The Truth About GMO’s
GMO foods reflect one of the most contentious topics among health professionals and nutritionists. And one of the biggest debates surrounding GMOs is their potential link to weight gain.
But what’s the research really saying about GMOs and weight loss? How concerned should you be?
Before we get to the issue of weight gain, let’s make sure we understand what GMOs really are.
GMO stands for genetically modified organism. Included in the category of GMOs is any bacteria, plant, insect, or animal whose genetic material (i.e., DNA) has been changed using genetic engineering. In most cases, this involves combining or inserting DNA from different species.
The results can vary considerably – from glowing goldfish to larger tomatoes and corn that is resistant to pesticides and drought. And this kind of stuff has been going on for a while. Food companies have been producing GMOs since the 1970s, and they became staples in the produce aisle in the early 1990s and are prominent even at Whole Foods grocery stores.
One of the companies that has been at the center of the debate most recently is Monsanto, an international agricultural tech company of enormous size and influence. They are also the world’s largest manufacturer of seeds, most of which have been genetically modified in some way.
In particular, many of Monsanto’s seeds have been modified to resist the herbicide Roundup. This is a powerful herbicide that is often used in very high doses to kill weeds, especially on crops like corn, wheat, and soy. In order to make sure that the crops themselves aren’t damaged by Roundup, the company has genetically engineered these plants to be Roundup Ready.
The Health Controversy
Originally, Monsanto claimed that their Roundup herbicide was biodegradable and environmentally friendly. Today, scientists have determined that this is not the case, with potentially far-reaching effects on the environment and other species.
And where the controversy is especially strong is in regards to human health. At the very least, many GMOs appear to contain nutritional deficiencies as a result of their genetic modifications, DNA insertion, and gene splicing. But links to more serious diseases, including Parkinson’s disease and many cancers, have also been made.
Some of these links are still awaiting a scientific consensus. But if there’s anything to be critical of, it’s research that’s done by the companies making GMOs. You may share this option, but I believe you can never entirely trust research done by companies whose first and most important goal is profit.
As you might guess, the controversy is a big one, but today let’s focus specifically on the link between GMOs and obesity.
The Truth about GMOs, Weight Gain, and Obesity
Some of the more recent research on GMOs has suggested that they may be making you fat.
In 2012, a group of scientists from Norway studied the effects of GMOs on weight gain in rats. One group of rats was fed non-GMO corn, while the other group was fed a diet high in GMOs. Over a period of 90 days, the GMO-fed rats not only ate more food, they also grew significantly fatter than the non-GMO group.
What’s more, the researchers also found that rats grew fatter when fed salmon that was raised on GMO corn. And the same team studied the salmon themselves, finding that they too grew larger and ate more when fed a GMO diet. Click here to read more about the study published by ScienceNordic.
Now there’s always a limitation when it comes to animal studies like these, but these findings are suggestive of a real link between GMO foods and weight gain. More generally, researchers have disputed the claim that GMOs are harmless and break down like other foods. Research has shown that genes from GMOs can be transferred into the blood and eventually deposited in muscle tissue and the liver.
The problem, of course, is that we can’t do these kinds of experiments on humans, but the possibility of a similar link between GMOs and weight gain is real. What’s worse, people aren’t just eating this stuff for 90 days. GMO foods can be part of a normal diet over decades, if not an entire lifespan.
Then there’s the reduced nutritional content. Research from the non-profit organization Organic Center has demonstrated that the nutritional content (vitamins and minerals) is lower in GMO foods than non-GMO foods. This may be explaining the link to weight gain, as our bodies would require more a greater calorie intake to get the nutrients it needs.
So What Should You Do?
My advice? Although more research needs to be done, there is enough evidence to make me wary of GMOs – for reasons related to weight gain and a host of other health issues. At the very least, they may be interfering with your weight loss goals.
The good news is that anything certified organic is GMO-free. At this point, I’d recommend playing it safe whenever you can, and go for organic options as much as possible and within your budget. Some of the big crops like corn, wheat, and soy are the worst contenders, so start with those.
What’s your opinion on GMO’s and how it can be affecting your health? Please leave a comment below…