Weight-loss breakthrough!…really?
May 5, 2008, 1:35 pm
Filed under: Uncategorized | Tags: , , , , , ,

While I was poking around on Digg this morning, I saw an article that I didn’t find particularly special, entitled “Found: The Reason Fat People Find it Hard to Lose Weight”. I kind of skimmed over it and moved on with my life, jumping to much more important bits of news like “Drunken British Students Wreck Spanish Resort” and this.

After a few more minutes of pointless Web browsing I began to feel a little shady for Digging something I hadn’t actually read, so I decided to go back and give it a second chance. This time I really gave it a good read and mulled over the subject for a good long while afterwards…and came up with this:

Did it really take scientists this long to discover that the reason people with obesity problems are overweight is because they have more fat cells than the average person? I thought doctors and scientists were constantly working on helping obese people find ways to control their weight without surgery. So while we were all waiting for this to be discovered, we were seriously living with hold-me-overs like TrimSpa and other celebrity-endorsed weight-loss “miracles?” Unbelievable!

Seriously though, I’m perfectly aware that this information in this article doesn’t answer the obesity problem, nor does it signify any real scientific breakthrough of any kind. But my question to you is this — does this article really make it sounds like scientists are doing anything of any significance when it comes to helping people with obesity? Or was this particular publication just having a slow news day?

Read the article and let me know that you think!


4 Comments so far
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the problem with this article is the same problem with ANY scientific article — lay people can’t understand science and the journalists are equally clueless and so out comes a very general and commonsense sounding article.
The scientific article that this article is based on comes from Nature, which happens to be one of the most pretigious science journals in the world. Consequently, the articles are generally impossible to understand and even scientists have to read it very carefully to understand the exact data. What this article gives is a BS summary of the results without actually giving the article its due.
This is the exact problem I have with non-scientific people’s version of science. The news never captures the actual essence of what is going on in the field and always gives an extremely generalized and simple view of something that is sooo complex. Consequently, people either have no idea what’s going on OR think they understand science, when in reality they have such a skewed version that they are actually completely wrong.
Perfect example: about 15 years ago, an experiment examined the differences between gay male and straight male brains. The study found that in one of the 4 nuclei in the hypothalamus, there was a SLIGHT difference between gay and straight males. The media took this study and proclaimed that it proved that people are born gay.
There were a MILLION problems with this generalized that ppl are born gay. For one, the differences were found in postmortum brains. The differences may not have been present at birth and could have easily been due to lifestyle differences. Secondly, the researchers classified the straight men by those who were married. The gay men were not self-categorized as gay; instead the researchers based their categorization from accounts from friends. Finally, all the “gay” men had AIDS and all the straight men didn’t. That sounds like a pretty big confounding variable, particularly since the hypothalamus deals with homeostatis.
In conclusion (sorry for the rant) this article is pointless to read b/c it doesn’t capture the true essence of the study. And Laura, you are right, it makes it seems like science is too slow and only figuring out the “obvious”

Comment by Eileen

Eileen, I totally agree with you! As someone who has been in the journalism field for a little while, I’ll be the first to say that journalists do a great job of spitting out scientific articles in an extremely simple and sensationalized sort of way. It’s the nature of the business, but if someone’s going to write an article on ANY subject he or she should get the facts right first! In this case, it makes the scientific world look lazy.

Comment by sopranogrl22

first of all, and call me old fashioned if you must, when did the term “fat people” become PC again? On a side note, I had a conversation with a guy in the check out line the other day, who was telling me about the link between obesity and refined sugars/flour. When you stop to look around and think about it, a good deal of our food, especially the affordable kinds, incorporate these two elements profusely. I believe there is also a statistic or two floating around out there about obesity being more common among lower income families…so wether or not the scientists are or aren’t doing much of a job(or the journalists for that matter, it would seem there are much more present and tangible causes that could be addressed rather simply. But that’s just my opinion..

Comment by Phil

Yeah, I was wondering about that, too! I would never even consider using the term “fat people” as an everyday term, much less as a title for an article. That is a really interesting concept, about the refined sugars and flour. It seems to me that most of the more inexpensive foods are the unhealthiest — I’m certain that’s why I gained so much weight in college! If you think about it, it really is so much cheaper to buy a box of Capt’n Crunch or microwaveable apple pies than it is to buy fresh produce and organic foods. It’s almost like discrimination against people who don’t have as much money…why do wealthy people get to be healthier and live longer than poorer people? But hey, I guess that’s what the economy is all about. In any case, I just think it’s really unfortunate that these more natural solutions for obesity in our country are being overlooked by scientists and journalists alike!

Comment by sopranogrl22

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