Quirks and Quarks

Yesterday, Linea suggested that I have a listen to a recent episode of Quirks and Quarks about this topic of obesity. You can download it here. The February 17, 2007 is the relevant episode.

The basic premise of this particular episode is that there is more to the obesity crisis than the simplistic energy balance equation.

The host, Bob McDonald talks to and about researchers who are positing other causes for obesity. One researcher started questioning the energy balance equation when he noticed that there was a study done where lean inmates were fed up to 8000 calories per day and only gained a small amount of weight. I think the average weight of the inmates at the beginning of the study was 150 lbs and they gained about 20% more weight in 6 months and ended at 180. (That seems to me to be a significant increase)

This was compared to a study of morbidly obese women who weighed an average of 360 lbs, ate a drastically reduced-calorie diet and only lost a little weight.

One alternate explanation offered is that the ratios of two different bacteria in the human gut has something to do with how certain individuals are able to process nutrients. If the ratios are just so, then the person will be able to extract more energy from the food eaten compared with someone with different ratios. This seems plausible to me.

Another alternate offered is that there is a virus that can cause obesity. It was first discovered in chickens who died of this virus and had excess abdominal fat.

These researchers are smarter than me (which is amazing, really) and so I will give them a certain deference, although I don`t think that these alternate theories change my assertion at all.

If a person consumes more calories than they burn, they will gain weight.

This is supported by fundamental laws of physics which state that energy cannot be created or destroyed, it can only change form or be converted into matter.

What it does point out is that some people are a whole lot better at consuming (maybe that should be processing or digesting) calories than others and are therefore more likely to have a positive energy balance.

My thinking is that people who are negatively affected by these situations are likely in the minority and that the majority of cases of obesity can be attributed to too much food going in and not enough energy going out.

I would love to hear your thoughts, Linea...

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

I am sure you know these things and maybe are just making the assumption that your readers also know these things, but I will say them anyways:
-weight loss does not equate to fitness
-muscle weighs more than fat
-it is not healthy to lose all of your body fat...women, especially
-genetics can be a bitch sometimes

That said...I also read a scientific theory (sorry can't remember where) that it is the people who are able store that extra energy most effectively who have brought people through the tough (starvation) times in history

I do agree with you that people have to take responsibility for their own selves and make the right choices. People can be healthy without being "skinny", and people DO NOT have to be obese.