Flaky Fringe or Cutting Edge? (Part 4)

looking out the window

Ryan Andrews is a competitive bodybuilder with a stack of credentials including Registered Dietician and Health and Fitness Instructor, plus he is a certified Strength and Conditioning Specialist, Sports Nutritionist, and Personal Trainer. Andrews is all about energy balance, and the elements involved in it, and the various parts of us that are impacted by an imbalance of energy.

He describes a complex relationship between systems, between the hypothalamus of the brain and the neural connections and hormone receptors in the rest of the human organism, and says:

Information is received about energy repletion/depletion, the diurnal clock, physical activity level, reproductive cycle, developmental state, and acute and chronic stressors. Moreover, information about the acquisition, storage, and retrieval of sensory and internal food experiences are relayed.

Andrews is one of the adventurous thinkers about obesity, who suggest that the time-honored concept of energy in/energy out might be called into question by the hitherto unsuspected action of a third factor. Or several other factors, and there are different theories about that. Suspected obesogens lurk everywhere.

But if any additional, disrupting influence might be at work, there are questions worthwhile to ask. Does the suspect have any effect on the percentage of incoming calorie energy that the body is able to extract from its food? Because, wouldn’t that mess with a nice and neat energy in/energy out equation?

Does the potential villain interfere with the signals the body sends to itself about energy depletion and repletion? Couldn’t that disrupt the equilibrium? Does the stray factor impair the reproductive cycle somehow, or intensify it? And wouldn’t that have an effect on energy balance?

But the effects of environmental factors on the chemical and electrical and cellular levels are only part of the story, and here is where the logic falls apart. One way or another, stress is indicted again and again as a childhood obesity villain. And indeed it is. Stress plays a large role in a lot of things that people do, whether they are children or adults. But unlike plastics or nuclear power plants, stress has always been with us. In prehistory, people bedded down each night with a high possibility of being eaten by a carnivorous predator before morning.

The poor have always lived with the stress of not knowing where their next meal would come from. But money and power are no guarantee of freedom from stress. Tycoons and politicians are in constant fear of assassination. Humans experience different kinds of stress in various times and places, but it is never absent. So why, now, an obesity epidemic?

Your responses and feedback are welcome!

Source: “All About Energy Balance,” Precision Nutrition, 09/21/09
Image by meddygarnet (Morgan).

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