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Popular myths about food, obesity and diets

'01.10.2022'

Source: Post Science

What is the cause of obesity, is it possible to eat monosodium glutamate, what taste does genetically modified vegetables and fruits have, what diet did our ancestors follow - these are the questions that concern many inhabitants of our planet. Each expert has their own answers. Therefore, it is not surprising that so many myths have appeared around the topic of “healthy” diets, food composition, vegetarianism or medical problems with excess weight. Post Science.

Photo: iStock

We offer you to get acquainted with the most popular myths about food, obesity and diets.

The 1 Myth: The Major Cause of Obesity is Excessive Nutrition

There may be other reasons.

There is no single reason for the development of obesity. There is a genetic predisposition, some diseases of the endocrine system, including diseases of the thyroid gland, adrenal glands, genital organs, anomalies of the pituitary gland, hypothalamus. Age-related changes also play a role, for example, menopause or premenopausal periods, as well as pregnancy, childbirth, that is, hormonal changes that lead to weight gain.

But we must bear in mind that the accumulation of excess fat in the body is realized only through food. There is no other mechanism for getting excess calories in the body. In people who suffer from severe obesity, food addiction has the nature of pathological dependence. Here, in many respects, it is possible to draw an analogy with drug addiction, alcoholism and smoking. A normal amount of food is not enough, and a person must consume it very much to get satisfaction from food. This is essentially a food addiction. 95% of obese people are people who simply overeat. The factor of low physical activity also matters.

2 Myth: Sodium glutamate is the new “white death”

This is an exaggeration.

Glutamate is the main excitatory mediator of our brain. Synthesizing and releasing this substance, neurons transmit the main information flows: sensory, memory-related and others. In addition, glutamate is the most common food amino acid. This means that we get similar molecules with proteins of milk, bread, meat.

Dietary glutamate almost does not pass into the brain, for which special cells of the nervous tissue - oligodendrocytes - should be thanked. They, controlling the movement of substances from the blood to the neurons, tightly surround the vessels. If not for this, any eaten cutlet or bun would cause unwanted activation of nerve structures. However, when a few grams of glutamate is consumed in its pure form (rather than coming from the intestine gradually during the absorption of proteins), it can still cause overexcitation.

Why do you need to eat pure glutamate?

The fact is that we are not indifferent to this molecule. Evolution, setting up the taste system for the chemical analysis of food, singled out glutamate as a sign of protein food, which is absolutely necessary for our body. In this regard, when consuming glutamate, we experience positive emotions according to a genetically predetermined mechanism (as well as, for example, from sweets). As a result, glutamate is the most important food additive, the "meat" taste of which was once discovered by Japanese physiologists in a sauce obtained from seaweed. And almost immediately, glutamate began to be used in its pure form (E620–629) by adding it to a variety of foods.

Sometimes glutamate begin to be accused of all sorts of sins, calling even the next "white death". This, to put it mildly, is an exaggeration, as an adult consumes 5 – 10 grams during the day, and therefore, if you add a little glutamate to the dish to enhance the meat taste, nothing bad will happen. Although his surplus, of course, is not useful.

Myth 3: genetically modified vegetables and fruits are not as tasty as usual

This is certainly not the case.

If you get a tomato that is “plastic”, it does not mean that it is genetically modified, but that the varieties themselves, the cultivation and harvesting technologies, have changed recently. Often, organic products do not differ much for the better in taste and quality from those bought in a supermarket.

To feed humanity, I had to look for new intensive technologies. Tender and soft tomatoes are far from being taken away, but they are now being harvested by combines, and this means that they must be strong, of the same size, with a thick rind. The same situation with many other vegetables and fruits. This is a general trend - we have to pay with quality for quantity. Otherwise, if it is a piece of goods or grown only in certain conditions, it will be incredibly expensive and inaccessible to the majority of consumers.

There is a claim in certain circles that if you take two tomatoes and throw them against a wall, the one that breaks and spreads is natural, and the one that bounces is genetically modified. Naturally, this can only be taken as a joke. However, there is a serious problem in assessing the quality of products - this is the so-called naturalistic error, when the natural is identified with the useful. This is far from the case: strychnine, tobacco, and curare are absolutely natural substances.

The first wave of genetically modified plants was aimed at attractiveness for farmers. They were resistant to pests, herbicides, they had a later term of maturation, and the consumer did not notice any particular advantages.

Now comes the second or even the third wave of modified plants. For example, they have changed the composition of fatty acids, we are talking about omega-unsaturated acids. By including such plants in the diet, we reduce the risk of cardiovascular diseases. Changing the composition of the content of sugars and sugar substitutes also changes the natural nutritional value. In vegetables, there are more essential amino acids. This is a matter for the future, but testing is about to take place in laboratories, but it’s about the fact that scientists are certainly thinking and working on this problem. And these are those organisms that are aimed at the consumer, to improve the quality of life.

Myth 4: modern man should eat meat / be vegetarian because “our ancestors did this”

In both cases - this is not the full picture.

Millions of years primates were omnivores. The oldest ancestors ate fruit and insects, eggs and chicks, lizards and nuts. All modern primates, one way or another, are omnivores.

Active intelligence, brain growth and labor activity began precisely when our ancestors began to eat a lot of meat - to hunt antelopes and even elephants. Since then, the amount of meat in the diet has only increased - two and a half million years in a row. So modern man was created not by vegetarianism, but by omnivorousness, which also includes meat.

Myth 5: There are useful and harmful calories

This is only partially true.

В calories are measured, in particular, the energy value of the food we eat. Calorie is only "fuel", and in its pure form it cannot be "useful" or "harmful", it is necessary. On the other hand, everything is determined by the amount of food eaten, the balance of our diet and the way of life we ​​lead. It is known that energy is needed for any kind of activity in our body.

We are talking not only about physical exertion, but also about mental work, as well as maintaining vital processes, which we usually don’t think about at all: contraction of the heart, respiratory movements, motor activity of the digestive tract and so on (minimum amount of energy, necessary for the body to work in a state of physical rest, is called the main exchange).

We get the calories we need from the main components of food: proteins, fats and carbohydrates. The need for each of them may vary depending on the place of residence of a particular person, gender, age, physical condition, lifestyle, and so on. On average, the contribution of food components to the energy value of the diet of an adult healthy person is distributed as follows: approximately 55% are carbohydrates, 33% are fats, and 14% are proteins.

If a person consumes more calories than he needs to maintain his usual activity, or if the food balance is disturbed, then all the “excess” nutrients will be deposited in adipose tissue, which people usually try to avoid. From this point of view, “bad” calories are extra calories.

The 6 Myth: Obesity is Most Common in the US

It's true.

In the United States, according to various sources, more than half of the adult population is overweight and obese. In economically developed countries, 8-10% of the population suffers from the most severe form - morbid obesity. Every second European is either overweight or obese. About 30–35% are people who are legitimately diagnosed with obesity, that is, when the body mass index exceeds 30. In Russia, approximately 25–30% of the population is diagnosed with obesity, and half, or even 60, are overweight. % of people.

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