has a small, private wellness consultation practice through telephone and Skype. Dr. LoBisco also enjoys continuing to educate and empower her readers through her blogs and social media. Her new book, BreakFree Medicine, is now available on Amazon and through Barnes & Noble. Please inquire here for more specific information.

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