Essay Questions Conventional Etiology of Obesity

To make progress in fight against obesity it is necessary to accept alternative hypotheses

THURSDAY, April 18 (HealthDay News) -- To progress in the fight against obesity it is necessary to accept that there may be alternative hypotheses underlying its etiology and be prepared to invest the necessary time and resources to understand the underlying causes, according to an essay published online April 16 in BMJ.

Noting that conventional wisdom explains obesity as resulting from a net positive energy balance, and that the results of dietary therapy are poor and not long-lasting, Gary Taubes, from the Nutrition Science Initiative in San Diego, questions the etiology of obesity, examining the conventional hypothesis as well as the carbohydrate-insulin hypothesis.

According to Taubes, observational evidence such as increased availability of calories and weight loss after bariatric surgery ignores fundamental questions about the cause of obesity. He suggests that there are three conditions necessary for making progress in the fight against obesity and its related conditions: the acceptance of one or more alternative hypotheses to explain obesity, which must be rigorously tested; the refusal to accept poor science as adequate for establishing reliable knowledge or public health guidelines; and finally, the willingness and resources to do better.

"With the burden of obesity now estimated at greater than $150 billion (£100 billion; €118 billion) a year in the United States alone, virtually any amount of money spent on getting nutrition research right can be defended on the basis that the long-term savings to the health care system and to the health of individuals will offset the costs of the research by orders of magnitude," Taubes writes.

Taubes disclosed receiving honorarium and travel expenses from the food industry and academic sources.

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