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Mon, Feb. 19th, 2007, 10:24 am

I'm constantly fascinated by how the human body works. Of particular interest to me is the concept of body hacking - ways to modify your biochemistry and reactions for greater benefit and entire concept of cause and effect. So this story is of particular interest to me - the gist is that obesity is not what we thought it was (possibly) and explains why dieting simply does not work for many people. I'm just curious now as to whether or not the concept of phenotypes (edit: I meant Somatotype) will still be applicable or is it simply that everyone is the same basic body shape by default and is just altered by the effects of the theories listed in the article.

Mon, Feb. 19th, 2007 11:05 am (UTC)

In what way would you expect the concept of phenotype to change? In what little genetics I did in school and college, the concept of phenotype was always explained to us as "genotype + enviroment = phenotype". I know that as our understanding of genetics and genetic code increases, that definition will be refined, but as to it changing completly? I'm not sure.

Mon, Feb. 19th, 2007 11:19 am (UTC)

I am a moron, I meant Somatotype

Mon, Feb. 19th, 2007 11:20 am (UTC)

Ah yes, I was thinking you meant something like that but couldn't for the life of me think of the name of the catagory.

Mon, Feb. 19th, 2007 04:29 pm (UTC)

As one who can eat like a six-speed turbomatic eating machine with nothing to show for it apart from a propensity to jiggle and emit heat, I concur that obesity isn't completely as simple as food + lazy = obesity, less food + more exercise = not obesity. Nevertheless, I don't think it's much more complicated than that, because fat people eat a bunch of crap and drink lots of fizzy sugar-beverages and don't exercise. The amount of qualitative evidence I could pull out for this is huge. The only thing I can think of to the contrary is the tale of a guy I used to have a class with, who said he used to be a huge fatty because he was drinking a gallon of whole milk a day. When he switched that to regular Pepsi the weight fell off. Which makes as much medical sense to me as Shady's insistence that Vegemite saved him from scurvy.

Mon, Feb. 19th, 2007 05:09 pm (UTC)

I'd agree with you for the most part - people suffering from obesity are almost never the people you'll see habitually snacking on lettuce and celery but quantity and quality of food are two different things. An average person could stuff away two large big mac meals with fries and a diet coke every day if we're talking purely in terms of calories (Morgan Spurlock be damned) so the nature of the food and how easily processed it is by the body matters a great deal.

However, speaking personally I've been keeping an insanely close eye on my weight and what I eat for the past couple of months and I've varied my diet an awful lot, just to see what would happen. Back when I was in the 14 1/2 stone range I was eating five pieces of fruit per day, two bowls of cereal with skimmed milk and an evening meal consisting of boiled vegetables and maybe some meat and I didn't lose an ounce (so I at least know my perfect diet once I hit my target size). Currently I eat probably twice the number of calories I used to in a given day but the weight is falling off me at a rate of about half a stone per month without any meaningful amount of exercise (I'm currently just over thirteen) I'm guessing that this is because I now have the energy to actually work off the remainder. Christmas gluttony saw me losing about a quarter stone and when I was off sick last week, doing nothing and eating pizza I lost another quarter.

Point is, eating the healthiest diet in the world won't lose you weight any more than the crappiest one will make you put it on so long as your calorie intake is at the appropriate level, which I guess is the point of this bit of research, some people will get the typical 500 calories from a big mac, some will get up to 1500 and since people trust calories as a scientific absolute, this is where a lot of the trouble comes from. That and body fat is a final last resort reserve for the body and it'll only dip into that once it has used everything in the cells, so someone with a more "efficient" digestive system is going to take an awful lot longer before their body needs the reserves.

Which is not to say that there aren't plenty of people out there who are "naturally" skinny or medium sized but are lardasses on the basis of an atrocious diet and lack of exercise but I don't think they're nearly as prevalent as society thinks. I'm not one for creating excuses for people who are eating themselves into a very early grave but I'm guessing that we're going to see a growing field of evidence that suggests that genetics are a large part of it. Junk food, in one form or another has existed for a longer time than this particular "epidemic" after all.

Mon, Feb. 19th, 2007 05:33 pm (UTC)

Junk food, in one form or another has existed for a longer time than this particular "epidemic" after all.

I'm not sure about that, really. We were raised by a generation who insisted that we eat everything we're given because there's starving children in Ethiopia, and they were raised by a generation who'd lived through the Emergency. Overabundance of food is something society's still adjusting to, the concept that throwing some stuff away might be better than cramming it down because it cost hard-earned money. Absolutely there's been greasy food for ages (my family's culinary heritage comes from the North, where they'll fry anything) but I really think that fatness as an easily-attainable option for the majority of the poor is a fairly recent phenomenon.

Further anecdotality, not directly relevant to that, is Japan. First-world country with plenty of disposable income, but a nation of healthily-proportioned people. Their dietary norms are different to those in what I tend to call white-people countries, but as the same species we can assume that their susceptibility to virus, bacterium, cigarette and air-conditioning is similar.