The Causes Of Overweight
( Originally Published 1936 )
Over-consumption of Food. In our own series of cases the chief cause of overweight has been an over-consumption of food. The concentrated and attractive forms in which many kinds of food are available, leads easily to eating highly nutritious portions without a consciousness of over-eating in quantity. Widespread advertising of prepared foods has led to a marked increase in their use. Suggestions for preparing foods by printing and radio broadcasting recipes result in new dishes being used, and new preparations being tried.
Diets contain a larger proportion of fat than they did fifty years ago. The standards of that time show that an average diet contained about 500 grams of carbohydrate, about 128 grams of protein, and not over 56 grams of fat. At the present time many of the home and hotel diets contain as high as 150 grams of fat. Milk, which originally contained less than 3 per cent of butter fat, now by the selective breeding of cows and inspection rules which are intended to increase the financial value of milk, contains about 4 per cent of butter fat. The demand for table cream (20 per cent butter fat) and whipping cream (40 per cent butter fat) is continually increasing. The present scientific methods of butter making have resulted in producing a very uniform, delicious product, which is widely used in great quantities. Meats, in general, contain more fat than they did formerly. Beeves are stall-fed for the specific purpose of increasing the fat content and making the meat more tender. Despite the very successful selective breeding of hogs for the purpose of increasing the lard supply, the demand for shortening has so exceeded the resources that lard substitutes are being made by hydrogenating oils from cotton seed. The olive resources are inadequate for supplying the olive oil needed for the manufacture of salad dressings. Today oil is extracted from corn, coconuts, soy beans, and other products to meet the demands of the housewife for more fats, especially for salad dressings. The grocerymen tell us that the growth of the salad dressing industry has been one of the most phenornenal advances in their trade. As one studies the situation, it is apparent that there has been a marked increase in the consumption of fats generally. This unconscious inclusion of more fats in the diet is undoubtedly an important contributory cause of overweight.
While the caloric value of carbohydrates is approximately one-half that of fats we cannot overlook them in the consideration of overweight. There has been a marked increase in the consumption of pure sugar. One hundred years ago about ten pounds supplied the annual needs per person. Today this amount has increased to upwards of one hundred pounds. Candy, sweet desserts, and sweet drinks are used freely. The abundance and variety of cereal products has led many to use them freely. As has been stated in a previous discussion, the body readily converts into body fat the carbohydrate not needed for energy.
Use of Alcoholic Beverages.. The free use of alcoholic beverages in recent years should be mentioned in this connection. Many think of a "drink" merely as a tonic, not knowing that alcohol has a caloric value. Alcohol is not a food in that it does not build body tissue. How-ever, it is absorbed easily and is oxidized in the body, yielding heat at the rate of 7 calories per gram. Suppose one ounce of whiskey were used; about 15 grams of this is alcohol, which would yield 150 calories. Compare this with 40 per cent whipping cream—approximately 12 grams of fat per ounce, yielding 108 calories. Indulgence in alcohol thus produces heat and spares to a degree the food eaten permitting it to accumulate as fat.
Insufficient Exercise. Fifty years ago 85 per cent of the population lived in the country or in small communities and there were no automobiles. Today 85 per cent of our people live in cities; automobiles are everywhere. Hence, there is less opportunity for an adequate amount of outdoor exercise. Transportation in other ways has lessened the need of muscular activity. Spare time is given to indoor amusement. With the increased forms of service about homes, and foods brought to us ready to use without any particular effort in preparing them, we are not called upon to do many things which we did even one generation ago.
Glandular Disturbances. We are not unmindful of the fact that glandular disturbances may effect body weight. A slow thyroid gland or an abnormally functioning pituitary gland are perhaps most commonly observed in this problem. Endocrine studies should be made always, and glandular help given where it is needed. Even the apparent cases of glandular obesity can be helped with proper diet restrictions to a gratifying degree. The relation existing between obesity and the endocrine glands merits more study than has been given it thus far.