The greatest disease burden today may be attributed to high blood pressure, a disease of overnutrition. The pandemic of chronic disease has been ascribed in part to the near-universal shift toward a diet dominated by animal-sourced and processed foods—more soda, meat, sugar, dairy, oils, eggs, and refined grains. China is perhaps the best-studied example. There, a transition away from the country’s traditional, plant-based diet was reportedly accompanied by a sharp rise in diet-related chronic diseases, including obesity, cardiovascular diseases, and cancer.
Obesity rates have been escalating to dangerously unhealthy levels. In the United States, for example, the childhood obesity epidemic has gotten so bad that some doctors have advocated for stomach-stapling gastric bypass surgery for kids.
Is all fat equal when it comes to being overweight? It’s generally accepted that health risks may be determined as much by the relative distribution of body fat as by its total amount. What seems to be the worst kind? Abdominal fat—the kind that builds up around your internal organs. Having a potbelly, with body fat concentrated in the abdominal region, may be a strong predictor of premature death.
Abdominal girth appears directly related to meat consumption: one-third of a centimeter increase in waist circumference for every ten grams of meat consumed. That means for every daily burger, we may be adding an inch onto our waist and loosening our belt one notch. It’s not just about cutting back on meat, dairy, and eggs, though. The diets of hundreds of identical twins were analyzed in a study. The subjects had the same exact genes, but those eating more plant-based diets appeared to have more favorable levels of a hormone secreted by human fat cells that helps control weight.
Does vinegar play a role in obesity? In a research study, obese subjects consumed drinks daily with either one or two tablespoons of apple cider vinegar, or a placebo drink that tasted like vinegar but contained no acetic acid. Both vinegar groups lost significantly more weight than the control group. Though the effect was modest—about four pounds over a three-month period—the vinegar groups’ subjects lost about 5 percent of their “visceral” fat, the abdominal fat that is particularly associated with chronic disease risk.
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