The word ‘malnourished’ conjures up images of thin, hungry, unfortunate folk, lacking enough food and nutrients to be fit and healthy. Surely if we have enough food to be overweight then we can’t possibly be lacking anything, right?
Wrong! In fact it’s dead easy to be fat and malnourished at same time. The 2016 Global Nutrition Report, prepared by the World Health Organisation, describes overweight and obesity as types of malnutrition.
But how is it possible? The classic, lazy assumption about someone who’s overweight is that they enjoy food too much. So if we’re eating an abundance of food, how can we be lacking nourishment? And what does all this have to do with the state of our gut?
It’s important to get our head around the difference between calories and nutrients. A calorie is a unit of how much energy a food has, whereas nutrients are like little building blocks that our body needs to function every day.
The food we eat needs to provide us with both enough energy AND enough nutrients. Over the millions of years that us humans have been evolving, energy and nutrients went hand in hand.
It’s only very recently that foods have been created that have tons of energy but f*ck-all nutrients! A classic example would be a super-size McDonalds meal.
Thanks to the wonders of modern technology, processed food is around us all the time, and it’s been carefully created to be as tempting and tasty as possible. So it’s very easy to consume more than enough energy every day.
The problem is that much of it will be from so-called ‘empty calories’. These are calories that give us energy, as any calorie does, but without any nutrients.
This is not enough for our body to function properly. It needs both calories AND nutrients.
And let’s be clear: fat doesn’t make us fat. Check out Exploding The Low Fat Myth Once And For All.
The truth is that we need to keep a lid on the BAD fats while INCREASING the GOOD fats. Processed vegetable oils are bad, while natural unprocessed animal and vegetable fats are vital for our health.
The Gut-Fat Connection
Our body weight is closely connected to the state of our microbiome. The fatter we are, the more likely it is that our friendly gut bugs are currently being outgunned by nasty ones inside us.
And there’s evidence to suggest that if we transferred the microbiome from a fat person to a skinny person, the skinny person would get fat! If that sounds ridiculous to you, I explain more here: Weight Loss – Is the Secret In Your Bacteria?
Lose enough of the friendly bacteria and our metabolism seems to go haywire. We start extracting more calories from the food we eat, and gain more weight as a result.
Farm animals have been fed antibiotics for decades for exactly this reason. You thought it was to keep them healthy? Nope, it’s to make them fat. It’s still not really understood why, but killing our friendly bacteria (which antibiotics do) leads to weight gain in humans and animals.
Turning Friends Into Frenemies
We also suffer more cravings when our gut is out of balance. It’s now known that bacteria can manipulate their hosts to act in ways they wouldn’t otherwise do.
For example mice infected with toxoplasmosis lose their fear of cats. Why? So that the toxoplasmosis bacteria can more easily be passed to its ultimate destination: the cat. How creepy is that?!
So when you get an unbearably strong craving for Coca Cola or Cheerios, consider who’s gonna benefit: you or those bad bacteria?
Once our microbiome gets out of shape, our old friends the bacteria become our frenemies. We’re then working against an enormous headwind whenever we try to lose weight.
On top of this, having an imbalance of too many bad bacteria in our microbiome leads to leaky gut. This is like opening a doorway to let bad stuff into our body that doesn’t belong there. It triggers our immune system to respond with inflammation.
This can lead to our body being in a state of constant low grade inflammation, with our immune system on constant alert. This is strongly linked with obesity. You can read more here Inflammation: Putting Out The Fire
No Longer Absorbing Nutrients
So here we are with our broken microbiome, our leaky gut and our chronic inflammation. As you can imagine, our digestion is now no longer working at its best.
This means that those vital nutrient building blocks are not being absorbed. Hey presto: we’re fat AND malnourished all at the same time.
What can be done about it? The good news is: once we fix our microbiome, weight loss will follow much more easily than before.
We can do this with a combination of diet, supplements and lifestyle changes. Check out: Clean Eating: Not Just An Elitist Fad.
Again and again it comes back to choosing foods in their closest-to-nature state. Refining kills nutrients.
It matters that we get the nutrients our body needs each day. Without them, we can’t heal the leaky gut or bring down the inflammation.
Once we break the cycle of too many empty calories and not enough nutrients, it leads to very real benefits that we can enjoy every day for the rest of our lives.
Our metabolism will go back to normal and we’ll naturally lose weight. Our cravings will gradually die away, our energy will return, our mood will stabilise.
On top of that our immune system will calm down and work much better, which means that our allergies and autoimmune conditions will slowly but surely retreat.