Sunday, October 28, 2007

A maverick among foes of fat

I don't know where to start with this, so I'm going to leave it up to you readers to check the article out and tell me what you think.
The one thing I will comment on here is that while professor Barbara Hansen doesn't know how to keep people from getting obese, she still thinks calorie restriction is the only solution that works so far. She does say, though, that the only way it will work is to put people behind bars and only feed them a certain number of calories a day.
"It is a physiological disease," Hansen said. "It has a small behavioral component, but most of obesity is physiological. And because it's physiological it is very, very hard to fix with behavioral methods."
Unfortunately, she says, "the message that the press is currently giving patients and humans all over the world is wrong. And that message is this: 'You did it to yourself and only you can fix it.'
"The problem with that is it blames the patient: 'The reason you're obese is because you're not controlling your will.' But your will, in the area of food intake regulation, is physiology.
"I know that there is nothing we could do to the environment that would fix obesity," she insists, including removing fast food from our lives and soft drinks from school vending machines, or adding treadmills in every home or getting rid of cars.
Which is, of course, rather mind-blowing. "If I didn't have the credentials, you would think I'm nuts, wouldn't you?" she jokes.

Actually, no, I don't think she's nuts. Experience has taught me what she's learned in the lab.
And at one particularly well-attended symposium, "Obesity During the Lifecycle and Metabolic Risk: The CARDIA Study 20-year Data," speakers offered evidence that years of drinking sugary soda and fast food increases body-mass index, often to the point of obesity. But the mere mention of the study made Hansen roll her eyes too.
"I know that it is not fast food," she said. "They have no evidence of that -- zero proof. That's what I call politically correct science. Armchair science."

I think we need more people like Barbara Hansen researching the whys of obesity. And we definitely need more press for things like this.
Okay, it was more than one thing I commented on, but I got carried away......


  1. I guess my beef with what she is saying is that obesity is a DISEASE. I think there are physical causes for some people's weight gain, but I am not 50 lbs over "normal" weight because I am diseased. I'm simply fat, and I get very angry when I see my body being called diseased!

  2. Right lavalady. It seems somewhat contradictory to say obesity is the result of genetic predisposition in one breath, and then in the other, to say it's a disease. It seems to me that it is indicative of a natural genetic variance amongst humans, much like skin, hair and eye color.

  3. Thanks for pointing that out, I agree with both of you that being fat is not a disease, it's a normal human variation.

  4. The researchers who talk about obesity as a disease don't really believe it's a disease either. We don't address diseases by shaming and mocking those who have them (well, the public may, but the scientists are usually against that). We don't act as though people with chronic diseases and disabilities should do everything they can to get "normal" -- we talk about "managing" a disease, or living well with a disability, but we don't think it's the ill or disabled person's responsibility to make themselves appear normal no matter how much pain and privation it takes. Not to mention the fact that diseases have symptoms; people who call obesity a disease think obesity is the symptom, too. If you tried to get them to name another symptom, they wouldn't be able to tell you anything that didn't include the words "increased risk" and some correlation/causation fudging. It's totally disingenuous for these people to claim that obesity is a disease while continuing to treat it as a moral failing.


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