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The Obesity Epidemic: What Caused It? How Can We Stop It? [Hardcover]

Zoe Harcombe
4.4 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (36 customer reviews)
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Product Description


"Zoë Harcombe unravels one of the biggest paradoxes of today..." --Lucy Johnston, Health Editor, Sunday Express.

"...everything we think we know about eating right and how to control our weight is, in fact, wrong." --Alice Hart-Davis. Award winning health & beauty writer

"In a series of rigorously sourced chapters Harcombe pulls apart many of the key tenets in the diet and nutrition industry" --Phil Chamberlain, Freelance journalist

"This book should be mandatory reading for all health professionals and for anyone who needs to lose weight!" --Julia Smurthwaite. Health journalist

"Zoë Harcombe has taken a surgeon's scalpel to the Alice In Wonderland World of obesity."
--Dr Malcolm Kendrick. Author "The great cholesterol con"

From the Publisher

Columbus Publishing is thrilled to be launching "The Obesity Epidemic". Columbus was founded because the world is not flat and we want to publish books that challenge the status quo and make people think. The Obesity Epidemic does just that.

The book will likely be the `Marmite' of the obesity world - people will love it or hate it. It will be virtually impossible to be indifferent to it.
We suggest that those who love it will be the open minded and those with the integrity and compassion to want to make a genuine difference to the obesity epidemic. These people will likely already be disposed to the idea that we need to return to eating as nature intended and they have the common sense to realise that modern illness has its routes in modern substances - not in the real and natural foods that man and his ancestors have been eating for hundreds of thousands of years before we even realised the earth was round.
Those who hate it need to ask themselves why. The food and drink industry will hate it and we anticipate that they will try to attack it and the author. The drug industry will hate it, as the book offers a natural alternative as a solution to the obesity epidemic. Reprehensibly, many dieticians and diet advisors will also hate it - as they want to carry on pushing the current dietary advice, despite having no clue from whence it came or that there is no evidence for anything from five-a-day to the calorie theory.
The Obesity Epidemic is one of those rare books that can genuinely change the world. It just needs to be read with an open mind and a desire to help our fellow human beings.
The reviews thus far have been phenomenal. Barry Groves, Author of "Trick and Treat: How `healthy eating' is making us ill" said "The Obesity Epidemic is the most comprehensive demolition job on the arrogance and ignorance of the health profession I have ever read." Dr Malcolm Kendrick, Author of "The Great Cholesterol Con" said ", if by the end of it (this book), you have not changed the way you think about food and obesity - forever - you have clearly not understood what you have just read."
See what you think!

From the Author

My goal in life is to reverse the obesity epidemic. I joke that I'll try world peace afterwards, but I'm deadly serious about the first goal.
In the UK, obesity has increased ten fold since the 1970′s. Clearly it cannot increase ten fold again or 250% of us will be overweight. However, the prediction of the Foresight report is that 90% of today's children will be overweight or obese by 2050. We cannot allow this to happen.
I work exclusively in the field of obesity. I read, write and talk about obesity, weight, weight loss and anything related to this topic every hour that I can, seven days a week. It is my passion and I have discovered some astonishing things that are now being shared with the world in "The Obesity Epidemic".
This book will take you on the journey that I have been through, as an obesity researcher, from thermodynamics and peanuts under Bunsen burners to obesity organisations sponsored by food manufacturers and carbohydrates being confused with fats. Out of an illogical assumption that people have made themselves obese (when this is the last thing that they want to be), through being greedy and lazy, may come a different logical conclusion that our current diet advice a) doesn't work and b) worse - that it is actually the cause of the obesity epidemic that it is supposed to cure.
The final part of this book looks at what needs to happen to reverse the obesity epidemic. This can be achieved, but crises require major interventions, not the same things done in different ways. One definition of madness is doing the same thing again and again and expecting a different result. Revolutionary change will not be achieved with the UK Change4Life campaign, for example, advising people to have a banana instead of a bag of crisps. Swapping one starch for another is going to make no difference to the obesity epidemic. Some of the proposals may appear extreme, but, if they do, how does "90% of today's children being overweight or obese by 2050" sound? (One of the forecasts of the UK Foresight Report: "Tackling Obesities: Future Choices", (October 2007).
There is so much conflicting information about diet and nutrition, and the public is rightly confused and mistrustful of current advice. The same conflict can arise for a researcher, so I have established two fundamental principles, to which I return for grounding every time I find myself questioning issues.
1) I believe that nature knows how to feed humans better than food manufacturers. Nature has no vested interest, no profit to be made from us and no reason to provide us with anything other than nutritious food. I therefore believe that the human race must return to eating food in the form closest to that provided by nature: meat, eggs and dairy from naturally reared animals; fish; vegetables and salads; nuts and seeds; fruits and whole grains. I call this real food.
2) I believe that the job description of the human body is to keep itself alive. I therefore believe that, in normal circumstances, the human body will not do anything that is intended to kill us.
I have a one in four chance that you, the reader, are obese. I have a two in three chance that you are overweight. Given your interest in the subject matter, I have a virtual certainty that you know and/or work with overweight people. If I can prove to you that eat less/do more has never worked and will never work - are you prepared to consider an alternative that will? For yourself or for your patients or for our children facing a fat future?
All I ask is that you read this book with the most open mind possible. My experience of calories started at the age of 15 and I believe nothing now that I believed then. When I started studying nutrition professionally, I was a vegetarian. Within weeks of learning about food and nutrients, I started eating fish. When I started the manuscript for this book I was still a non-meat eater, believing that I could be optimally healthy without meat and that animals could concomitantly be better for this. After 20 years of abstinence, I now eat red meat until, or should I say when, the cows come home. That is how much my own thinking has changed as a result of the research I have undertaken. Please be open minded to your own views changing even a fraction of this, rather than have the following apply to you:
"My mind is made up; don't confuse me with the facts." (Anon)
Thank you
Zoë Harcombe
p.s. "If we have been eating food in the form that nature intended for 24 hours, agriculture (large scale access to carbohydrates) developed four minutes ago and sugar consumption has increased twenty fold in the last five seconds. I wonder which food is more likely to be responsible for obesity, diabetes, or indeed any modern disease..."

From the Back Cover

We want to be slim more than anything else in the world, so why do we have an obesity epidemic?
If the solution is as simple as `eat less and do more', why are 90% of today's children facing a fat future?
What if the current diet advice is not right? What if trying to eat less is making us fatter? What if everything we thought we knew about dieting is wrong?
This is, in fact, the case.
This book will de-bunk every diet myth there is and change the course of The Obesity Epidemic.
This is going to be a ground breaking journey, shattering every preconception about dieting and turning current advice upside down.
Did you know that we did a U-turn in our diet advice thirty years ago? Obesity has increased ten fold since - coincidence or cause?
Discover why we changed our advice and what is stopping us changing it back; discover the involvement of the food industry in our weight loss advice; discover how long we have known that eating less and doing more can never work and discover what will work instead.
There is a way to lose weight and keep it off, but the first thing you must do is to throw away everything you think you know about dieting. Because everything you think you know is actually wrong. The diet advice we are being given, far from being the cure of the obesity epidemic, is, in fact, the cause.
"The Obesity Epidemic is the most comprehensive demolition job on the arrogance and ignorance of the health profession I have ever read."
Barry Groves, Author of "Trick and Treat: How `healthy eating' is making us ill"

About the Author

Zoë was the first pupil from her state school to graduate from Cambridge University, having won a scholarship to read mathematics/economics at this famous institution. What no one knew at the time was that, having been anorexic as a teenager, Zoe had developed bulimia before starting her studies at Cambridge. She sat in her historic room, overlooking Kings Chapel, stuffing her face with food and asked the million dollar question: "Why do I overeat? When all I want is to be slim?"
So started over a decade of research into obesity, overeating and weight loss. During her 20's Zoë experienced food cravings to rival any drug addiction and discovered that there are three medical conditions that cause these food cravings. And so her first book came about: "Why do you overeat? When all you want is to be slim." Published in 2004, it continues to change the lives of people who read it.
Since putting her own advice into practice, Zoe has lived craving free and a constant 8 stone for over 15 years. She no longer suffers from any of the conditions that cause insatiable cravings and she knows how to make sure that these conditions never return. "Stop Counting Calories & Start Losing Weight: The Harcombe Diet" was published in 2008, to share the message with readers world-wide. By popular demand, a recipe book came out at the same time. Zoë has also appeared on TV and Radio and writes regularly for magazines and newspapers.
Zoë is a qualified nutritionist with a Diploma in Diet & Nutrition and a Diploma in Clinical Weight Management, but she is first and foremost an obesity researcher. She has also found that the majority of nutritional information currently being taught (to dieticians and nutritionists) is wrong and that all dietary advisors need to be far more challenging and far less accepting of what they are being told. Solving the obesity epidemic relies upon such people, who really do want to make a difference, questioning their founding beliefs in the way that Zoë has done.
Zoë is sponsored by no one and has funded the last two years - researching for and writing the book full time - from savings. Conflict of interest is at the heart of the obesity epidemic and therefore true independence is essential to be able to honestly question and analyse the problem. In whose interests is it that the world things eggs are bad for breakfast? Who stands to gain if butter is demonised?
Zoë's personal experience has also proved invaluable in this journey - to have effectively done the Minnesota starvation experiment as a teenager provides an understanding that no text book can match. Researchers writing - "TCB1 Antagonism Exerts Specific Molecular Effects on Visceral and Subcutaneous Fat and Reverses Liver Steatosis in Diet-Induced Obese Mice". (Diabetes, April 2010) - have no general understanding of obesity and likely have never even been on a diet or had first hand experience of the misery of overweight and hunger. Zoë has.

Excerpt. © Reprinted by permission. All rights reserved.

In a study of formerly obese people, researchers at the University of Florida found that virtually all said that they would rather be blind, deaf or have a leg amputated than be obese again. That is the extent of our desire to be slim and yet two thirds of people in the UK, USA and Australia are overweight and one quarter obese. Why?
To be slim, to achieve the thing we want more than our sight, hearing, or mobility, we are told that we just need to "eat less and/or do more." Quite specifically, the advice is "One pound of fat contains 3,500 calories, so to lose 1lb a week you need a deficit of 500 calories a day."
So, why don't we just follow the advice? Why on earth do we have an obesity problem, let alone an epidemic, when we so desperately want to be slim?
I set out to answer that question in the late 1980's and this book is the culmination of that quest. At the time of starting my research, obesity levels for men and women in the UK had reached double figures. The World Health Organisation published BMI statistics for the UK for five comparator years: 1966; 1972; 1982; 1989 and 1999 (presented in tables in the introduction). The UK health service was devolved in 1999, with England, Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland managed separately from this point forth, thus losing the opportunity for UK data beyond the turn of the Millennium.
We can make a number of observations about this data, but there is only one key point to note. UK obesity levels were remarkably constant and small for decades. Indeed, throughout the tens of thousands of years before the 1966 data, there is no record of an obesity problem, let alone an epidemic. Suddenly, in evolutionary terms, and dramatically, in amounts, obesity levels increased from 2-3% in the 1970's to 25% today. Two thirds of UK citizens are now overweight or obese.
The USA started from a slightly higher base and displayed a virtually identical trend, with 70% of Americans currently overweight or obese (the graph in the introduction shows obesity trends in the USA taking off like an aeroplane from the point 1976-1980).
It seems so obvious that the starting point for understanding the obesity epidemic should be - what changed in the late 1970's/early 1980's? Was there one thing that happened that could explain the sudden and dramatic increase in obesity?
Yes there was. In 1977 the USA changed its public health diet advice. In 1983 the UK followed suit. A more accurate description would be that we did a complete U-turn in our diet advice from "Farinaceous and vegetable foods are fattening, and saccharine matters are especially so" to "base your meals on starchy foods". Obesity has increased up to ten fold since - coincidence or cause?
There are so many more questions that we need to ask (and answer) to understand the worst health crisis that we have ever faced:
1) Have you heard the sayings "energy in equals energy out" and "you can't change the laws of physics". What precisely do the laws of thermodynamics say? Which law have we oversimplified and which law have we neglected to consider?
2) Are you familiar with the formula "one pound equals 3,500 calories, so to lose one pound of fat, you need to create a deficit of 3,500 calories"? When and where did this originate? Would you be able to prove that the formula holds true? Would you be interested to know the responses given by seven UK government and obesity organisations when asked those same questions?
3) Is a calorie a calorie? Is one sugar the same as any other?
4) What happens if we manage to get humans to eat less and/or do more over a period of six months? What happens afterwards? What is the scientific evidence for sustained weight loss in the seminal obesity studies from the past 100 years?
5) Are obese people greedy, or lazy, or both, or none of these? Can obesity be caused by anything other than greed or sloth?
6) Where does five-a-day come from? What are the five most nutritious foods on the planet?
7) Why is fructose being called the lipogenic (fattening) carbohydrate?
8) Would you be able to prove that saturated fat consumption causes heart disease? If I told you that the study to consider this has not even been done, would you believe me? If the UK Food Standards Agency said this, would you believe them?
9) What remains if you take the public health list of `saturated fat' and cross out processed food (primarily carbohydrates)? Would you be open to the idea that we could have a heated agreement with a clarification of terminology?
10) Where does cholesterol fit in to the obesity debate?
11) What is human fat tissue? How do we (biochemically) store fat? How do we burn fat? Which macronutrient determines fat storage and fat utilisation?
12) Does sedentary behaviour explain the timing and the increase in obesity? Can exercise be a cure for the obesity epidemic?
13) How embedded are the food and drink industry in our dietary advice and agencies? Would you be concerned if the likes of Coca-Cola, Kellogg's and the sugar industry were working in partnership with our national dietary associations?
This epidemic has become far too serious for us to continue with tautologies (a calorie is a calorie), or platitudes (eat less/do more), or marketing slogans (five-a-day). It is time for some facts.
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