Taubes - Chapter 12 - Why I Get Fat and You Don't (or Vice Versa)

- POSTED ON: Jan 01, 2011

 Taubes begins with the question,

“Why does insulin only make some of us fat?”

He says it’s a question of Nature –our genetic pre-disposition,
and that the aspects of Diet or Lifestyle don’t trigger this difference.

He says the answer is:

“..Hormones don’t work in a vacuum, and insulin is no exception.
The effect of a hormone on any particular tissue or cell depends
on a host of factors, both inside and outside cells
-- on enzymes, for instance…

This allows hormones to differ in their effect from cell to cell,
tissue to tissue, and even at different stages of our development
and our lives. “

Insulin is a hormone that determines
how fuels are “partitioned” around the body.
When thinking about whether fuel will be burned or stored,
Picture a fuel gauge like on your car.
Except the “F” on the Right, stands for Fat
and the “E” on the left sands for Energy.

If the needle on the gauge points to the right – toward the “F”,
then insulin puts a larger share of your calories into storage for fat,
instead of use for energy by the muscles.
If you want to be active, you’ll have to eat more to
compensate for this loss of calories into fat.

“The further the needle points to “F”,
the more calories stored and the fatter you’ll be.
The morbidly obese live on the far end of this side of the gauge.

If the needle points the other way –toward the “E”,
the larger share of your calories are burned as fuel.
You’ll have plenty of energy for physical activity,
and little will be stored as fat.
You will be lean and active and you’ll eat in moderation.

What determines the direction in which the needle points?
There is more than one factor.

(1) How much insulin you secrete.

(2) How sensitive to insulin your cells are,
and how quickly they become insensitive, (insulin resistant).

(3) And also, cells respond differently to insulin.

“Fat cells, muscle cells, liver cells don’t all become resistant
to insulin at the same time, to the same extent, or in the same way,
This means the same amount of insulin
will have differing effects on different tissue.

The response of the tissues differs, as well—
from person to person, and over time in the same individual.”

As you get older, you can get more insulin resistant,
and as a result, in middle age, it’s harder to remain lean.

Taubes says that in middle age

“our muscles become increasingly resistant to insulin,
and this partitions more of the energy we consume into fat,
leaving less available for the cells of the muscles
and organs to use for fuel.

These cells now generate less energy, and this
is what we mean when we say our metabolism slows down.
Our “metabolic rate” decreases.

What appears to be a cause of fattening
--the slowing of our metabolism –
is really an effect.

You don’t get fat because your metabolism slows;
your metabolism slows because you’re getting fat.”

Taubes says

“Fat children tend to be born of fat parents,
in part because of all the ways that our genes
control our insulin secretion, the enzymes that respond to insulin,
and how and when we become resistant to insulin.

He gives further details about how fat mothers
produce babies who are also fat, or have a tendency toward fat.
He says it is a vicious cycle.

“As the obesity epidemic took off,
and we all began getting fatter,
we began to program more and more of our children
from the first few months of their existence to get fatter still.”

Taubes says that each successive generation may find
it harder to under this problem.

 This is an interesting concept,
and I think that Taubes makes it understandable.
It sounds right, and seems to make a lot of sense.

Plus, my limited medical knowledge doesn’t give me
the ability to dispute this information, even if I wanted to do so.

Due to my own observation and experience,
I do believe that there are many differences between people,
and in the personal behaviors that are required to avoid being fat.


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Existing Comments:

On Feb 18, 2011 wrote:
I don't think I've heard the term "insulin resistance", and it's interesting to read an explanation for why eating problems tend to get worse over time. This chapter was very depressing for me, since my almost 17 year old daughter is getting close to my weight, and I gained 60 pounds when I was pregnant with her. I cannot go back in time, cannot go back to when my eating went totally out of control because I could not restrict myself to 1,000 calories per day for nine days. The mistake we have not made is to pressure her into counting calories. I am focused on figuring out weight management so I can model appropriate behavior to her. She has to make her own decisions. This chapter makes the point that I have saddled her with a disadvantage from before birth. It cannot be changed now. I need to look forward.

On Feb 19, 2011 Karen925 wrote:
As the obesity epidemic took off, and we all began getting fatter, we began to program more and more of our children from the first few months of their existence to get fatter still. **** This observation goes a long way of showing how the obesity epidemic is getting larger over time. I certainly shared this information with my married daughter.

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