Most obesity is behavioral, not genetic

LINCOLN, Neb. (U-WIRE) — The world record for the biggest person ever was more than 2,000 pounds. He looked like Jabba the Hut, only with much less vertical structure. The doctors said he wasn’t fat, he just had a bad case of hyperphagiation. They were later blown away by his hyperflagellations. One doctor says, “Your weight problem is due to a severe case of hyperphagiation.” Another says it’s due to “defective circadian neuroendocrine rhythms.” Got fat as a child? You’re a victim of “childhood onset obesity.” Put on some pounds after menopause? In that case you got “post-menopausal metabolic imbalance.”
Live in America? You’re a victim of “perfunctory medical nomenclature for the institutionalization of pharmaceutical expansion.”
My grandparents still can remember when fat people were rare. They can also remember explaining fatness with simple, common sense knowledge — something I’ve recently learned to appreciate.
“You get fat because you eat too much, you’re lazy and you don’t work enough,” they would say. “That’s why rich people get fat; because they don’t have to work and can afford to sit around and just eat all day.”
In the past few years I have visited 11 countries in Africa and Asia. You know what I’ve discovered? My grandparents are right. Every country had only a few fat people, and unfailingly they were always the rich elite.
So why is America so fat? Maybe we should believe the scientists, with their medical explanations for cultural and behavioral phenomena. They’ve provided an array of scientific phraseologies proving that fatness has “nothing to do with passing on bad eating habits or sedentary lifestyles” (Int. J. of Obesity, 1992). They want us to believe fatness is a genetic disorder, and they’ve found an obesity gene for it.
So how do they explain how this gene only has become active in the last 50 years? Statistically, we weren’t as fat as when my grandparents were our age. Did it snap into existence after World War II? And what about it not existing outside the United States? Are we to believe that the obesity gene and glandular disorders that supposedly cause obesity are restricted by imaginary political lines that delineate the United States?
Allow me to bring down the medical establishment with some simple math. One-third of all Americans are obese. That’s more than 90 million people. While “obesity” may be too insensitive, hard to define and not politically correct enough to be used, 55 percent of us are overweight, or too fat. That’s more than 150 million people.
According to the International Journal of Obesity, between 2 and 5 percent of the rest of the world is overweight. From my travels, that figure sounds right to me as well. If we take 3 percent as an average, multiplied by the world’s population of 6 billion, roughly 173 million people in the world are overweight.
America has nearly as many overweight people as the rest of the world combined. But if this fat gene exists, we actually should have about 8.5 million overweight people, not 150 million. Why would God, who still has supreme reign in gene distribution, choose to give Americans one-half of the world’s fat genes when Americans are less than 5 percent of the world’s population?
There can be only one logical explanation: God wanted an excuse to send his only son, Richard Simmons, down to America as our Messiah.
Or this fat gene, except in a few cases, does not exist as the medical establishment has defined it. I find this theory much more acceptable, especially given the vested interest in spreading self-serving propaganda as the medical establishment has been allowed to do.
With a plump market of more than 150 million well-fed and rich Americans, the medical establishment had more than enough motivation to create, exaggerate and selectively generate data to give further support to its institutions.
The medical establishment includes the American Medical Association, doctors, pharmaceutical companies, research centers, hospitals and the advertising, distribution and retail industries.
The weight-loss industry and magic-diet businesses were eager to lap it up. In fact, they funded many of these studies that convinced all people they were “sick.” The result is one of the biggest fleecings of America our naive population has ever seen.
The truth, I’m afraid, is much simpler and less technocratic. It comes down to two facts rooted in post-World War II America.
The first fact is economic. We now have the economic and agricultural ability to produce more food than we’ll ever need. This didn’t happen until the green revolution of the 1950s. The green revolution made food extremely cheap and gave us more free time to eat it, because less time was needed to produce it. We had the option of exporting more or exploiting this luxury. Sadly, we chose the latter.
Combine that with a resonating emphasis on largeness and size in American society that perhaps always has been here, and you get a lot of fat people. This explains why most of the world’s fat people are in the United States and why we didn’t become fat until after World War II.
I’ve used the word fat instead of obese because that’s what we’re talking about here: People who are born normal and become fat. If someone is fat, chances are it’s not because he or she has adipocyte hyperplasia or the obesity gene.
I refuse to believe we are a genetically abnormal nation. Instead, I believe we are a culturally degenerating nation that has been duped and taken advantage of by a powerful medical technocracy.
It’s about time we saw through their ridiculous nomenclatures and claimed responsibility for our own gluttony.
David Baker’s column originally appeared in Wednesday’s University of Nebraska paper, the Daily Nebraskan.