Gene Expression

You germy fat pig….

Interesting article in The Boston Globe which profiles researchers who suggest that variation in gut flora (the mix of bacteria) might be the cause of differences in body weight. Interesting fact: there are an order of magnitude more bacteria in your gut than cells in your body. Also, to my knowledge (hearing this from a microbiologist last year) this gut ecosystem hasn’t really been replicated in the lab, so that kind sucks for a scientific understanding beyond description.

Update: An expert comments.


  1. #1 IndianCowboy
    May 22, 2006

    I’d love to see any of these guys do a proper causational study with regard to obesity. Haven’t clicked the link yet, but I’ve seen a whole lot of filth out of people who try to imply correlation=causation when it comes to medical matters.

  2. #2 razib
    May 22, 2006

    medical matters are first order mortality & $$$ matters. ergo, you get a lot of bullshit spewed. kind of like politics.

  3. #3 IndianCowboy
    May 22, 2006

    heh, don’t forget externalization of responsibility (which ties back into the money issue). People with medical or psychiatric problems LOVE to hear that their problem isn’t caused by anything they did. It generally means in their minds that that means they don’t have to do anything to cure themselves, just let Doc do the work and have an excuse for failure.

  4. #4 Mouth of the Yellow River
    May 22, 2006

    CDC 2000 stats for real causes of American deaths:
    Tobacco, 435000; poor diet and physical inactivity, 400000; alcohol, 85000; microbes, 75000; toxic agents, 55000; motor vehicle accidents, 43000; firearms, 29000; sexual behavior, 20000; illicit drugs, 17000.

    Number 2 (basically obesity and metabolic syndrome) will soon surpass smoking and it’s a lot harder to deal with personally, socially and economically.

    A proven but unpleasant way to lose weight is via bacterial infection or other ininvited parasitic abnormality as cancer (cachexia).

    Development of a benign form of either may not be a bad idea for prevention and treatment.

  5. #5 Tara C. Smith
    May 22, 2006

    Manual trackback:

    I started writing this here but it got a bit too long…

  6. #6 IndianCowboy
    May 22, 2006

    yellow river, I’m a much bigger fan of advocating getting up off the couch and ‘smart’ workout programs that emphasize adjusting your body’s setpoint and/or BMR. Easier than you’d think. I’ve ‘reset’ my setpoint 3 or 4 times in the past few years depending on my level of activity and which sport I was training for. BMR takes a bit more work but is pretty doable as well.

  7. #7 Mouth of the Yellow River
    May 22, 2006

    Brokeback Cowboy

    Your logic is clear as it is for all maladies for which there is theoretically an element of choice, e.g. smoking, drinking, buckling up, not driving drunk, carrying or firearm safety, unsafe sex and drug abuse.

    And granted government regulation is not the answer. Can you imagine getting a citation for BMI>30? Two weeks on the treadmill and eating granola as community service.

    But all are not as wise and strong as you.

    If so, there would not be the explosive increase in obesity over the past ten years that has doubled for adults and tripled in children. The CDC estimates that 64% of Americans are overweight and at least 25% are obese or “super” obese. Obesity in children has increased to 15% between ages 6-19 and 10% between ages 2-5, age 2 to 5, where is the choice there?

    Deaths due to obesity have risen 33% in the last decade and accelerating. Developing countries (China) are following close behind and even higher in rate of increase.

    The consequence is broadly heart disease and stroke, diabetes-related consequences, fatty liver, muscle wasting that leads to general slow degradative illnesses as gangrene, blindness, jaundice, hepatitis, cancer, and general organ failure.

    Truly an epidemic, 5 times or more serious than alcohol, environmental microbes and toxins, sex, drugs and AIDS syndrome.

    We are in a health epidemic probably more real than global warming, where is Chicken Little Gore when we need a crusader?


  8. #8 IndianCowboy
    May 23, 2006

    I hate the word ‘epidemic’. As far as I’m concerned ‘epidemics’ require an external cause rather than laziness and poor choices; I say this as a man with plenty of ‘fat genes’. I’m the kind of unreasonable bastard that believes the best treatment attacks the cause, not the symptoms. Not to mention the philosophical and ideological issues of what will happen to people in a world where we no longer have to work for those things we want (*cough* lotus eaters *cough*), not to mention are told that our failures are not our own. Ever read the preface/introduction of Bill McKibben’s Enough? That’s about where I am.

    We’re treating our bodies as machines that just house the mind, not realizing that what we do with our bodies shapes the way we think, they’re inextricably linked. blah blah blah seven-thousand world philosphical ramble deleted for everyone’s sake.

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