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Between 2007 and 2008 in the United States, 34 percent of adults over the age of 20 were overweight and another 34 percent were obese, according to the National Center for Health Statistics. A person is considered overweight if her body mass index is between 24 kg/m2 and 30 kg/m2; a person with a body mass index of 30 kg/m2 or higher is considered obese. While Americans may be gaining weight, their brains are starving, according to Larry McCleary, MD, a neurosurgeon and author of the book Feed Your Brain, Lose Your Belly. McCleary explained that the foods Americans typically eat – the ones that contribute to the weight gain we have seen rise over the years – do not provide the nutrients that the brain needs, causing it to starve. With the diet proposed in Feed Your Brain, Lose Your Belly, he claimed that people can, as the title said, lose the weight around their waistlines and get the nutrients their brain needs.
The book is written for the layperson – while it covers complex material, the material is well explained for people who do not have a background in medicine, nutrition or neuroscience. For readers who have more advanced background knowledge, McCleary provided a section at the end of the book that goes over the clinical trials mentioned in the book. McCleary clearly laid out the connection between our brains and our bellies: it is the brain that sends the signal when we are hungry, and when we are not consuming food, the brain relies on the belly for energy. He explained insulin affects how we store and use fat cells: when insulin levels are elevated, our bodies store fat, but when insulin levels return to normal, we can use the fat stored as energy. The problem arises when we consume food that keeps the insulin levels high – even if we need the energy from the stored fat, the high insulin levels keep our cells in fat storing mode. McCleary illustrated these effects by showing how people responded to different diets.