The Role of Epigenetics in the Obesity Epidemic

The Role of Epigenetics in the Obesity Epidemic
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Amazingly, a baby born to an obese surrogate mother with a skinny biological mom may harbor a greater risk of becoming obese than a baby from a big biological mom born to a slim surrogate.

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Below is an approximation of this video’s audio content. To see any graphs, charts, graphics, images, and quotes to which Dr. Greger may be referring, watch the above video.

Identical twins don’t just share DNA; they also shared a uterus. Might that also help account for some of their metabolic similarities? Fetal overnutrition, evidenced by an abnormally large birth weight, seems to be a strong predictor of obesity in childhood and later in life. Could it be you are what your mom ate?

A dramatic illustration from the animal world is the cross breeding of Shetland ponies with massive draft horses. Either way, the offspring are half pony/half horse, but in the pony uterus they come out much smaller (thank heavens for the poor pony). This is presumably the same reason why the mule (donkey dad and mare) is larger than the hinny (stallion and donkey mom). The way you test this in people is to study the size of babies from surrogate mothers after in vitro fertilization.

Who do you think most determines the birth weight of a test-tube baby—the donor mom who provided all the DNA, or the surrogate mom who provided the intrauterine environment? When it was put to the test, the womb won. Incredibly, a baby born to an obese surrogate mother with a skinny biological mom may harbor a greater risk of becoming obese than a baby from a big biological mom born to a slim surrogate. The researchers conclude “the environment provided by the human mother is more important than her genetic contribution to birth weight.”

The most compelling data comes from comparing obesity rates in siblings born to the exact same mother before and after her bariatric surgery. Compared to their brothers and sisters born before the surgery, those born when mom weighed about 100 pounds less had lower rates of inflammation, metabolic derangements, and, most critically, three times less risk of developing severe obesity (affecting 35 percent of those born before the weight loss compared to 11 percent born after). The researchers conclude “these data emphasize how critical it is to prevent obesity and treat it effectively to prevent further transmission to future generations.”

But wait. Mom had the same DNA before and after surgery. She passed the same genes down. How could her weight during pregnancy affect the weight destiny of her children any differently? Darwin himself admitted that the greatest error he committed “has been not allowing sufficient weight to the direct action of the environment, like food…independently of natural selection.” We finally figured out the mechanism by which this can happen: epigenetics.

Epigenetics (literally meaning “above genetics”) layers an extra level of information on top of the DNA sequence that can be both affected by our surrounds and potentially passed on to our children. This is thought to explain the “developmental programming” that can occur in the womb depending on the weight of the mother, or even your grandmother. Since all the eggs in your infant daughters’ ovaries are already preformed before birth, a mother’s weight status during pregnancy could potentially affect the obesity risk of her grandchildren too. Either way, you can imagine how this could result in an intergenerational vicious cycle where obesity begets obesity.

Is there anything we can do about it? Well, breastfed infants may be at lower risk for later obesity, though the benefits may be confined to exclusive breastfeeding, as the effect may be due to growth factors triggered by exposure to the excess protein in baby formula. The breastfeeding data is controversial though, with charges leveled of a “white hat bias.” That’s the concern that public health researchers might disproportionally shelve research results that doesn’t fit some goal for the greater good (in this case, preferably publishing breastfeeding studies showing more positive results)––but of course that’s coming from someone who works for an infant formula company. Breast is best regardless; its role in the childhood obesity epidemic just remains arguably uncertain.

Prevention may be the key. Given the epigenetic influence of maternal weight during pregnancy, a symposium of experts on pediatric nutrition concluded that “planning of pregnancy, including prior optimization of maternal weight and metabolic condition, offers a safe means to initiate the prevention rather than treatment of pediatric obesity.” Easier said than done, but overweight moms-to-be may take comfort in the fact that after the weight loss in the surgery study, even the moms who gave birth to kids with three times lower risk were still, on average, obese themselves, suggesting weight loss before pregnancy is not an all-or-nothing proposition.

Please consider volunteering to help out on the site.

Video production by Glass Entertainment

Motion graphics by Avocado Video

Below is an approximation of this video’s audio content. To see any graphs, charts, graphics, images, and quotes to which Dr. Greger may be referring, watch the above video.

Identical twins don’t just share DNA; they also shared a uterus. Might that also help account for some of their metabolic similarities? Fetal overnutrition, evidenced by an abnormally large birth weight, seems to be a strong predictor of obesity in childhood and later in life. Could it be you are what your mom ate?

A dramatic illustration from the animal world is the cross breeding of Shetland ponies with massive draft horses. Either way, the offspring are half pony/half horse, but in the pony uterus they come out much smaller (thank heavens for the poor pony). This is presumably the same reason why the mule (donkey dad and mare) is larger than the hinny (stallion and donkey mom). The way you test this in people is to study the size of babies from surrogate mothers after in vitro fertilization.

Who do you think most determines the birth weight of a test-tube baby—the donor mom who provided all the DNA, or the surrogate mom who provided the intrauterine environment? When it was put to the test, the womb won. Incredibly, a baby born to an obese surrogate mother with a skinny biological mom may harbor a greater risk of becoming obese than a baby from a big biological mom born to a slim surrogate. The researchers conclude “the environment provided by the human mother is more important than her genetic contribution to birth weight.”

The most compelling data comes from comparing obesity rates in siblings born to the exact same mother before and after her bariatric surgery. Compared to their brothers and sisters born before the surgery, those born when mom weighed about 100 pounds less had lower rates of inflammation, metabolic derangements, and, most critically, three times less risk of developing severe obesity (affecting 35 percent of those born before the weight loss compared to 11 percent born after). The researchers conclude “these data emphasize how critical it is to prevent obesity and treat it effectively to prevent further transmission to future generations.”

But wait. Mom had the same DNA before and after surgery. She passed the same genes down. How could her weight during pregnancy affect the weight destiny of her children any differently? Darwin himself admitted that the greatest error he committed “has been not allowing sufficient weight to the direct action of the environment, like food…independently of natural selection.” We finally figured out the mechanism by which this can happen: epigenetics.

Epigenetics (literally meaning “above genetics”) layers an extra level of information on top of the DNA sequence that can be both affected by our surrounds and potentially passed on to our children. This is thought to explain the “developmental programming” that can occur in the womb depending on the weight of the mother, or even your grandmother. Since all the eggs in your infant daughters’ ovaries are already preformed before birth, a mother’s weight status during pregnancy could potentially affect the obesity risk of her grandchildren too. Either way, you can imagine how this could result in an intergenerational vicious cycle where obesity begets obesity.

Is there anything we can do about it? Well, breastfed infants may be at lower risk for later obesity, though the benefits may be confined to exclusive breastfeeding, as the effect may be due to growth factors triggered by exposure to the excess protein in baby formula. The breastfeeding data is controversial though, with charges leveled of a “white hat bias.” That’s the concern that public health researchers might disproportionally shelve research results that doesn’t fit some goal for the greater good (in this case, preferably publishing breastfeeding studies showing more positive results)––but of course that’s coming from someone who works for an infant formula company. Breast is best regardless; its role in the childhood obesity epidemic just remains arguably uncertain.

Prevention may be the key. Given the epigenetic influence of maternal weight during pregnancy, a symposium of experts on pediatric nutrition concluded that “planning of pregnancy, including prior optimization of maternal weight and metabolic condition, offers a safe means to initiate the prevention rather than treatment of pediatric obesity.” Easier said than done, but overweight moms-to-be may take comfort in the fact that after the weight loss in the surgery study, even the moms who gave birth to kids with three times lower risk were still, on average, obese themselves, suggesting weight loss before pregnancy is not an all-or-nothing proposition.

Please consider volunteering to help out on the site.

Video production by Glass Entertainment

Motion graphics by Avocado Video

57 responses to “The Role of Epigenetics in the Obesity Epidemic

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    1. I am always impressed at the creativity of researchers who by their study design and results are able to give practical guidance to individuals. I also salute the NF.org volunteers who support Dr. Greger’s work by annually reading through the tens of thousands of peer reviewed science articles to separate the “wheat from the chaff”. Dr. Greger as usual delivers the message in a funny easy to follow manner. Of course all the citations are provided under “sources cited” link and you can always rewatch the video’s if needed. I recommend that everyone subscribe and keep tuned in as the science keeps on coming and you never know when a valuable tip will be highlighted to help the health of yourself, friend or family member.

  1. The obese people I see in stores apparently all came from a surrogate with a gene for Little Debbie snack cake addiction.

    My point, genes do not decide food choices and eating habits.

    1. Reality bites,

      As far as “genes do not decide food choices and eating habits” that hasn’t been studied well enough to discount it yet.

      The fact that the children born to the same mother before and after bariatric surgery have such different outcomes, it needs to be “fleshed” out more, if what I think and, yes, I worded it that way on purpose.

      Epigentics is more important. That doesn’t mean that genes don’t contribute anything.

  2. Honestly, the title of this doesn’t even bear thinking about – where have things gone that this should be a topic of consideration, never mind conversation and debate – but fair dues; I’m sure it’s relevant somewhere; but to my mind any form of euthanasia is murder.

    1. Patricia,

      I am not certain – but I wonder if you are conflating Epigenetics with Eugenics.

      The abuses associated with the Eugenics Movement are well known. The world largely settled the matter in 1945.

      The problems of the Social Darwinism and the Eugenics Movement arose from Darwinistic genetic determinism – that due to the immutable nature of genetic inheritance, that nothing could be changed in populations except by selective breeding, and by “culling” – “weeding” – that is to say, sterilizing and/or murdering – unapproved individual and entire population gene pools.

      Which is to say – living human beings.

      That is why racists so often link themselves with Darwin. They broadcast this association. Darwinism reinforces their prejudices, and gives them a patina of science. This has been going on since the 1800s – it goes on, still.

      Not to deny Darwin’s concept of evolution. The concept is profound, as have been the consequences. But in addition to good, the concept is also easily directed towards unfortunate purposes. I view Darwinism – considering its history of use and misuse – as a heavy, high caliber loaded gun – to be handled, yes – but to be handled very, very carefully.

      ————————————————

      Epigenetics, on the other hand, frees us from Darwinistic genetic determinism. It says that we can actually improve future generations in a positive way. That “our genes are not our fate” (Ornish) – applied intergenerationally. Better diet, decreased pollution, decreased stress – all sorts of things will not only help the individual, but also the children and grandchildren of that individual. And the same concept can be applied to populations and subpopulations, as well.

      I like to think of Epigenetics as the opposite of Eugenics. Where Eugenics may lead to pessimism and societal cruelty – “culling” – , Epigenetics may lead to optimism and societal generosity.

      For example – where Eugenics may have led to the compulsory sterilization movement of institutionalized individuals, Epigeneitcs might instead encourage better diet and other physical and psychological treatment for such individuals and for their children and for their grandchildren.

      Eugenic thinking may lead the individual to trying to be an island and separate oneself from the imperfect. Epigenetitc thinking, on the other hand, may encourage one to realize that some degree of altruism may be in all of our best interests.

      And reality may then intervene and say that all the theories in the world do not seem to solve real world problems. It is how those theories are pursued. Details make all the difference.

      And we return to our daily lives.

      Can Epigenetics be hijacked by racists and such? Of course it can. Anything good can. But people involved are on their guard – they know history – and it won’t happen without a whole lot of noise from within.

      Patricia.

      All the best –

      Vivamus

      1. Vivamus,

        Thank you for interpreting Patricia’s response; I had no idea what she was talking about, or meant. Who said anything about euthanasi?

        I’m guessing she didn’t even watch the video; it must have popped up on her search engine, and she chimed in with her two cents. Two ignorant cents.

        1. Dr. J,

          You are welcome.

          My family is from the South. My grandfather was a proponent of Social Darwinism. A soft spoken man. It had never come up in all the years I had known him – then I visited him one summer on the farm, and something I said got him started – and he insisted I read his books on racial superiority / inferiority.

          There was a whole shelf of them. I viewed his books in wonder – I had studied about this in school as “history” – but to him, this was his present. I took one book down from the shelf – and – yup – there it was – copyright date somewhere in the 1920s. Smack dab in the middle of the Social Darwinism movement.

          I looked for the name “Herbert Spencer.” There it was. Must have been a popularization in the 1920s.

          I was holding history in my hands.

          My grandfather’s racism was of the kinder variety. “Scientifically based.” “It’s not their fault.”

          Myself – I always try to be careful of science. It can lead you into the oddest places.

          Does this all make Grandfather a bad man? Well – orphaned at age 14 due to a flu epidemic – “Mother died first . . . Father a few weeks later” – early 1900s, prior to 1918 – eight siblings, as I recollect – or was it nine? – he kept the farm going with several of his brothers and sisters. The youngest were sent to the Presbyterian Orphanage – age cut-off something like five years old – older were considered unadoptable. Others to relatives – I think to around age eight. Oldest stuck with the farm – but whether from choice or from a lack of alternatives, I cannot say.

          Those must have been some extraordinary family conferences.

          I am thinking out of “Lord of the Flies.”

          Can you imagine taking on that kind of responsibility when you were 14 years old?

          He did it.

          The relatives treated the kids they took in not as family – but as burden. Unwelcome servants. Steerage. Think: Cinderella without the ball.

          The orphanage kids actually got the best of it. Warm memories of the orphanage – the Presbyterians did in right! – love and security and support – and off to college. One became an aeronautical engineer – designing biplanes.

          Grandfather worked the farm.

          Lost that farm to bankruptcy around 1928 – farm crisis. Moved farther out from town – got another.

          Farming is what he knew.

          Grandfather and Grandmother raised five children – he respected and encouraged learnin’ – sent four off to college. No money – they and the GI Bill got each other through. The fifth never was quite right – but he went to WW II and brought back a Hungarian girl. Union man up North. Their kids never were quite right, either.

          The stress must have been hard on Grandfather. Only made to to 95. Perhaps with a less stressful life, it would have been longer.

          But sometimes I wonder if helping others brings longer life. I canna prove it – Mr Fumblefingers probably has a paper that will prove me wrong – but I seem to see it around me all the time.

          Was Grandfather a bad man? A Southern Racist – it is undeniable. A product of his time. He thought long and hard – and he did what he could with what he had.

          When we judge him – I wonder what we are doing right now, as a society – and each of us as individuals – that we will see as wrong in later years. Or that we will not see as wrong at all – but others one day will.

          What books we will have on our shelves?

          We each do what we can with what we have.

          Dr. J.

          All the best –

          Vivamus

            1. Mr Fumblefingers,

              I read the abstract – study unavailable.

              Yup.

              At last!

              It is good to see that you have finally found a scientific study that coincides with reality.

              Here I thought it would never happen.

              You have proven me wrong – fair and square.

              One thinks of Émile Borel – infinite monkeys – infinite typewriters – infinite time.

              Or it you prefer:

              X n = ( 1 − 1 50 6 ) n . {\displaystyle X_{n}=\left(1-{\frac {1}{50^{6}}}\right)^{n}.} X_n=\left(1-\frac{1}{50^6}\right)^n.

              It looks like it must be a very strong effect, indeed, to have both human experience and science meet.

              It looks like it does in this case.

              Mr Fumblefingers.

              All the best –

              Vivamus

          1. Viv the answer to your question will come with a true recognition as to whether or not grandpa took advantage of a native american or black man during his own “troubles”, or benefited directly and knowingly from this exploitation knowingly. At some point even during his duress, and while trying to teach you how to be a racist, (which yoiu seem to believe you avoided), I will suggest the answer is as obvious.

            Either you will give him a “pass” because “it was just the times”, like Thomas Jefferson, or we will realize that real choices were made, and some chose not to exploit or benefit from racism.

            To some extent, this is impossible merely because of ongoing white privilege, due to the teachings of people like your grandfather to their grandchildren.

            Thanks for sharing and thanks if you really are questioning your grandfather and not trying to explain why it was ok because he had it rough.

            1. Viv, I should add I don’t mean to sound judgemental, we all must to live in our own skins, and the legacies passed onto them…Mom had racist tendencies whole simultaneously being subject to them. I would point it out. She couldn’t see it. It is a very good step to think about these things and to try to walk a mile in the shoes (if they had any) of others who’ve definitely been horribly wronged in the past.

              It can make us uncomfortable to consider, and its normal to try to avoid the discomfort so we issue pardons etc… it helps us, but not so much for the historically oppressed and their progeny.

              My wife just returned from the Navaho Nation in Arizona, and a place there they self coined :the “Gaza Strip” because its has a similar legacy to what Israel has done -to this day- to Palestine, from occupation to total control of even water, to restrictions on self sustenance efforts such that they remain in need, and therefore can be thought of as less than, because of it, by a willfully blind general citizenry.

              Her largest takeaway from the Nation, after delivering hundreds of backpacks filled with school supplies, and sitting with heads of state there, was the depth of defeat in their eyes, and in there daily existence, combined with a deep and justified hatred for the ‘white man’s ways’. Treaty and promise after another being ignored or changed to suit profit and corruption. The water, the soil, the air, the ingenuity and spirituality of their culture, all disrespected for 500 years based on a feeling of superiority – and a gun.

              I know you are aware of all this, and that the backlash of all this is that these occupier efforts have lasting effects on the oppressed such that they internalize these inadequacies…

              And so it goes…

              Related:
              I read the “Contract with Black America” the other day and I felt it to be just what the doctor should order. One thing remarkable though, was the posting of a black man who was concerned with the delivery of the message, and the focus, and he suggested that Native Americans should not be included in a list of recipients of American atrocity, because they had been given lots of money.

              This is the illustration of the cycle of painful effects of the early historical actions of racist occupiers (fleeing oppression and tyranny themselves?). This gentleman cannot see what my wife saw at the Navaho nation (truth is, he is unlikely to travel there to verify his beliefs). She saw no community resources or centralized assistance zones, lack of clean water, clothing, (school supplies?).

              He cannot see that because he now feels about them, what so many feel about his own black community: “Hey now you have every opportunity at your disposal by now and should simply lift yourself up. Its not me doing these things that happened so many years ago.”

              It can breed a false feeling of superiority or unfounded jealousy, if one hasn’t the humility to know its happening to themselves, and working to inform the idea with honest history and real research. So many of our ideas, just …form. We challenge the ideas of others more than our own.

              Therefore, I don’t want to convince you or anyone here, not calling you out or anything. I’m just glad its being talked about and perhaps a catalyst for a collective introspection for a more sober perspective without influence or bias.

              So next step is to feel we are no different at all. But thats down the road…

              1. jazzBass,

                That is sweet that your wife brought supplies.

                I remember a trip I took to Wounded Knee. Well, I remember 2 trips to Wounded Knee.

                One, we picked up a very drunken hitch-hiker Native American and he was a very sweet person who talked about some of the things you talked about. And another time I was alone and I had an encounter with a young man at the site and he gave me a drum and what I know is that what happened to the Native Americans was so bad. Even culturally, they can’t exist the same way anymore because the culture that took over came in like a tsunami and still is like one.

                Looking at poverty, I wonder what will happen in the future. Right now, in Los Angeles alone there are almost 50,000 people who can’t afford housing and nobody anywhere is going to build low-income housing. They are going to outlaw homelessness and eventually, they are moved to skid row or end up with enough tickets that they go to prison. Pan-handling is illegal and sleeping in a park is illegal and sleeping in a car is illegal and nobody guards the people in skid row and they are raped and beaten and stolen from and it reminded me of the history of moving the Native Americans onto land with fewer and fewer resources.

                The middle class is being swallowed up and retail is failing and small business is struggling. What if Tesla puts all the car places and solar places out of business and Amazon puts all of the retail out of business and there are now online doctors and online psychologists and what if suddenly it is the professional class that falls out of the bottom of society?

                Right now, I have several people who own multiple houses who wouldn’t let their homeless siblings even stay in one while they are out of town, but what if the professional class starts getting affected?

                What if Hollywood starts getting affected by straight to Netflix and straight to Amazon and straight to Apple? Suddenly the stars aren’t worth millions anymore?

                It seems likely to happen eventually.

                Anyway, when the USA went into COVID shut down, the poor people around the world felt the effects at such a high level almost immediately.

                I am not an expert on any of it. I am just watching it and wondering what happens next.

                1. What I thought looking at the low income housing situation was that the Native Americans didn’t have a lifestyle that was sustainable in the event of global population explosion (and neither does mainstream America).

                  We may well already have half of the population of the USA that struggles with basic housing and basic needs.

                  Maybe more than half when you add in the groups like foster kids and prisoners and immigrants and migrant workers and other groups that might not have made it into the salary statistics.

                  1. In Hong Kong the working poor live in cages just like animals at the dog pound.

                    And yet when the government allows skyscrapers to be built they are never built on behalf of the working poor.

                    1. Deb, I hadnt known of the cage homes. Im glad they can at least work…

                      Saddening and should be a thing we think of each day, to maintain humility.

                  2. Well the thing is their lifestyle suits them and is completely sustainable if we keep our grubby paws off their resources. The land they live on which was designated theirs (under screwed up land lease) is a place none of the poor and homeless would care to live on because they don’t have thousands of years of skills. So they can live just fine in a global population explosion if we adopted their ways. Their ways are sustainable, since their first duty and profound respect goes to the earth itself.

  3. Chances are the tubby surrogates got tubby from eating processed foods which are loaded with flat-producing excitotoxic – brain damaging – glutamic acid and aspartic acid. Those amino acids wipe out brain cells in the fetuses – the cells that would have regulated appetite and thus controlled weight had they not been obliterated. So the offspring of the tubby moms would more likely be obese compared to the offspring of their skinny counterparts. Just another illustration of the damage done to the fetus by MSG and related flavor-enhancers and protein substitutes fed to fetuses by pregnant women.

    1. Glutamic acid is not harmful and not brain damaging. There is a difference between monosodium glutamate and glutamic acid which is found naturally in some of the healthiest foods studied such as tomatoes, mushrooms, and nutritional yeast, just to name a few. MSG made in a lab, it reacts very different in the body than glutamic acid, a natural amino acid our bodies easily break down. What evidence shows that the synthetic flavor enhancer MSG can damage a fetus? I’m not saying I would be surprised, I think it’s horrible stuff and it used to give me head aches and brain fog when I used to eat it in foods like ramen. But you didn’t provide any cited sources and I have personally not heard that. Whether or not there is sound data, I’d say it’s best for pregnant women to definitely stay away from MSG, but eat lots of tomatoes, mushrooms, etc.

      1. Glutamic acid is one of a class of excitotoxic – brain damaging — amino acids. When consumed in controlled quantities, they are essential to normal body function as neurotransmitters and building blocks of protein. But when consumed in quantities greater than needed for normal body function they becomes excitotoxic, firing repeatedly and killing their targeted glutamate receptors. John Olney coined the term “excitotoxic” in 1969, describing excitotoxins.

        If one is sticking to a diet of whole foods, fresh fruits and vegetables and unadulterated meat, one will probably not ingest enough excitotoxins during the course of a day to turn on their brain-damaging functions. But for those who indulge in processed and ultra-processed foods, it’s a different story.

        Two references should be enough to answer some immediate questions.

        1. Adrienne, what evidence are you going off of? I have scoured through pubmed or anything, but the impression I get from the man who makes it his life to, is there is not a lot of data on MSG. However, based on so many anecdotes and my own personal experience with MSG, I am positive it is bad stuff that should be avoided. https://nutritionfacts.org/video/is-msg-bad-for-you/ https://nutritionfacts.org/video/update-on-msg/

          But what evidence do you have that glutamic acid–a natural amino acid found in some of the most beneficial foods we can eat–is harmful? There isn’t any, if you can provide some, please link it here.

          1. Also, I would say that even essential amino acids can be harmful in the uncontrolled amounts you’re describing. Anything can be, from an essential nutrient to water. What the science shows us on whole plant foods, is that we don’t have to worry about getting too much of anything because our bodies have a way of working with plant foods where we stop absorption beyond what’s needed. You’ll get an incredible amount of iron from eating a plant based diet, but you’ll never have to worry about iron toxicity from a plant based diet, for example.

          2. Strange that you didn’t get the entire reply I sent you yesterday, but here it is again. Please note the two citations listed at the end.
            Glutamic acid is one of a class of excitotoxic – brain damaging — amino acids. When consumed in controlled quantities, they are essential to normal body function as neurotransmitters and building blocks of protein. But when consumed in quantities greater than needed for normal body function they becomes excitotoxic, firing repeatedly and killing their targeted glutamate receptors. John Olney coined the term “excitotoxic” in 1969, describing excitotoxins.

            If one is sticking to a diet of whole foods, fresh fruits and vegetables and unadulterated meat, one will probably not ingest enough excitotoxins during the course of a day to turn on their brain-damaging functions. But for those who indulge in processed and ultra-processed foods, it’s a different story.

            Two references should be enough to answer some immediate questions.

            1. I still see no citations to evidence. All I see you referencing is John Olney about coining the term “excitotoxic.” Then I see you mentioned two references at the very end… perhaps your links aren’t showing up for me?

              1. Here’s a link to the first article: https://bit.ly/2Q8gNBB . The Olney article was published in 1969, and there is no link to it from that time. You can find reference to it on pubmed.gov, however. And if you personally have interest in the excitotoxic — brain damaging — potential of MSG (actually the glutamic acid in MSG) you can find references that include the Olney article at https://bit.ly/2OGlrG4 .

                I have copies of the emails I sent to NutritionFacts.org in response to your statements. They confirm that the references were sent each time that I claim to have sent them.

                Interesting. In May, 2020, I sent evidence of the toxicity of MSG in response to a request from Christine Kestner, MS, CNS, LDN (Health Support Volunteer). I sent Christine pages of fully-referenced information which were never shared on NutritionFacts.org or even acknowledged. You can read what I sent at https://bit.ly/2AwMPTp .
                It’s Dr. Greger’s business if he doesn’t want to mention that MSG might be toxic. It’s his page. But I resent being made to look a fool for saying I had sent material to NutritionFacts.org, with the claim made that they were not received.

                I

                1. Adrienne,

                  Got the link this time, thanks. Strange it wasn’t showing up before. I don’t think you look like a fool, I believe you sent the links–I could tell by your writing in the posts they weren’t showing up in. They just weren’t showing up for me which is indeed very odd.

                  So in the article, just browsing so far and they’re talking about isolated glutamate outside of the protein, so from food additives like MSG. I don’t doubt that MSG is harmful. I know the videos presented here don’t show it to be, but I disagree from my own experience as well as others and what I’ve learned and gathered. But I also don’t agree on Dr. Greger’s takeaway on fluoridated water in the least and he didn’t acknowledge research showing the negatives. But I would argue that it is not the glutamic acid in MSG that makes it so harmful, it’s when the glutamic acid is unnaturally isolated which causes it to react totally differently in the body than if you at mushroom pasta, or a mound of marinara sauce and so on.

          3. S,

            I have looked up MSG on PubMed because I always would have said that I was allergic to it when I ate too much of it and the research I saw backed up high doses being the factor. People didn’t have the problems at low doses. I thought that was interesting because that is what I always experienced. It was when I ate any of the Asian culture food in California where they used MSG too often and too high portions, I would get very sick.

            There are foods like turmeric, blueberries, and foods with vitamin C that can lower the glutamate and lower the effects of MSG. Also, lowering homocysteine lowers glutamate.

            So there might be something that when people are high in something like Homocysteine it might affect them more. That is my personal thought, not a doctor saying it. It is my question to myself.

            Glutamate will come out of the brain by passive diffusion by lowering the amount in the body.

            RoundUp had a much greater association.

            https://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S0300483X14000493

            1. Deb,

              That is an interesting hypothesis! I don’t eat from Chinese restaurants anymore or most restaurants (though show me a relatively healthy vegan one and I am there), but luckily there was one by me, when I did, that didn’t use MSG. I did fine on their food. But I got horrible brain fog whenever I ate from this other place (which used a ton of MSG) and whenever I ate ramen, and I felt weird… like kind of depressed but not due to actual depression. It was a strange feeling.

              Thanks for the RoundUp info and link! Very useful and incredibly important information!! I would LOVE to see Dr. Greger do a video on the effects of RoundUP and the topic of pesticides and GMO’s in general.

  4. Nice video!

    This is off-topic, but I have been seeing a lot of criticism of Dr. Greger’s videos and books on the basis of “cherry-picking studies”. The only place where I have seen Dr. Greger respond is in one YouTube video which I can’t find right now. Anyways, I was wondering if anyone can respond to this accusation as it seems to be a common one leveled against Dr. Greger. By the way, this in no means is a disagreement between me and Dr. Greger; I agree with him and deeply respect his work.

    Thanks!

    1. The truly fascinating things about these claims are that they are mostly made by people who cherry pick studies to promote unhealthy diets. It is called gaslighting.

      Notice also that they are never able to give a concrete example of where Greger has cherry picked studies and ignored good quality studies that contradict the studies he cites.

      A third point is that virtually every health authority on the planet has come to the same conclusion as Gregerv ie that a diet based on whole plant foods is the healthiest. None of them recommend the types of diets promoted by the critics who accuse Greger of cherry picking

      https://www.who.int/news-room/fact-sheets/detail/healthy-diet
      https://www.wcrf.org/dietandcancer/recommendations/wholegrains-veg-fruit-beans
      https://www.hhs.gov/fitness/eat-healthy/how-to-eat-healthy/index.html

    2. Vinay,

      the people who accuse Dr. Greger of cherry picking studies are basically just desperate. It’s akin to the kind of desperation you might witness if someone is on a losing side of a debate and they sink to attacking the person’s grammatical error. That is to say, they’re just desperately reaching. When you’re trying to argue against the evidence with no sound evidence on your side–so basically when you’re lying–you have to get childish. “Cherry picking” is an easy go to, to try to confuse people away from the quality scientific data that Dr. Greger presents. Anyone who pays attention will see that this is not the case, but to those just browsing who aren’t really familiar with him as a doctor, person, or his work, they may easily disregard the OVERWHELMING and abundantly clear science because some ag (animal agriculture) shill or a bunch of keto enthusiasts relentlessly accused him of cherry picking studies.

      The one’s who very clearly DO cherry pick studies, are the ones backing things like the keto do, or “scientists” hired by the dairy industry, etc. You’ll see some incredible cherry picking in those realms.

    3. Vinay,

      Dr. Greger has a team of something like 200 doctor volunteers who scour all of the medical journals. Then, he has a process with something like 5 fact-checkers and a team of people working with him.

      They do an extensive process which he has described in detail in a video.

      https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=auZDWTMLM8I&ab_channel=RichRoll

      This is one of the process videos but this one had way fewer volunteers.

      https://nutritionfacts.org/video/behind-the-scenes-at-nutritionfacts-org/

      The “cherry-picking” has to be dealt with topic by topic because there are horrible studies by each of the big food industries and he has a lot of videos that explain who they do fake studies by setting up the study in a way that they will win.

      There are detailed videos explaining how that happens on this site and the big food industries would point to those industry-funded studies as proof that Dr. Greger is wrong but they have set up the studies in ridiculous ways and it is too hard to go into the details without having specific topics.

      I can give the cholesterol example. They proved that cholesterol wasn’t important by having everybody in the study already have high cholesterol and it would be like giving an extra drink to a room full of drunk people and having them drive and using that as proof that alcohol doesn’t affect driving.

      Be patient with the process because there are so many fake studies out there and it does take people who are professional at analyzing statistics and data to help.

      When I first came here, I had been exposed to so many subjects from the opposite perspective that it was frustrating, but now I do understand better why those paradoxes have happened in science and maybe I also understand better how to handle the paradoxes when I get to them.

  5. Our innate bias appears to equate Obesity with a High-Fat Diet, yet studies exist in which Obesity exists despite Hypophagia (low volume hence low calorie diets).
    Consider the Obese Surrogate Mother whose fat contains Obesogens. Her Adipocytes are releasing Adipokines which may stimulate FAS (Fatty Acid Synthase) and PPARgamma upregulation. The Newborn will have been exposed to this environment, and Fatty Acid Synthesis, Lipogenesis and Adipogenesis genes will have been (presumably) upregulated. This would account for the Pediatric Obesity despite a balanced diet.

    The mother who has undergone bariatric surgery and presumably lost adipose tissue will have a decrease in her Adipokine levels.

    Consider Obesogens so powerful as to promote Fatty Acid and Triglyceride Biosynthesis, hence resulting in Adipocyte Hypertrophy (despite eating a balanced diet and exercising) at the expense of essential tissue renewal. The body concentrates almost exclusively on Fat production. This is the reality for some.

    1. Our current pandemic and all those before it, is and are an example of how horrible the world is to animals and unwilling they are to change these horrific habits. Given the data, it’s amazing it isn’t talked about everywhere, especially at this time. But understanding the world, it isn’t so amazing that it isn’t talked about anywhere… except via Dr. Greger and few others.

  6. If this is true this is Brilliance. Now one wonders if other lifestyle choices also set your children up for problems such as if the mother had viruses that cause immune response.

  7. I have a dilemma. Both my grandma and my mom were thin to normal weights before, during and after pregnancy as was I. I am a vegan so my 2 fetal sons (10.5 yrs apart in age) benefitted from a lot of vegetables while I was pregnant with them. They were both exclusively breastfed for over 6 months, and continued to breastfeed for several years actually, in addition to an organic, healthy diet. My older son was 1 week late and I had to he induced which led to an emergency C-section. His birth weight was 9 lbs 3 oz. My younger son was a scheduled C-section which went well and as planned even though I had started to go into the early stages of labor the previous evening. His birth weight was 8 lbs 6 oz. I am lean and an athlete as well as is their father.
    My dilemma is that despite a healthy diet and playing double sports, my older son was always husky until about age 13. Then he grew exponentially and he is now so tall and lean that it’s hard to believe that’s the same person. The dilemma was that we could not figure out why he was so husky before his growth spurt. He was even considered pre-diabetic.
    The real part of the dilemma is with my 2nd son who is 11. He is obese, but he did not start out that way. He was always very strong and energetic. He wasn’t husky, just very solid. After his last MMR shot at 6 yrs old, he started to rapidly gain weight. His diet is healthy and organic. No snacks, just 3 meals. Neither son has had soda or juice, just water. He gets a moderate amount of exercise. I got his bloodwork done looking for a metabolic condition and it all came out normal. We are at a loss trying to figure out why he weighs 180 lbs at 11 yrs old. His pediatrician says it’s probably genetics, but there are no obese people on either side of the family. I really wish I knew where to go from here. I am considering the fecal transplant that I’ve read about so he can get a reset on his gut microbiome. Thank you so much for all your research and articles.

    1. Aimee,

      Before going for a formal fecal transplant – or, for that matter, for an informal one – consider that you don’t know where it’s been.

      Unless it’s from your other son, I suppose.

      But careful of this being the ultimate: “Why can’t you be more like your brother?”

      ————————————————–

      Microbiome change:

      An experiment of one as follows – take it for what it is worth.

      Result: weight loss from a BMI of 29-30 to a BMI of 21 currently – over a period of many years.

      There is no hurry in these matters.

      I apparently underwent a microbiome change inadvertently along the way. The effect was obvious and rapid. Please excuse the nitty-gritty – we are discussing human digestion. Be strong. As follows:

      (1) I gradually – over several months to a year – changed over to a huge variety – not a huge volume, just a huge variety – small servings, each – of different vegetables, legumes, whole grains, fruits, nuts – plus a small amount of Alaskan pink salmon (~3oz. 2X/week).

      Every different fruit and veggie and grain and bean I could think of. Plus – I learned new ones.

      Why? Well – deprivation does not work – will power always fails in time. But substitution and variety and crowding out does work and all stand up well over time.

      Immediate results from that long-ago change in diet – stomach growling up a storm – it was actually kinda comical to be in the same room with myself – had the sound effects of living with of a zoo next door – was that an elephant that just walked by? – no, that sounded more like a alligator! This subsided over time. Also – excuse me – marked flatulence for seven months – no fun at all – I had to get up from my work and take a walk every 10-15 minutes – not practical for everyone in the world – I was fortunate in my work setting. If in school, one might want to start such a venture at the beginning of summer vacation or while in a remote learning environment.

      Then – over two days – all that suddenly ceased. No longer rocket powered. Out of the blue – ended – just like that. Wow! My conjecture was that I had probably picked up somethin’ in one of the restaurants I had recently visited – SAD, Thai, Mexican, Chinese – who knows – and that some restaurant worker hadn’t washed his hands. A fellow WFPB dieter? Whoever it was, he had a great microbiome! I was most grateful. Other possibilities abound, as well – incompletely washed veggies, my own hand sanitation, etc. – but I am still going with my original gut reaction as to the source. We will never know for certain.

      (2) Reduce or eliminate all fried foods and all dairy. These are the easy dietary fat targets. People can eliminate as much as 60% of their calorie intake right there. Plus clear up acne.

      (3) Reduce or eliminate all bakery items and candy. Cookies, cakes and pies are all made up largely of the same simple basic formula: sugar, fat, refined flour and salt – with a little bit of something else for flavor. Candy follows the same basic formula as bakery items with the additional elimination of the refined flour: candy is largely fat and sugar and flavoring. Think of bakery items as being candy plus refined flour.

      (4) For weight control, understanding calorie density is key. Ornish lead on this. But your best bet on this today is sitting down with your child (or separately as appropriate) and watching this video from the amazin’ Jeff Novick, MS, RD:
      https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=0CdwWliv7Hg

      (5) Metabolic. But you have stated: ” I got his bloodwork done looking for a metabolic condition and it all came out normal.”
      So that looks like that is likely out.

      (6) Weight loss goal – population wide – always adjust as appropriate to your own situation: BMI of 21 is probably healthiest. Waist/Hip ratio of .95 or less for males , .85 or less for females. Waist/Height ratio of 50% or less. I prefer a trajectory of 2 pounds of weight loss a month – it doesn’t sound like much, but 24 pounds a year is tremendous if maintained over time. People will typically lose eight pounds the first month, less thereafter – they tend to plateau. Some go whole hog and lose 20 pounds a month – I discourage this. “The faster you lose it, the faster you gain it back.” Slow and easy wins this race.

      (7) Never do fasting. Never do fasting. Never do fasting. You just lose muscle mass. Anyone tells you differently – stick your fingers in your ears and scream and shout. They are not your friends.

      ———————————-

      I have had good luck with people going with the above. They do complain to me about the expense of having to buy new clothes.

      I am happy for them – and for their tailors.

      Aimee.

      All the best –

      Vivamus

    2. Aimee Rice,

      It sounds like you are doing a lot of things very well.

      Is he on a Whole Food Plant-Based diet?

      Does he eat animal products?

      Do you use oil in cooking?

      Are there refined carbs in the mix?

      As far as the fecal transplant and resetting his gut microbiome, Dr. Greger has mentioned that concept in one of his videos. But if he is vegan, organic, whole food plant-based, I am thinking that already should have reset the microbiome considerably itself and If he is eating animal products, I think the microbiome will not stay fixed after the transplant. If he had antibiotics for something it might help.

      How about things like is he low in Vitamin D? Does he have a source of iodine?

      Does he eat his evening meal later?

      Does he eat breakfast?

      Does he sleep at night?

      You might be able to glean a whole list of questions from How Not to Diet.

    1. “But presumably women change their diets after bariatric surgery”

      I actually know two women who had bariatric surgery and couldn’t help but change their diets. Very unfortunately they now have a hard time eating fruit and vegetables, reportedly not feeling well when they do. But it wasn’t as some excuse to not eat their fruits and veggies, they’re upset about it and other issues they weren’t warned about the surgery they now have to deal with. It did work for weight loss though.

      1. S,

        You wrote: “they’re upset about it and other issues they weren’t warned about the surgery”

        Could you please elaborate as to the “other issues they weren’t warned about?”

        This would be good to know.

        Thank you,

        Vivamus

        1. Vivamus,

          sorry for my late response, I didn’t see your reply till now. I’m actually not 100% sure what they all were, I’d have to ask again and these are relatives I don’t see all the time. It’s been a while. I can definitely see how that is helpful information to share so I regret not remembering, but it was a while ago. Pretty much what I remember was just how sensitive their stomachs became, but interestingly in regards to the healthier foods they were trying to eat, particularly fruit if memory serves. One of them is my cousin and she loves fruit so that upset her. In regards to weight loss, it was a success. I don’t believe they have any serious health issues or anything from the surgery, though, but certainly having your body unable to eat the abundance of whole plant foods we all should be, has lingering consequences. Next time I see them I’ll ask them if anything has changed.

    2. I was going the same direction in my thinking. Overweight moms feed their children the same diet they are eating, dieting moms recognizing the importance of proper food consumption feed their children the same diet (in theory anyway). So wondering if that is the real root cause and not necessarily epigenetics.

      1. Hi, Michelle! It’s true, to paraphrase Dr. Greger, that diets tend to run in families along with genes. Epigenetics refers to changes in gene expression that are affected by diet and other environmental factors, and these changes are measurable. A big part of this, we are just beginning to learn, is our microbiome. More on that here: https://nutritionfacts.org/video/microbiome-the-inside-story/ I hope that helps!

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