Mad at yourself because you can’t lose weight? Obesity may not be your fault. In fact, according to Dr. Devin Spelman PhD, environmental factors may play a large part in many health issues, including obesity.

I attended the Northwest Herb Symposium this summer, where Dr. Spelman lectured on mitochondrial dysfunction. He explained that patients with metabolic syndrome, a group of risk factors that raises your risk for heart disease and other health problems, have a 40% reduction in mitochondrial function.  This means 40% less energy in the building blocks of cellular function. No wonder it’s hard to lose weight or improve our health, with our cells functioning at 60%!

Because metabolic syndrome is a cluster of risk factors, including insulin resistance, high blood pressure, abnormal cholesterol, and obesity, it is unlikely the pharmaceutical approach of giving a drug with one function will be able to address all of these issues. For example, a disease such as diabetes can cause many different diseases such as heart, kidney, eye, and neurologic diseases.  To be effective, a treatment needs to treat more than one issue. More about that in a minute.

We can partially blame fast food for our nation’s ill health and obesity.  I was amazed to learn one in three adults eat at a fast food restaurant every day.  People who eat at fast food restaurants more than twice a week gained 10 pounds over 15 years and were more likely to become insulin resistant. Remember, all but the best restaurants will use cheap oils such as corn oil.  Consuming cheap oils contributes to inflammation and a host of diseases.

17% of plant species provide 90% of the world’s food supply, of which most are grains.  75% of the world’s grain production is wheat, maize and rice.  Unfortunately the important micronutrients of Vitamin B1, B2, B3, B5, B6, folic acid, Vitamin E and iron, zinc, copper, manganese and selenium are from 70 to 90% removed from these grain products.  Our ancestors had up to 8 times more vitamins, minerals and fiber than our typical American diet.

So how can you lose weight and improve your cell function at the same time? A vegetarian diet. The higher the vegetable content, the higher the health status of the individual.  And, as an added bonus, a vegetarian diet carries the lowest mortality. If you don’t want to give up animal products, even adding more vegetables to your diet can have a positive impact.

What other reasons contribute to ill health besides the lowered nutritional content of the modern diet?


Persistent organic pollutants (POPs) are toxic chemicals that adversely affect human health and the environment around the world.  They persist for long periods of time in the environment and can accumulate and pass from one species to the next through the food chain.  Examples of POPs are dioxin, plastics, pesticides, air pollution, aldrin, chlordane, etc. Superfund sites have lots of POPs.  The people living around these sites have more POPs in their fat stores, and also have increased insulin levels, which can mean these folks are diabetic or pre-diabetic.  96% of obese people have POPs in their fat stores. Elevated POPs levels are associated with a lower ability to lose weight.  Elevated POPs also contribute to neurologic problems such as Alzheimer’s disease, Parkinsons, ALS and dementia. And of course, obesity.

How does Dr. Spelman advocate treating both the lack of nutrients in our food, as well as the toxic buildup of POPs?  (Remember this is an herbal conference.) Eat more plants! He cited multiple studies that demonstrate that giving a single substance does little therapeutically, but giving whole herbal or vitamin/mineral mixtures can markedly decrease disease activity.

He also said that the following natural substances would help eliminate POPs:  zinc, alpha lipoic acid, coenzyme Q 10, Vitamin E, N-acetyl cystene, and carnitine.  Herbal remedies include cratageus, ganoderma (Reishi mushroom), Vaccinum, Vitus vinifera, Curcuma longa, watercress and dill.

So, if you’d like to increase your overall health, and get better results on the scale naturally, eat more vegetables! I recommend four to eight servings a day. If that’s too many, consider buying a juicer. Juicing raw, organic vegetables several times a week might be the best thing you do for yourself this fall.