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Friday, June 24, 2005
WHENEVER you make your New Year's resolutions you probably start with a vow to lose weight this year. What you don't realize at that moment is tha you are about to enter what will be, for you, the Year of the Pizza.

Fat's an epidemic. You might be under the delusion that society is slimming down thanks to trends like aerobic exercise and low fat food. The tragic truth is that, despite $33 billion a year spent on dieting, ours is an ever widening society. According to the National Academy of Sciences, in 1980 about 25 percent of Americans were overweight. A decade later, 33 percent of Americans were overweight.

How fat do you have to be to be "overweight"? Scientists say you're overweight if you're 20 percent heavier than you ideal weight. In other words, you're overweight if you're fat. Many of us aren't technically overweight; we just have ten pounds of pudge that we plan to lose very soon, but which, of course, will outlast the pyramids.

"We're getting fatter", says Susan Yanovski, an obesity researcher at the National Institure of Health. "Kids are also becoming more obese".

So why is this?
For a long time there was an idea that people are just weak. They just have no willpower. They are fat because they don't behave, they just eat too much, they can't resist slamming those pizzas and cheeseburgers and whatnot. This theory is wrong.

The fundamental problem is that we are not biologically designed for this world. That is to say, human evolution prepared us for times of feast and famine, for a world in which food was often hard to come by. We have a natural craving for fatty foods, so that we can pork up a little in anticipation of going hungry down the road. We are not designed with Taco Bell in mind. We have paleolithic bodies trapped in a world of fast food.

What no one knew until recently was why some people are fatter than others. Now, finally, there's an explanation, thanks to Jeffrey Friedman and his colleagues at the Howard Hughes Medical Institute at Rockefeller University.

Friedman found the fat gene, or at least a fat gene.The gene instructs fat celss to make a certain protein, which Friedman calls leptin. From the fat cells, the leptin travels to the brain and tells the brain to stop eating so much and start burning more calories. But if there aren't many fat cells, there won't be much leptin produces, and thus the brain will tell you that you need to keep eating. In mice with a defective copy of the gene, no leptin is produces, and this the brain thinks that it is trapped in a starving body even though the body is morbidly obese.

Friedman's research is stunning because this simple feedback mechanism applies to everyone, whether you're thin or a little bit pudgy or extremely fat. The discovery of leptin confimrs the old theory, whcih is that everyone has a set point for how fat he or she will be. This is the lipostatic model of fat. In the same way that a termostat regulates heat, a lipostat regulates lipids, or fats. Of course there is no organ in the body called lipostat: There is just a tiny protein, found in extremely low concentration in theblood, which travels from fat cells to the brain.

If leptin injections can be proven safe in animals and humans, and proven to be effective in humans, then is a matter of years it may become a widely used treatment for obesity.

What's kind of unnerving, though, is that the same drug would work in those of us who just want to lose five or ten pounds. In the next century will some people stick themselves with a needel every morning just so they can lose their love handles? Will they have their daily leptin injection just so they can have a washboard stomach?

(abstracted from the book:WHY THINGS ARE AND WHY THINGS AREN'T by: Joel Achenbach)
posted by infraternam meam @ 12:52 PM  
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Name: infraternam meam
Home: Chicago, United States
About Me: I am now at the prime of my life and have been married for the past 25 years. Sickly at times, but wants to see the elixir vita, so that I will be able to see my grandchildren from my two boys.
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