Peter Attia at TEDMED: Is the “obesity crisis” just a disguise for a deeper problem?

Dr. Peter Attia blogged about his experience at TEDMED in April, and I’ve noticed that his lecture is finally available. It is very moving. He recounts how he treated a diabetes patient in emergency with contempt because she was fat. At the time, he was self-assured about what causes obesity and diabetes, and yet, he thought, this woman let herself get into the position where she needed an emergency foot amputation to save her life. Later, he learned that obesity is probably not the disease but a symptom of metabolic syndrome, a problem which he himself now had even though he was exercising several hours a day.  The system (meaning the standard health advice as it relates to dietary matters) had let this woman down, and he asks her forgiveness for his lack of compassion and kindness towards her.

Dr. Attia admits that the medical profession is in need of humility, because if his new understanding of the role of metabolic disorder is correct, the medical profession has been giving the wrong advice to their patients for many decades.  He now suggests that obesity is a symptom not a cause of metabolic syndrome and blaming the victim of the disease is neither compassionate nor a helpful solution to the problem.

Personally, I know that I was able to shed 50 lbs of fat by eating red meat, eggs and by increasing my dietary fat, but above all, by lowering my carbohydrate intake to about 30 gm per day.  This was against the advice of a physician who said to eat less red meat, exercise, blah blah blah.  Had I followed the standard dietary advice, I’d still be suffering from my metabolic issues.  Congratulations Dr. Attia, on a helpful lecture which will hopefully stir people, especially other doctors, to do the right thing.

5 thoughts on “Peter Attia at TEDMED: Is the “obesity crisis” just a disguise for a deeper problem?

    • I see some problems with the study, as described in the article. It is interesting that bacterial flora differs between fat and thin people, though that is expected, since those on a low-carb have different flora too–see Robb Wolf’s Paeleo Solution. The difficulty I have with the experiment is that it assumes certain answers; i.e., that low fat, high fiber diet is healthier and that that is different than the standard diet. Low fat high fiber diets are actually, in my view, really bad for the majority of people. And further, many people, based on the standard advice, actually do eat a low fat high fiber diet and still have many problems. The Ornish diet probably contributed to the death of Steve Jobs (no fault to Dr. Ornish though) and Mark Sisson has a couple posts on fiber that belie the common notions about the benefits of fiber:

      In any case, flora makes a difference, to be sure. That is why I eat my home-made, probiotic kim chee nearly everyday.

  1. Some diabetes sufferers are also underweight, whereas others, weight-wise, are just where they ought to be. It seems that every rule has its exceptions.

    • @Roger, to be sure. In the video Dr. Attia mentions that some with metabolic syndrome are not obese, and curiously, that these people are at the highest risk of complications of heart disease, cancer, etc., perhaps because, as he suggests, the obesity is the better coping mechanism for dealing with the high blood sugars.

  2. Pingback: Physician, heal thyself: Nutritional iatrogenesis | The Righteous Investor

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