Fatmas Day Is Here!
August 24, 2006
Fatmas Day is here!
That’s right, it’s a day of celebration!
Turns out the 31 Twinkies, 3 Burgers, VW sized fries and that 10 gallon pail of ice cream you’ve been eating 4 times a week may not be why you are fat.
In the 30-plus years that Richard Atkinson has been studying obesity, he has always maintained that overeating doesn’t really explain it all. His epiphany came early in his career, when he was a medical fellow at U.C.L.A. engaged in a study of people who weighed more than 300 pounds and had come in for obesity surgery. “The general thought at the time was that fat people ate too much,” Atkinson, now at Virginia Commonwealth University, told me recently. “And we documented that fat people do eat too much — our subjects ate an average of 6,700 calories a day. But what was so impressive to me was the fact that not all fat people eat too much.”- [emp-SC&A]
One year ago, the idea that microbes might cause obesity gained a foothold when the Pennington Biomedical Research Center in Louisiana created the nation’s first department of viruses and obesity. It is headed by Nikhil Dhurandhar, a physician who invented the term “infectobesity” to describe the emerging field. Dhurandhar’s particular interest is in the relationship between obesity and a common virus, the adenovirus. Other scientists, led by a group of microbiologists at Washington University in St. Louis, are looking at the actions of the trillions of microbes that live in everyone’s gut, to see whether certain intestinal microbes may be making their hosts fat.
If microbes help explain even a small proportion of obesity, that could shed light on a condition that plagues millions of Americans. Today 30.5 percent of the American public is obese; that is, nearly a third of Americans have a body-mass index over 30 (which for someone of Janet’s height is 186 pounds). The Department of Health and Human Services says obesity may account for 300,000 deaths a year, making it the second-most-common preventable cause of death after cigarette smoking. It’s been linked to various diseases: diabetes, high blood pressure, heart disease, gallbladder disease, sleep apnea, osteoarthritis and some cancers. “Individuals who are obese,” the department states on its Web site, “have a 50 to 100 percent increased risk of premature death from all causes, compared to individuals with a healthy weight.”
If microbes do turn out to be relevant, at least in some cases of obesity, it could change the way the public thinks about being fat. Along with the continuing research on the genetics of obesity, the study of other biological factors could help mitigate the negative stereotypes of fat people as slothful and gluttonous and somehow less virtuous than thin people.
MERRY FATMAS! IT’S NOT YOUR FAULT YOUR FAT!
Well, not so fast:
On an individual level and for the foreseeable future, if you want to lose weight, you still have to fiddle with the energy equation. Weight still boils down to the balance between how much a particular body needs to maintain a certain weight and how much it is fed. What complicates things is that in some people, for reasons still not fully understood, what their bodies need is set unfairly low. It could be genes; it could be microbes; it could be something else entirely.
Well, somebody is at fault. Somebody call a lawyer.
We’re going out for wienerschnitzel und bratwurst to celebrate