Scientists Don’t Agree on What Causes Obesity, but They Know What Doesn’t

Julia Belluz in the New York Times:

A select group of the world’s top researchers studying obesity‌ recently gathered in the gilded rooms of the Royal Society, the science academy of Isaac Newton and Charles Darwin, where ideas like gravity and evolution were once debated.

Now scientists were arguing about ‌‌the causes of obesity, which affects more than 40 percent of U.S. adults and costs the health system about $173 billion each year. At the meeting’s closing session, ‌John Speakman, a biologist, offered ‌‌this conclusion on the subject: ‌ “There’s no consensus whatsoever about what the cause of it‌ is.”

That’s not to say the researchers disagreed on everything. The three-day meeting was infused with an implicit understanding of what obesity is not: a personal failing. No presenter argued that humans collectively lost willpower around the 1980s, when obesity rates took off, first in high-income countries‌, then in much of the rest of the world. Not a single scientist said our genes changed in that short time. Laziness, gluttony‌‌ and sloth were not referred to as obesity’s helpers.

More here.