Peter Attia: Is the obesity crisis hiding a bigger problem?

Peter Attia @ TEDMED 2013

A TED talk by Peter Attia of TEDMED 2013, about obesity and diabetes.

As a young surgeon, Peter Attia felt contempt for a patient with diabetes. She was overweight, he thought, and thus responsible for the fact that she needed a foot amputation. But years later, Attia received an unpleasant medical surprise that led him to wonder: is our understanding of diabetes right?


Peter Attia is a surgeon who developed metabolic syndrome himself despite the fact that he ate well and exercised often, and realized that our understanding of these important health issues may not actually be correct.

Attia writes the blog Eating Academy, which charts his own adventures in nutrition and examines scientific evidence surrounding food, weight loss and disease risk.

He hopes to convince others that sharp increases in the rates of obesity and diabetes might be a result of people being given the wrong information.


Some important points of the speech

You can think of insulin as this master hormone that controls what our body does with the foods we eat, whether we burn it or store it. This is called fuel partitioning in the lingo. Now failure to produce enough insulin is incompatible with life. And insulin resistance, as its name suggests, is when your cells get increasingly resistant to the effect of insulin trying to do its job.

Once you’re insulin-resistant, you’re on your way to getting diabetes, which is what happens when your pancreas can’t keep up with the resistance and make enough insulin. Now your blood sugar levels start to rise, and an entire cascade of pathologic events sort of spirals out of control that can lead to heart disease, cancer, even Alzheimer’s disease, and amputations

So what if we’re fighting the wrong war, fighting obesity rather than insulin resistance? Even worse, what if blaming the obese means we’re blaming the victims? What if some of our fundamental ideas about obesity are just wrong?

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