Tuesday, June 27, 2006

Dave's Top Ten List Of Reasons For Obesity

Biostatician David Allison mimics another famous Dave with Top 10 list

One of the most recognizable features on American television today has got to be the infamous Top 10 list from late-night satirist and small screen legend David Letterman. He's featured lists of all sorts throughout the years on issues involving mostly politics, sports, celebrities, and much, much more.

Well, this Detroit Free Press column features a top ten list from another Dave -- professor of Biostatistics Statistical Genetics at the University of Alabama at Birmingham, Dr. David Allison -- who with the help of 19 experts on diet, health and nutrition from around the world came up with his very own Top Ten list of reasons for obesity.

Oh this should be good!

After pouring over in excess of 100 studies on obesity, here is what the researchers came up with to explain why obesity exists apart from poor diet and lack of exercise:

1. Inadequate sleep

We live in a fast-paced society in 2006 and sleep seems to be a luxury of the past. But, as my fellow low-carb blogger Regina Wilshire has previously blogged about, not getting an adequate amount of sleep can actually cause you to gain weight. There's no question in my mind that robbing your body of the restorative factors that come from healthy amounts of sleep will weaken your immune system and cause your body to not function at its optimal level. I know I feel best when I have had a minimum of 7-8 hours sleep at night. Try to get that into your busy schedule if at all possible.

2. Endocrine disruptors

Say what? Well, these are synthetic chemicals that are found in certain kinds of foods that can transform fats in the body and cause problems with your body working as it is designed to function. These disrupters can include diethylstilbesterol (the drug DES), dioxin, PCBs, DDT, and some other pesticides. If you ever wanted a good reason to start eating more organic, whole foods as part of your low-carb lifestyle, then here you go!

3. Nice temperatures

Ah, the comforts of modern-day living. Rest and relax in your nice air-conditioned homes and offices when the weather is scorching hot and your warm and cozy heat in the dead of winter. But is that leading us to become overweight and obese? The researchers say we aren't burning as many calories because of this. Phooey on that! I'd rather be comfortable chillin' in my air-conditioned room while I'm working and then sweating my pants off when I go workout. The comforts of life should not be blamed as a causal factor in our obesity if we make the time to exercise.

4. Fewer people smoking

And this is a BAD thing? Anyone who lights up one of these cancer sticks is just asking for trouble. That's why the Surgeon General announced on Tuesday that second-hand smoke in restaurants is posing a public health risk. What's the reasoning on this one? Smoking supposedly curbs the appetite. Somebody needs to tell that to Bubba over there who smokes a pack a day and is pushing 350 pounds! Absurd! What about all this second-hand smoke that's everywhere? If it suppresses the appetite, then we should ALL be skinny people, right?!

5. Medicines that cause weight gain

I do not like taking medicines of ANY kind. Period. That's just me. I'm sure there are wonderful advances in medicine that have helped a whole lot of people get better, but I'm the kind of person who would rather take things naturally to cure my ailments. So the impact of medicines on weight gain is probably a valid point. I shudder to think what people who take handfuls of prescription drugs each day are doing to their bodies. Eeebie jeebies...oooooh!

6. Population changes

People hang on to their weight longer in life. Yeah, so what else is new. That's a sign of affluence in our society, unfortunately, and it reaches across all segments of our population. Additionally, minority groups have been found to add to the obesity statistics in disproportional numbers from Caucasians, especially Hispanics. This still doesn't explain WHY they get obese though.

7. Older birth moms

Is this prevalent in our society? I would think most women who give birth are in their 20's and 30's, but I might be wrong about this. The researchers say the age a woman gives birth to a child, the more that child will weigh throughout his or her life. This is another one I'm not convinced is true. Oh well, I guess since my mom was 60 when she had me that I'll be destined to be fat forever. That's fatalistic to me and takes away the personal responsibility that person has to manage his or her weight. Nope, this one's not good enough in my book.

8. Genetic influences during pregnancy

Do genetics CAUSE obesity? A lot of people seem to think so. I'm not one of them. While your genes and environment can certainly make it more likely you will become obese than not in certain circumstances, those factors can be altered when someone is set upon losing weight and keeping it off. I proved that with my own 180-pound weight loss despite the fact that my entire family is still fat except for my mom who had gastric bypass surgery. Hereditary obesity is an urban legend and anyone who tells you otherwise just wants you to stay overweight or obese forever!

9. Darwinian natural selection

Now this one piqued my interest. The researchers found that fat people actually live longer than skinny people, so there are more big people left around. Huh? Is that right? This doesn't make sense to me since most overweight and obese people have to deal with weight-related diseases and limitations on their quality of life. But maybe I've missed something here. This doesn't make me want to go gaining back my weight again anytime soon...or EVER!

10. Assortative mating

We humans bond with other humans like us. The researchers believe that fat people breeds with other fat people which then creates young fat people who grow up to meet other fat people -- YADDA YADDA YADDA! I can follow this logic to a point, but it totally disregards the fact that many overweight or obese men and women are not desirable enough to thinner members of the opposite sex that they must settle for a larger mate. Ouch, that sounded cruel, didn't it? But am I right? I was fortunate enough to marry a woman who weighed 95 pounds when I weighed 350 pounds back in 1995. Over ten years later, we are now less than 100 pounds from each other's weight. LOL! Christine hates it when I tell people that!

The results of this study were published in the latest issue of The International Journal Of Obesity.

This list is all well and good, but I couldn't help but start thinking of so many more reasons for obesity that were not mentioned on this list. How about sugar consumption (which was probably left off the list because it is tied to diet), an overbearing mother or father, emotional and psychological scars from a traumatic event, and so many other ideas that come to mind? Where do THESE factors fit in to explain why obesity is so prevalent in today's society and why were they left off this list?

By the way, in case you were not aware, Dr. Allison is most famous for his 1999 study published in the Journal of the American Medical Association that found obesity was responsible for 300,000 deaths which was then subsequently used as the basis for the Center for Disease Control's revised number of 400,000 deaths. Interesting, all of these numbers were later found to be 100% completely bogus.

It seems Dr. Allison has some questionable ties to some heavy players in the weight loss industry, so it makes you wonder what his motive is for putting together a top ten list like this one.

We have a vested interest in seeing the obesity epidemic hyped, do we, Dr. Allison? Hmmmm? Perhaps Dr. Allison is the kind of figure author Eric Oliver is referring to about perpetuating the obesity crisis in his book "Fat Politics." Maybe?

How about you? What do you think of this top ten list Dr. Allison and his "experts" came up with? Do you have any other non-diet and exercise explanations for obesity that you think are obviously missing and are you buying these ones Dr. Allison and his gang of 19 health experts came up with? Share your thoughts by clicking on the comment link below.

You can e-mail Dr. David Allison about his top ten list at


Blogger Science4u1959 said...

This list is neither accurate nor complete. Major issues, like sugar and starch consumption, are not even mentioned! Totally rediculous. And this is supposed to be "science"? Don't make me laugh!

6/28/2006 2:21 AM  
Blogger Lowcarb_dave said...

It always concerns me when people who are, or have never been, obese start providing reasons for obesity.

My concern is that they are usually heartless and judgemental in their attitude.

Judge and scorning an obese person will not solve any of the issues.

Positive encouragement and positive motivation will solve it.

This bloke coming up with the list has done nothing to help any obese person.

6/28/2006 2:50 AM  
Blogger Science4u1959 said...

Precisely, Dave. Well put indeed. All they offer is hollow phrases - like clueless politicians.

6/28/2006 5:03 AM  
Blogger Mark said...

Of the reasons listed the only one that seems like it might be in the Top 10 would be inadequate sleep. I'm unable to find any actual reference to the article (without paying for it) so it's unclear how these reasons were derived. Obviously, since he is a biostatistician there must be solid statistics to back them up (he said suppressing some eye rolls). I'll take a stab at reviewing the others.

2. Endocrine Disruptors -

This may have some possibility since many of the chemicals are of recent vintage. However, the most important disruptor is not a PCB or DES or DDT which are found in the food supply in trace amounts, but soybeans which after all are food and therefore consumed in much larger quantities and are well known and documented for their suppression of thyroid hormones.

3. Nice temperatures -

This is one of the more ridiculous. By this logic, the closer one lives to the Equator, the fatter one would be since the body's response to heat is become less active. Those people living in Greece, Crete and Spain should be the fattest Europeans rather than among the thinnest.

4.Fewer people smoking -

This may again have some validity, but were people fat before tobacco use became so common? Have women become thinner since so many of them took up smoking in the 70's and 80's? Statistics would show otherwise.

5. Medicines that cause weight gain

This one, like the endocrine disruptors, is so vague as to be meaningless. Certain medications, NSAIDs and steroids for example are associated with weight gain. If it was a top ten cause, it would be obvious in study after study and large portions of the population would be taking these specific medications over long periods.

6. Population changes

This one is all over the place. Certainly people with extra weight are more likely to survive a serious illness like cancer than thin people due to their extra energy reserves (i.e fat). The obesity of minorities is more easily explained with 2 reasons. One is that they are generally poorer so that they generally eat less protein and more starches and sugars because they are cheaper. Gary Taubes dealt with this in relation to exercise pointing out that the poor generally have more physically active jobs, but are found to have higher rates of obesity. The second is that minorities, particularly blacks, are even less adapted to consuming large amount of refined grains and sugars than white Indo European populations where grains were first cultivated.

8. Genetic influences during pregnancy

Another vague reason. Let me see if I got this straight. During pregnancy your entire DNA changes to make you fatter. As far as I can tell except for exposure to toxic chemicals, your genetic code stays the same throughout pregnancy.

9. Darwinian natural selection

If this were true, why has obesity increased so rapidly in last 20 yrs when our genetic code has not change significantly over the last 10,000 yrs.

10. Assortative mating

This one doesn't prove anything unless you can show that obese people have significantly more children than thin people. Assuming thin people have children by thin people and obese people the same, wouldn't lead to any changes in obesity.

In summary, you should takes Mr. Allison's top 10 reasons about as seriously as Mr. Letterman's. Shame on the International Journal of Obesity for publishing this claptrap.

6/28/2006 12:20 PM  
Blogger 1Peter3 said...

In the same vein as Mark's post, only on a more personal level:

1. Inadequate sleep: Guilty as charged. But wait... I gained all this weight when I was getting "adequate" sleep. Now that I seldom manage more than 5-6 hours/night, I'm finally actually losing weight.

2. Endocrine disruptors: Hmm... I grew up on a farm and my dad was very resistant to giving up using DDT, but once it was taken off the market, he had no choice. And yet... my brother and sister both grew up around the exact same chemicals, and don't have the same weight problems that I do.

3. Nice temperatures: Well, what one person considers to be nice temperatures could be very different from what another considers to be nice temperatures. I prefer cooler temperatures, winter and summer. I'd think that my choice of heating source would certainly burn more calories than what most people use too, since we heat with wood, which means I stack the wood when it's delivered, carry it into the garage so it can dry, and finally carry it into the living room to put in the fireplace insert. Oh and I get up every 45 minutes to put more wood on the fire.

4. Fewer people smoking: Is he saying I should take up smoking? Even though the few times in my life I've been around people who smoke on a regular basis, I was more prone to gaining weight?

5. Medicines that cause weight gain: Not taking any medications at all, and seldom ever have, so we can't blame that one, can we?

6. Population changes: How is this supposed to affect the individual? Unless you're talking about mixed nationalities, since I have ancestry from various British Isles and Europe, plus a little Native American here and there... but once again, if this is such a big factor, why aren't my brother and sister, who both have the exact same ancestry as me also this fat?

7. Older birth moms: Mom was only in her mid-20's when I was born, and if you go by this excuse, then my sister, who is 5 years younger than me should have even more of a weight problem than I do, but of course she doesn't now, and never has had a weight problem.

8. Genetic influences during pregnancy: Unless Mom was exposed to something truly strange that passed through the placenta while she was expecting me, that she wasn't exposed to with my brother and sister, I don't think so...

9. Darwinian natural selection: This might possibly make sense, even on a personal level for me... until you realize that THEY have been telling us for ages that fat people are more likely to die prematurely from obesity related diseases. How can we possibly live both longer and shorter lives than thinner people, at the same time?!

10. Assortative mating: Once again, having either both fat parents or both thin parents doesn't explain how you can have two children in the same family who grow up to be wildly different weights, and as I've pointed out several times earlier, neither my brother nor my sister have the kind of weight problems that I do.

Nice try, but I suspect the writer had better do some actual research on what makes people fat, starting with the factors that are most likely to affect the individual.

6/28/2006 5:11 PM  
Blogger Newbirth said...

>5. Medicines that cause weight gain

I do not like taking medicines of ANY kind. Period. That's just me. I'm sure there are wonderful advances in medicine that have helped a whole lot of people get better, but I'm the kind of person who would rather take things naturally to cure my ailments. So the impact of medicines on weight gain is probably a valid point. I shudder to think what people who take handfuls of prescription drugs each day are doing to their bodies. Eeebie jeebies...oooooh!<

Some of us have to take them and yes, the one I am on (and have to be on if I want a fairly normal life) does cause weight gain. I also believe it's responsible for making weight loss more difficult for me than others.

But when the option is not taking them and probably dying (if I'm "lucky" enough not to die, life would be miserable), I think I'll choose life.

6/28/2006 10:17 PM  

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