Is There More to Obesity Than Too Much Food?

From Smithsonian:

Obesity-photoObesity, it would seem, is one big “My bad,” a painfully visible failure in personal responsibility. If you regularly chow down a pizza and a pint of ice cream for dinner, and your idea of a vigorous workout is twisting off caps on two-liter bottles of Coke, well, it’s pretty hard to give yourself a pass for packing on pounds. Certainly, most doctors and dieticians still believe that being overweight is a matter of too many calories in, and not enough calories out, or put more bluntly, way too much food and way too little exercise. It’s all about overconsumption, right? End of story. Except the plot appears to be thickening. Recent research is beginning to suggest that other factors are at work, specifically chemicals used to treat crops and to process and package food. Scientists call them obesogens and in one study at the University of California, Irvine, they caused animals to have more and larger fat cells. ”The animals we treat with these chemicals don’t eat a different diet than the ones who don’t get fat,” explained lead researcher Bruce Blumberg. “They eat the same diet–we’re not challenging them with a high-fat or a high-carbohydrate diet. They’re eating normal foods and they’re getting fatter.”

The theory is that the chemicals disrupt hormonal systems and that can cause stem cells to turn into fat cells. In other words, the thinking goes, obesogens may help flip your fat switch. But before you cleanse yourself of all responsibility for your tight-fitting clothes, keep in mind that plenty of researchers bristle at the suggestion that anything other than excess calories is to blame. In fact, a much-cited, recent study led by George Bray of Louisiana State University found that any diet can work so long as calories consumed are consistently reduced. Said Bray: “Calories count. If you can show me that it (the calories in, calories out model) doesn’t work, I’d love to see it.”

More here.