Just say no to uninformed opinions and fat phobia.

So I’m reading a newspaper Food and Wine magazine and get to the opinion piece at the end. It’s written by the legal counsel for an industry body which has nothing to do with medicine, human health or food. So of course the opinion piece was about food, eating and fat people. It seems that scientists have taken bacteria from fat mice and put it into skinny mice and found that the gut bacteria makes the mice store food as fat rather than convert it into energy. They are now wondering if the gut bacteria in some people might tend to make them store fat rather than convert it into energy, thus making those people with that particular gut bacteria have a tendency toward becoming fat. But they haven’t tested it on humans yet. So far so good.

But, the writer contends, they shouldn’t test it on humans at all. Why? If you are waiting for some sound scientific explanation, I’m sorry you will be sorely disappointed. You see being fat is all about what you put in your mouth, and “stop eating fatty!” He quotes “Fat is not a moral problem. It’s an oral problem.” Jane Thomas Noland. Two uninformed opinions for the price of one! So all those people who are fat but eat a healthy diet? Obviously gorging on the fat foods at home where you can’t see them. Can’t possibly be for any other reason than over eating.* How you can write an article about gut bacteria changing the digestion of skinny mice to make them fat and then say that fat people should just starve themselves is beyond me. Sure not every fat person will have gut bacteria that makes them store fat, but so what. If some of them do, and want to lose weight, shouldn’t they have the right to find out if their gut bacteria is causing them to store fat and have a go at changing the gut bacteria?

Is the real problem that if it is gut bacteria making some people who eat a normal healthy balanced diet fat, then you can’t blame them for their own fatness?  Maybe he should stick to his legal arguments?

*Anyone seen an up to date photo of Australian author Jackie French lately – she finally got a Doctor to check her thyroid and when it was fixed all the extra weight she carried for years gradually came off, but she didn’t change her healthy eating habits or activity one iota. It took her years to find a doctor who would finally listen and investigate.

Categories: Culture, health, media, medicine


7 replies

  1. Is the real problem that if it is gut bacteria making some people who eat a normal healthy balanced diet fat, then you can’t blame them for their own fatness?

    Yes. And if people couldn’t blame fat people for their fatness, the whole of western civilization would collapse. I mean, what next? Not blaming women for rape? Not blaming poor people for being poor? The horror!

  2. Nailed it, Mary Tracy. That’s absolutely it.

  3. Next they’ll be telling us the amount of calories you consume directly correlates with energy storage.
    These people that lose weight by eating less must be the exception.
    [this comment was held up in the moderation queue – apologies for late publication ~ tigtog 2011-07-08 05.49]

  4. It’s like they wrote about this study just so they could say “NUH-UH!!!!!” I guess they’re very concerned about… wasting money studying something that couldn’t possibly be true? Fat people not blaming themselves for being gluttons?

  5. Not at all JoannaGoanna. I’m sure a lot of people could lose weight by eating less calories, if they chose to. That isn’t the point. The point is that some people cannot lose weight unless they starve themselves which does more harm than being fat.
    That was the point of the article. They have found gut bacteria, in mice, that causes skinny mice to put on weight, without their diet changing. Now if you wanted to lose weight, ate less calories and exercised as directed by ‘health gurus’ but still didn’t lose significant amounts of weight might you not wonder what was up? Might you feel that it was beyond your control? No one is claiming that this is the case for everyone, what I am angry about is that the opinion piece that was written about this refuses to even consider that for some people their gut bacteria might be a factor in their weight. Never mind thyroid problems, PCOS, or any of the raft of things that affect how your body deals with calories and fat. It’s not as simple as energy in energy out for everyone, that’s a myth perpetuated by people who just want to blame fat people for being fat so that they can feel smug.

  6. That’s an amazingly obnoxious and unhelpful opinion. Let’s just not study the physiological causes of anything ever, so we can blame people for whatever befalls them, and feel smug and superior. Feel run-down and cold all the time? Nah, that’s not your thyroid–put down the donuts, fattie!* We can do the same thing with mental health. Hate the universe and can’t get out of bed in the morning? Yeah, serotonin schmerotonin, you’re just lazy and need to cheer up. I mean, if we go around finding medical causes of things, we might have to actually admit that reality is complicated, or help people who need it, instead of just finger-wagging at them, which is apparently much more satisfying.
    This attitude sucks even more when it comes from your endocrinologist. When I’m always tired, always cold, and have gained 60 freaking pounds without any corresponding lifestyle changes, the only conceivable reason I can think of for an endocrinologist to tell me that my hypothyroidism was “subclinical” and there was “no metabolic reason for me to have gained weight” was that she didn’t want me to have an “excuse.” Actually addressing my symptoms wasn’t nearly as important as making sure I went on a diet and felt sufficiently guilty for being a bad, gross, fat chick.

  7. i have a thyroid problem and am on thyroxine to fix it. i eat an almost impeccable diet but am still overweight and have suffered bullying for it most of my life. this study is a welcome addition to the “it isnt JUST what we eat” debate

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