Sunday, August 14, 2011

Magnesium and the intellectual debates on the causes of obesity

An interesting intellectual debate about the underlying cause of obesity is underway on the internet, and that's a good thing!

You see, Stephan Guyenet, who has a PhD in neurobiology, disagrees with Gary Taubes, who is a very smart scientific journalist who happens to have studied applied physics and aerospace engineering.  

Taubes maintains that unbridled sugar consumption in the form of processed foods causes obesity and leads to many of the diseases of modern civilization.  His solution is to cut the carbs.

Guyenet believes it's not so much the carbs themselves as our societal prediliction for hyperpalatable food that is at the root of the problem.  He maintains that getting away from highly rewarding foods is part of  the answer and notes that there are many cultures who subsist on bland starchy diets without any signs of obesity or diseases of modern civilization.

A third expert weighing in on the subject is Dr. Jack Kruse, a neurosurgeon who says both of them are only partially correct because neither of them has been able to point to the true root of the problem, which he says is our magnesium levels.  According to Kruse:
Speaking of bad things lets talk about the disease where intracellular magnesium is totally disordered. Lets talk diabetes. High levels of insulin make cells store excess Mg, but if you become insulin resistant you can no longer store Mg and begin to lose it at high concentrations in your urine. So all diabetics are seriously deficient in Mg. This is why they all have neolithic diseases. It directly affects their energy production, their DNA and RNA is more susceptible to cancer, and they develop sleep apnea quickly because they ruin the coupling of energy and sleep metabolism signaling of their hormone cascade...
... low intracellular magnesium levels [cause] the genesis of insulin resistance peripherally. And we have known it for a long time but have done little in clinical medicine to treat it. This is why so few people know about it. Peripheral leptin and insulin resistance (at muscles and fat cells) occurs first for this to happen but the depletion of Magnesium always predates insulin resistance. So when blood insulin rises, you lose intracellular Mg and this feedback loop makes the peripheral cells even more insulin resistant because we can’t make insulin or let it act properly on target cells.
So according to Kruse, if you're already insulin resistant, your body is not able to maintain its required magnesium levels.  But even those of us who aren't insulin resistant might not be absorbing as much of this crucial mineral as we need, and over time, it is most likely compromising our health.

There are different ways of supplementing with magnesium and I encourage you to read his blog for more information on the available choices.

It's also important not to get too bogged down in the intellectual details.  To a large degree, it doesn't matter much which of the three writers you find more convincing.

Even though Guyenet is more carb-friendly than Taubes, he is careful to point out that carbohydrate restriction is a great way for many people to lose weight successfully.

And while Kruse says that magnesium supplementation is the key, for practical purposes, because it's so relatively easy to do, the biggest hurdle for most people wanting to lose weight is still the one factor all three agree on: you must cut out the sugars and refined starches that are so prevalent in the Standard American Diet. 

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