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Что мы, в сущности, знаем об ожирении?"It is better to know nothing than to keep in mind obsessions and all the time to seek confirmation of theories on which they are based," wrote French physiologist Claude Bernard in the "Introduction to the study of experimental medicine" (1865).

Pressed to the chest obsession is one of the main dangers in the history of any scientific discipline. In the best case, the error sooner or later be discovered and science will improve. Sometimes, however, it appears that all discipline is standing on shaky ground.

The American historian of science Gary Tubs believes that this house of cards can be called the science of obesity.


Before world war II, European researchers believed that obesity represents a hormonal disorder - or, equivalently, violation of regulatory functions. Gustav von Bergmann, the German expert in internal medicine, put forward the hypothesis at the beginning of XX century.

After the war, the theory has evaporated. English has replaced German as a research lingua Franca, and German literature on questions of obesity has become very rarely cited. (Imagine the postwar physics would ignore what they wrote their pre-war colleagues from Germany and Austria...)

In the foreground was the theory Luis Newburgh from the University of Michigan (USA), who claimed that patients suffering from obesity "perverted appetite", that is, the body ceases to correlate the number of calories absorbed with the needs of their metabolism. "Fat people like each other, what they eat, ' persisted the Newburgh. This paradigm, energy balance, gluttony, and sloth became unquestionable dogma, obsession.

Mr. Tubs considers that there is good reason to assume the hypothesis overeating insolvent. In the U.S. and other countries, obesity has become a big issue after the thought of Newburgh received wide recognition. Fat people usually blame the fact that they did not follow the rule of "eat less, move more". But, perhaps, the Council itself is wrong?

An alternative hypothesis (obesity is a hormonal disorder, that is, violation of regulatory functions) suggests that it is important not extra calories and the quality and quantity of carbohydrates consumed. This conclusion is based on the discoveries of endocrinology, which were not taken yesterday: insulin regulates fat accumulation and insulin levels in the blood is determined by the amount of absorbed carbohydrates. The easier it is digestible carbohydrates are (the higher the glycemic index) and sweeter than they (the more in them fructose), the higher the level of insulin and the more fat accumulates.

If this hypothesis is correct, the obesity epidemic is at least partly explainable by the lack of understanding by nutritionists true state of Affairs and operation of this lack of understanding of the food industry.


But, maybe, the hypothesis of the energy balance is carefully tested and confirmed his innocence, and Mr. Tubs engaged in nonsense? To remove all suspicion from himself, last year with the support of like-minded historian founded a non-profit Foundation Nutrition Science Initiative (NuSI). The aim of the project is to study the medical literature until the 1930-ies and identify studies that define a role in obesity carbohydrates and calories. While found a lot of smoke, but nothing concrete or in whose favor.

In all studies, the same problem: scientists can't be sure that they are thoroughly known experimental diet. In addition, Mr. Tubs compares nutritional surveys with trying to understand the link Smoking with lung cancer on the degree of efficiency of means of struggle against Smoking.

Therefore, the Fund is going to find the money for their own research and to instruct them in the most independent and sceptical specialists, who by the way will come up with a reliable experiments.

Based on the materials of Nature News.
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