The Obesity Illusion
According to yesterday's issue of the NYT, there's one wise and respected doctor-professor in New York saying that Americans are not getting fatter and that all those talk about obesity is just an illusion. He is Dr. Jeffrey Friedman, head of the Molecular Genetics laboratory in Rockefeller University. According to the NYT health article,
[Dr. Friedman]"has watched the scientific data accumulate to show that body weight, in animals and humans, is not under conscious control. Body weight, he says, is genetically determined, as tightly regulated as height. Genes control not only how much you eat but also the metabolic rate at which you burn food. When it comes to eating, free will is an illusion."He further says that:
"People can exert a level of control over their weight within a 10-, perhaps a 15-pound range, but expecting an obese person to decide to simply eat less and exercise more to get below the obesity range, below the overweight range? It virtually never happens. Any weight that is lost almost invariably comes right back. The same goes for gaining weight in general. A person who has the genes to be thin is not going to get fat because portion sizes increase. It makes no scientific sense."Whoa!!! This is simply remarkable. He is saying that it does not really matter if you eat more or less, because everything has been pre-programmed and predestined by your genes. This is to be expected from somebody like him and I think Dr. Friedman speaks with a degree of authority since he is the one who discovered the ob gene, which codes for the hormone leptin which, if absent in our genetic makeup, predisposes us to be overweight or obese.
Futhermore, he labels the obesity mania as "political, [and] so rife with misinformation and disinformation." Using data gathered from 1991 to today by Dr. Katherine Flegal of the National Center for Health Statistics, he said "statistics demonstrate clearly that while the very fat are getting fatter, thinner people have remained pretty much the same."
He might have a point...but what a point it is. He is, in effect, subtly saying that it isn't exercise nor dieting that will save the day for obese persons, but his continuing studies and those of his associates on the protein hormone leptin and its effects in regulating body weight and metabolism. But how long will that wait be? And meanwhile, what will obese people do? Continue eating voraciously?