The Root Cause of Obesity - There is None


By David Edelman

Dr. Sharma, a renowned physician and top obesity blogger, calls attention to a fact: there is no root cause of obesity. This fact is extraordinarily important!

Too many people misunderstand why we gain weight, stereotype those who have gained excess weight, and give faulty advice on how to fix the situation.

Dr. Sharma’s reflection was triggered by reaction to his recent piece on emotional eating. Commenters pointed out that “too much emphasis on the emotional aspects of overeating simply adds another narrative to ‘pathologizing’ people with excess weight.” He reacts:

In other words, not only are obese people gluttonous sloths without will power, they are now also emotionally-wounded wrecks (you can chose, which of these is worse).

The fact, however, is that the vast majority of people with excess weight are none of these.

There are countless people with excess weight, who eat as much or as little as skinny folks; the problem of inactivity and sedentariness in Canada affects 95% of the population (and not just the 60% who are overweight or obese); throughout history, overweight and obese individuals have expressed incredible feats of determination and will power; and psychiatric wards are full of skinny people with mental illness.

Thus, as I have often discussed in previous posts, the ‘root causes’ of obesity are as diverse as not having enough money or time to eat to taking medications for your allergies. Throw in an ounce of genetics (any of the the 1000s of genes involved in appetite, hunger, metabolism), and you have the perfect scenario for continuous and fruitless debates on what is really driving the obesity epidemic.

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I am sure that you aware of the recent Nature paper which suggested that intestinal flora might be an obesity factor (at least in mice). I am not a big fan of headline science but I read the original paper. As a Ph.D. chemist I felt the experimental design was solid and the paper contained enough detail for other labs to verify the result. The paper stated that the particular bacteria species (enterobacter) was an endotoxin and interferes with normal metabolism. Interesting hypotheses. Do you remember when ulcers were caused by spicy food and stress?