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Obesity Again

I haven’t written about obesity in a while but this from Tyler Cowen prompts me Dr. Sturm found no relationship between what type of food students said they ate, what they weighed, and the type of food within a mile and a half of their homes. At the same time Scott Sumner provides with a […]

Has Angel Nadal Found the Obesity Molecule?

The Abstract from PlosOne Bisphenol-A (BPA) is a widespread endocrine-disrupting chemical (EDC) used as the base compound in the manufacture of polycarbonate plastics. It alters pancreatic β-cell function and can be considered a risk factor for type 2 diabetes in rodents. Here we used ERβ−/− mice to study whether ERβ is involved in the rapid […]

Obesity and Causal Empiricism

I see that I do have some new readers. Gene Callahan says Your “ridiculous” answer on obesity seems obviously correct to me — maybe insufficient, but fine as far as it goes — and the answer to the “puzzle” also obvious — adjust calories in and calories out until you are at a stable weight […]

Obesity and Genetics, Ctd

To emphasize, I do not actually believe that assortative mating is the cause of the obesity epidemic. A major challenge to any theory, however, is that it has to operate as a multiplier. The heritability of obesity is seemingly constant. That is, what we mean when we say “Whatever is happening, its seems to be […]

Obesity and Genetics

Sarah Kliff writes But more recent research, particularly a highly cited study in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition, suggested that was more a question of genes than habits. The study, which followed 5,092 pairs of British twins ages 8 to 11, found that the most influence parents have on obesity is actually genetic, a […]

Is Fructose the Obesity Molecule?

Gary Taubes is on blogging heads. I highly recommend it. He also, has a piece in NYT Magazine that I had missed. In the magazine piece he describes the work of Bob Lustig If Lustig is right, then our excessive consumption of sugar is the primary reason that the numbers of obese and diabetic Americans […]

Obesity and the First Law of Thermodynamics

This is the second part of my response to Brad’s comment Your post scratches at some scientific-sounding ideas of the involvement of genetics, but fails to cite any definitive research into inheritable weight-control issues. The mathematics behind maintaining a healthy weight are startlingly simple, and the mythology of “fat genes” and thyroid problems and impossible […]

Obesity and Genetics

Brad comments Your post scratches at some scientific-sounding ideas of the involvement of genetics, but fails to cite any definitive research into inheritable weight-control issues. The mathematics behind maintaining a healthy weight are startlingly simple, and the mythology of “fat genes” and thyroid problems and impossible to shed pounds is merely there to sell books […]

Hoisted from the Comments: Obesity Mystery Already Solved?

Joel S comments The genetic argument doesn’t hold water: how many of our grandparents were obese? Not many, and they had the same genes. We search endlessly for a cause for obesity when it is common for an adult man in America, whose caloric requirement (to maintain the same weight with a sedentary lifestyle) might […]

Obesity Policy: Humility Still Needed

Marc has a thoughtful piece in the Atlantic where he discusses his own struggles with obesity, his discussion to undergo bariatric surgery and our current obesity policy. This observation is especially poignant IF WE CAN’T EASILY cure obesity, we’ve got two choices: we rely on medical science to ameliorate its effects, in which case we […]

More on Childhood Obesity

Marc Ambinder has some interesting pieces up at the Atlantic on the First Lady’s efforts to combat childhood obesity. I obviously have a lot to say on that but am short on time. In the mean time I will point you to Robert Lustig’s Nature article on childhood obesity, which was a watershed for me […]

Height and Obesity: Twin Epidemics?

Here is something that I am embarrassed I didn’t catch before – the strong correlation between height and obesity in the NHANES data. Even with a linear relationship the correlation is strong   With a second order polynomial it becomes striking What makes this particularly interesting is not only how tight the correlation is but […]

Why Obesity and Life Expectancy Both Going Up

Megan McArdle disagrees with one of Luysii’s four guesses as to why Americans are getting fatter but living longer.  1: More people are exercising than they used to. . . #2: Fewer people are smoking. . . . #3: Doctors know more than they did. . . #4: The drugs are better. . . #1 […]

Glycemic Load as a Cause of Obesity: Pro and Contra

I’ve stated my strong suspension that higher glycemic load is the key factor in increasing obesity. Larger portion sizes, more easily digestible carbs and an increase in sweeteners, particularly High Fructose Corn Syrup all contribute to higher GL meals. Here are two pieces of evidence One pro The other contra I will say that the […]

Net Utility Cost of Obesity: Would You Become Obese for $4K?

Note: This going to get a bit nerdy By my estimation Megan McArdle has one the most complete understandings of the obesity epidemic in the econ blogosphere. It seems to be Megan’s contention, however, that the declining cost of calories is central to the rise in obesity. People like to eat and eating has become […]

Thinking Clearly About Obesity

The ongoing obesity debate at the Atlantic has been great. I particularly enjoyed Megan McArdles last offering. An important point, however, needs to be made. Everyone in the conversation seemed to accept that obesity itself is a health problem. On a superficial level this is clearly true – most fat people don’t want to be […]

Of Science and Scientism

After reading Kevin Drum, I got ready to go off on a long tangent about how if you just sit down and think about it you can tell that the standard explanation of how an airplane flies is shaky at best. Interestingly, Mike then brings up an analogous scientific question that I was going to […]

Is This Why You Are Fat?

Matt writes a post which displays American diet composition in 1970 vs 2008. He concludes If everyone ran an hour a day at eight miles per hour, that would actually make up for the increase, but obviously that’s not what’s happening. The experimental and historical evidence suggests that this is not the case. The experimental […]

Healthy Living Vouchers

Many things Modeled Behavior come up in Matt Ridley’s suggestion that we use vouchers to combat obesity. After all, as Friedrich Hayek pointed out, the true genius of markets is that they discover things. Perhaps the answer to obesity is to spend money not on the producers (of gyms, diets, surgery, vegetables) but on the […]

Slippery Slope Watch in One Simple Step

Adam has commented on the slippery slope to paternalism more than once. I offer a simple method for monitoring. Go to Google news, type in “new regulation” in full quotes. With in seconds I found this Last month the city council in South Los Angeles, California passed a regulation banning new fast food restaurants from […]

A Can of Soda A Day

Kevin Drum asks Now, there are a bunch of things you might say about this right from the start. Maybe governments shouldn’t be in the business of running nanny state ads about personal nutrition. Maybe this particular ad was disgusting and shouldn’t have been released. Maybe obesity isn’t really that big a deal in the […]

Eat Skinny Boy Eat

Amid the hand wringing over eating as a “sport” I would be remiss if I didn’t point out that the obesity rate among elite professional eaters is lower than the obesity rate overall. In particular legends Joey Chestnut and Kobayashi are pretty fit guys   But of course its just calories-in minus calories-out. No equilibrium […]

USDA: Human Metabolism Will Greet Soda Tax as Liberators

Sullivan points us to an USDA study suggesting that a 20% soda tax could cause the average child to loose 4.5 lbs. In particular the study suggests that such a tax would work by reducing caloric intake by 43 calories a day. Now before we get into the details of the study lets run this […]

A Modest Proposal

Marc Ambinder outlines his ten steps to preventing obesity and asks what ideas we have. 1) Give me the funding and legal authority to conduct the following experiments and the journals the cover to print the results when I am done I want to travel to remote Indian, China and Central Africa and find 1000s […]

Quick Note on Gary Taubes

While I am preparing the First Law of Thermodynamics and Obesity post I thought I’d mention: A commenter asked why I don’t  discuss Gary Taubes’s book Good Calories, Bad Calories more as it addresses many of the issues I bring up. My failure to cite Taubes is probably a mistake. Taubes’s lectures on the subject […]

What’s in a Disease

Dan comments All of this talk of “obesity epidemics”, genetic factors … it’s as if people weren’t deliberately choosing to be obese! They are ALL choosing it. Every time an obese person eats anything other than steamed spinach and egg whites with no salt or butter, every instant they spend on their ample bottom rather […]

The Disease that Always Disfigures, Often Socially Isolates and Possibly Kills

Readers of this blog know that I am skeptical of both of traditional anti-obesity methods and indeed, feel that prevention in general is oversold. Much of life expectancy is effectively luck, the genes you happen to be born with, the mutations you happen to acquire, the particular cerebral artery that clot happens to get stuck […]

Obesogenic Advertising

UPDATE: Study does have several controls including importantly mother’s education and BMI. It also attempts to measure intra-family effects. My previous analysis is invalid.   Marion Nestle dings the Obama obesity program for not focusing on food advertising. Nestle sites an American Journal of Public Health paper whose conclusion is Television viewing may be a […]

The Audacity of Wishful Thinking: Michelle Obama

In an interview with Matt Lauer the First Lady says that the obesity crisis is “imminently solvable” and “doesn’t require any new technology.”  So, it looks as if we can shelve Qnexa and Vagus Stimulation Research, Michelle has got this one covered. I’m giving the First Lady a hard time of course, but its important […]

Score One for the Hyperinsulinemia Hypothesis

Those who believe that obesity is caused by hyperinsulinemia,a pre-diabetic condition, will cheer this finding. The diabetes drug liraglutide, caused significant dose-dependent weight loss in non-diabetics. It also lowered blood sugar and blood pressure. A win for those who believe that all of Metabolic Syndrome is caused by a high glycemic diet. I lean towards […]

Menu Labeling: Not Working, Yet

So you knew you were going to hear from me on this. Kevin Drum has the goods but I want to quote from Ezra Klein, one of the more outspoken proponents There’s substantial evidence suggesting that people wildly underestimate the calorie content of dishes at restaurants, and have a lot of trouble reliably guessing whether […]

Qnexa Cometh

The diet drug Qnexa blew away clinical trials with a mean weight loss of 37 pounds in high dose patients who completed the one year clinical trial. 84% of high does patients who completed lost 5% of body weight or more at the end of the year. This should not be a surprise given the […]

War On Sugar

The American Heart Association releases new guidelines calling for a dramatic reduction in sugar consumption, in an effort to fight obesity. Its hard to know how to take this. On the one hand strongly suspect this is more likely to be the right target than the Associations previous wars on fat and a sedentary lifestyle. […]

Lazy Fat People: Time Magazine Faces the Data

Megan McArdle points to a Time Magazine piece on exercise. Exercise, it turns out, won’t make you thin. I’ll try to limit how much I point out that the notion of losing weight simply by exercising had to be questionable to anyone with spreadsheet program and even a moderate desire to verify conventional wisdom. The […]

The Limits of Technocracy

I am going to keep harping on Ezra Klein’s analysis of obesity, food intake and public policy because its a prime example of how very smart people crafting very well meaning policy can nonetheless go wrong. Here Ezra discusses the issue of calorie labeling: All quite delicious. When I got back to the office, though, […]