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NY Times article

anyone read the article in Sunday NYTimes re: weightgain and microbes? Thoughts?

Sat. Aug 12, 6:00pm

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Link please?

Saturday, August 12, 2006, 6:07 PM

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I stopped reading the NY Times shortly after 9/11.

Saturday, August 12, 2006, 6:12 PM

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here's the link.

Some obesity may have nothing to do with diet. Pretty frightening article if you are trying to lose alot of weight. I was very very skinny 5.8, 130 pounds, until my 20's. Just more food for thought!

Saturday, August 12, 2006, 6:36 PM

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measurement of calories - maximum bound?

Well, 6:12 poster, here's your chance to de-ignorant yourself. I sure learned a few things (maybe some I wish I hadn't -- like the part about how people who lose weight always have to eat 15% less than people who don't lose weight -- ugh!).

The part of this I found questionable was this statement: "The cereal box says that a one-cup serving contains 110 calories. But it may be that not everyone will extract 110 calories from a cup of Cheerios. Some may extract more, some less, depending on the particular combination of microbes in their guts. "

I believe that some people can extract less. But how can one extract MORE? Don't they measure calories by burning a sample to ash? Shouldn't that release ALL the energy in the sample and thus produce the maximum possible number of calories one can extract from it?

Saturday, August 12, 2006, 7:07 PM

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I recently got a nutritional supplement recommendation from a naturopathic doctor. I've been dithering over whether or not to follow the advice, since I never notice any difference when I take vitamins for whatever reason. However, one on the list (chlorella) detoxes your liver/bowel/lower intestine and turns an acid environment to alkaline. Another (entrin/dophilus) kills off bad bacteria and replaces it with benevolent bacteria (this one makes me nervous because it consistes of "powerful living microorganizms in suspended animation" -- the idea kind of freaks me out).

I only mention it because after reading that article, I'm thinking that maybe there's something to the naturopath's recommendations even though it's "too late" according to this article - I'm already fat.

Saturday, August 12, 2006, 7:35 PM

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A very interesting article. One of the most interesting statements to me was, "In the 30-plus years that Richard Atkinson has been studying obesity, he has always maintained that overeating doesn’t really explain it all...not all fat people eat too much.”

I have 2 children. One is as skinny as a rail, the other has been fighting obesity since she was 9 years old. I, too, have to agree that overeating does not explain it all. My overweight child simply does not eat that much. I've concluded that she shares whatever DNA causes her dad and his mother to put on too much weight too easily. But maybe microflora is an alternate explanation.

Another thought is that maybe the virus mentioned in the article could be responsible for middle age weight gain. Perhaps by middle age, more and more of us have been exposed to whatever micro-organism(s) are associated with obesity.

Anyway, it's all a fascinating line of thought, and I do agree that simple overeating does not explain all weight gain.

Thanks for the article.

Saturday, August 12, 2006, 8:10 PM

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It was nice to see this acknowledged in print:

"“Gluttony and sloth are two of the seven deadly sins,” said Ellen Ruppel Shell, author of “The Hungry Gene.” “We ascribe obesity to a character flaw.” This is what leads to the psychic pain of being fat, the social isolation of having a condition that everyone believes to be completely within your control — as if it were a voluntary purgatory, a case of willfully digging your own grave with your dinner fork."

Sunday, August 13, 2006, 11:45 PM

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sorry, I should clarify -- the point of the article is that obesity is NOT due to a character flaw, but may be influenced by unlucky biological factors like having been infected with a certain virus, or having a different gut flora. Frankly, what they describe fits with my experience, knowing thin people who eat a lot and exercise little, and vice versa. And from personal experience that its not just calories-in-calories-out in a simple way.

Sunday, August 13, 2006, 11:53 PM

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7:07pm poster - I guess I read that statement differently. I'm assuming that extracting "more" is relative to those extracting "less" rather than relative to the 110 cals. (Although, bear in mind that packaging is allowed to be up to 20% inaccurate - but that's a different issue to this one.)

Monday, August 14, 2006, 12:41 AM

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be careful what we wish for

Interesting article. Thanks for the link.

Isn't it a fact that the overwhelming majority of obese people are obese because they eat too much and don't move enough, and have been doing so for a prolonged period of time? How much they can eat and how much they have to move in order not to become obese will be different for different people (due to genetics, metabolism [which is typically the cause for people who were once obese having to eat less than people who were always lean], and depending on how this research goes maybe also due to microflora and the fat-virus). BUT the fact remains that even now *almost* everyone has a way not to become obese in the first place. As the article states, several times: "Biology sets the context, and that is critical, but obesity still boils down to whether a person eats too much or exercises enough."

Sure there are some cases where it is completely due to a severe medical condition, but they are thankfully rare. And if we could blame our obesity completely on a medical condition or a virus or some microflora how on earth is that a relief? If anything, I think if my obesity had been attributed to something out-of-my-control I would have felt helpless and that would have inevitably led to severe depression as any helplessness does. It would also lead to not trying to control my own weight, thus leading to sloth and gluttony. I suspect this is already a problem among a lot of obese people: that they feel helpless and (wrongly) assume the problem is not one they can control so it just gets worse.

The fact that a large percentage of obese people are that way because of their own actions is something to be glad about: it means they can still change their weight and bring it under control. They can have hope if they so choose.

And who cares if random strangers label me as gluttonous or slothful??? Surely the main thing that matters is my own belief/knowledge in this regard?
Also people who know me and hang out with me day to day will have an idea of what I are eating and how much I move. Most people I know don't spend their time judging other people anyway -- they're too busy worrying about themselves.

We have known for a very long time now that we are not all created equal, but the last century has been all about proving to us that our behaviour as individuals can help to combat our deficiencies and alleviate our problems. Of course, there are physiological differences amongst people that mean some people have slightly higher and lower metabolisms, or some people can never, ever have 32 inch hips...but in this case we are talking about the problem of vanity (another deadly sin!), not obesity.

I think the distinction is important. As someone who recently stopped being obese (according to BMI - according to body composition I have a couple of percent to go, but have made 10% progress), it was extremely important to me to realize that I could reduce my weight by being less gluttonous and less slothful. And I couldn't give a toss whether my own previous levels of gluttony and sloth would not have led to obesity for someone else!!! I'm very, very, very, very grateful that my personal behaviour does have an effect on my personal weight.


Monday, August 14, 2006, 2:00 AM

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I second Powerfrau

I agree that the NYT Magazine article was interesting. Yes, I do think it's an important finding, and it will be interesting to see what else they find. But I agree, being lazy and overeating accounts for the trouble that MOST obese people (including me) have/had. If you'll notice, the study showed that while under 20% of people, on the same cal intake as a person less than half their size still gained weight, you have to look at the other part of that. It means that OVER 80% of obese people, on restricting their cal intake to mirror someone slimmer than them, DO lose weight. I do feel empathy for obese persons that eat very little and still gain or do not lose. But while the article said that some people's body's set cal requirements "unfairly" low, all we know right now, that works for sure, is behavior change. Let's not forget that (despite the HUGE risks), the reason gastric bypass works is because of the severe cal restriction you have to undergo.

Monday, August 14, 2006, 8:27 AM

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The article isn't only about obesity, though.

It has implications for anyone (I know there are a few on PT) who wants to compete as a bodybuilder or make a pro cheerleading squad or something, too. If the adenovirus keeps you with 2-3% more bodyfat even when you are at your thinnest, you are not going to be able to compete at the highest levels. It is not only obese people who can be frustrated in their goals.

Monday, August 14, 2006, 9:40 AM

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multiple "causes"

Okay, so I am living proof that exercising and cutting calories can help you lose weight (70lbs and counting). BUT STILL, I find it so frustrating that I have to work so hard compared to some of the "naturally skinny" people around me. In fact, if you read up on the National Weight Control Registry, a lot of the people who've maintained major weight loss exercise an hour a day (cardio), every day. That is a helluva lot of exercise to fit into a busy day, every day, for the rest of your life (really more like 2hrs for me, with showering, getting to gym, etc.). Certainly the always-thin people don't have to do that. My boss doesn't like me skipping out on work to go run, my bf doesn't like me coming home late from the gym, and my future kids -- well, I just don't know how that is going to work!
For me, it is not just the list of contributing factors that matter (calories eaten, calories burned, genes, modern lifestyle, gut bacteria, etc.) but the huge GUILT/BLAME factor that implies that if you are fatter than someone you are more gluttonous and lazy. That is simply not true! Maybe I can be LESS gluttonous and lazy than I was, and lose weight, but I wasn't necessarily all that gluttonous and lazy compared to thin people to begin with! I just wish everyone would realize that. People with something like say Type I diabetes can control their blood sugar if they work hard at it, but no one blames them for getting the disease in the first place because they're "bad".

Monday, August 14, 2006, 11:12 AM

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another possible contributor -- mom's pregnancy

If a mother gains too much weight during pregnancy, gestational diabetes can misprogram your hypothalamus -- the appetite/satiety center in your brain.


Monday, August 14, 2006, 1:16 PM

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