Social Question

nikipedia's avatar

Would finding out that obesity is caused by bacteria or viruses change your perspective on it?

Asked by nikipedia (27475points) April 8th, 2010

I have noticed in other threads that people assume obesity is due to a lack of willpower or failure to take personal responsibility.

A recent study in the journal Science suggests that an interaction between the immune system and specific populations of bacteria in the gut may change your susceptibility to obesity and related metabolic changes. (Here’s a less science-heavy summary.)

These findings are still very preliminary and it’s hard to say anything conclusive. But if this theory continues to be supported by research, would that change your opinion of obesity, or would you still consider overweight people to simply be weak-willed?

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69 Answers

Seek's avatar

The simple fact of the matter is that only so much can be blamed on something other than the mechanics of fork-to-mouth. You don’t become 300 lbs overweight by catching a bug.

bob_'s avatar

Yeah, your susceptibility. That’s not saying that it causes obesity. Obese people should eat better and exercise. They should not be discriminated against, but they shouldn’t behave like they don’t have a health problem.

Zaku's avatar

I don’t assume those things, but this does change the way I think about obesity. There are many contributing causes to what any person’s body is like, and this is another possibility I didn’t have to consider.

It is clear that there are many major cultural ideas about obesity…

goose756's avatar

Having these risk factors should only make you change your ways accordingly. You can have terrible metabolism and still keep your weight under control. Your diet and exercise plan should be designed to YOUR body. Almost everyone can do it, some people just have to try harder.

And this doesn’t mean you have to weigh 100 lbs… trying your butt off and being say 160 lbs is better than not trying at all and being say 220 lbs. (examples)

janbb's avatar

It would help change my prejudices, but I am working on changing them anyway due to greater knowledge of obesity and compassion for obese people.

Hexr's avatar

I don’t think it would change it since I don’t really have a negative attitude towards it to begin. I realize that not all obesity is someone’s fault and that I should save my judgement until I know the whole story. But that goes for almost every “difference”

davidbetterman's avatar

I have been fat, and I have been thin. I don’t judge anyone on their body size.

nikipedia's avatar

@Seek_Kolinahr and @bob_: Does the strength of the effect matter to you? Suppose people with this intestinal fauna needed to reduce their calories to, say, half of what you eat in a day in order to maintain a normal weight. Would that change your opinion, or do you believe that categorically everyone is entirely responsible for their weights?

kevbo's avatar

Funny… that dovetails with the theory behind MMS (Miracle Medical Supplement, which is activated sodium
chlorite), which is purported to create a chemical environment hostile to (bad) viruses and bacteria when ingested, so “you’re not eating to feed the viruses.” I haven’t read up on it in a couple of years, so please follow up with Google instead of me, if needed.

goose756's avatar

@nikipedia i know I wasn’t asked, but in response to your last post, I think that it is a choice on whether they would like to take those measures in order to “maintain a normal weight”. If that is what it takes to maintain their weight and they wish to do so, then they can do it. It may be hard, but if that is what they want, then they can still do it. It is still a matter of choice.

goose756's avatar

Trying hard may not necessarily keep you at an “average weight” but it will still keep you healthier than not trying at all.

Seek's avatar

@nikipedia

“may change your susceptibility to obesity and related metabolic changes.”

This implies that it is not the bacteria that makes you obese, and not everyone with this bacteria will be obese. It is then the responsibility of the person with said bacteria to determine what will compound with this bacteria to cause obesity and work on that.

The issue with this is that as soon as many people hear “it’s the bacteria that makes me obese”, they will stop claiming any responsibility whatsoever, in much the same way as I myself stopped even trying to do mental math after I learned that I am dyscalculic. It’s a crutch. Unfortunately, my math skills are getting worse as time goes by, and it’s not dyscalculia’s fault – it’s my own for not continuing to flex what few mental muscles I have in that area.

bob_'s avatar

@nikipedia I don’t judge people. If they’re happy the way they are, good for them.

Judi's avatar

Having been one of those yoyo’s who has fought with their weight a lot, I can see how this could be so true. Usually, when I’m in an upward swing, I am generally feeling unwell but no one can say why.
Maybe I am better able to get control of my diet when the bacteria levels are lower and I am well enough to find the motivation to stick to an eating program.
I wonder if carbs and fat feed the bacteria making it a cycle that feeds on itself?
It would be amazing if research could find the answers.

Keysha's avatar

I am obese. I freely admit it. Can I do anything about it? Not really. I eat far less, for example, than many thin people I know. I eat better than many of them, as well. Does that stop my obesity? Not a chance. I admit to a lack of exercise. But considering I have two blown knees, arthritis in my back, degenerative joint disease, have had not one, but two surgeries in a year for ovarian cysts (second a complete hysterectomy just finished), am facing a third surgery (hernia the size of a softball or larger), it kind of precludes me doing a lot of exercise. Before all this happened, I was much fitter.

I used to unload semi trucks by hand, for example. Spending 8 hours a day lifting and carrying various weights is a very good workout. But even that, coupled with my eating habits (which have not changed in many, many years) did not reduce my obesity.

Does it run in my family? Yes. Are we unhealthy and lazy? Not as far as I can see. In fact, my one sister went to the doctor for a complete checkup, not too long ago, and the only thing he could find wrong with her was the excess pounds she was carrying. Everything else was perfectly healthy. In other words, if she was not what modern times in this country deem as obese, she would have been absolutely perfect.

I think that this country’s (and others) idea of what is a proper weight is skewed. I feel, if your extra weight does not cause you problems, then people should not judge you because of it.

For me to actively lose weight, for example, I would probably have to reduce myself to less than 500 calories a day, mostly fruits and vegetables. And when I began eating more, after losing, that would bounce right back up. Yet people like @Seek_Kolinahr @bob_, and @goose756 seem to think it is all due to overeating and lack of exercise.

I have reached a point where I do not care what people think of me. When I am confronted with attitudes like that, I consider them to be selfish, ignorant, uncaring, and not worth my time. I do the best I can. I live with a very fit, slender, sexy man who loves me as I am. He hates my physical problems because of what they do to me. That does not include my weight. He knew me before I blew my knees, and knows that my weight did not hold me back from anything I wanted to do, unless society itself, showed it’s prejudice (like the size of roller coaster seats preventing me from riding them anymore).

Mariah's avatar

I am very thin myself but I can understand that some people cannot help being overweight. A few years ago I was prescribed a cortico steriod called prednisone, which messes with your hormone levels and is notorious for having a lot of side effects, especially increased appetite. Oh my god. I could not make myself stop eating. I gained thirty pounds in the month I was on it; it wasn’t really a problem for me because I was underweight to begin with, but if I hadn’t gotten off of that medication at that point I may have continued to gain weight out of control. And this is coming from someone who has been underweight her whole life and finds it extremely difficult to gain weight. That drug was ridiculous. If anyone were to naturally have similar hormone levels to what prednisone induces, I would not consider it their fault at all if they were overweight. I’m sure there are other circumstances that produce similar results, too.

Captain_Fantasy's avatar

If someone eats fast food at every meal and consumes 6000 calories a day, the viral/bacterial cause is out the window.

bob_'s avatar

@Keysha I did not say that.

Seek's avatar

@Keysha Nor did I. I am completely aware of and sympathetic to the numerous causes of some obesity. However, extreme obesity (talking in the hundreds of pounds over the “obese” mark) cannot be blamed on intestinal flora. I’m sorry, it can’t.

Keysha's avatar

@Seek_Kolinahr I am 300 pounds. Your first post used that number.

@bob_ You said we should ‘eat better and exercise’ which, to me, says you do not see any other reason for obesity, than overeating and lack of exercise.

Arisztid's avatar

@Seek_Kolinahr I do not know about this intestinal flora thing but I do know, for solid fact, that severe obesity can be caused by metabolic disorders, medications, and more.

Before anyone bothers, @Keysha ‘s knees were not blown due to her weight. She blew the first one shifting her house’s hot water heater that had blown. Her sister was helping, twisting it, putting her off balance, and the knee went. She does not have healthcare and years of pressure from the blown knee, including it giving way which made her twist the other one to stay upright, took out the other, which is very common with people of all weights.

Seek's avatar

“300 lbs overweight”

And medications, absolutely. I’ve personally seen family members gain 200 lbs due to steroid medications while they were being treated for asbestosis and emphysema.

dpworkin's avatar

No. I already believe that the etiology is exogenous to matters of control or will power.

bob_'s avatar

@Keysha No, that means that those of us who are overweight should do our part to lose that extra weight. It does not imply that there are no other factors.

Arisztid's avatar

@bob_ For some people that is not possible. Take @Keysha back to the time before she blew her knee.

She worked as hard physically as anyone, was as active as anyone (more active than most), ate less than me, and, literally, was unable to lose weight. This runs in her family. None of them who inherit it can lose enough weight enough to not be classed as “obese.”

Keysha's avatar

@Seek_Kolinahr My ideal body weight is supposed to be 126 pounds. I am more than 150 pounds overweight. I think that qualifies as “talking in the hundreds of pounds over the “obese” mark”. Besides, saying 300 pounds overweight tends to, in most people’s minds, mean weighing 300 pounds or more.

@bob_ and if we cannot lose that weight, we are looked on as lazy, gluttonous, and disgusting. I’m tired of it. But have learned to ignore it. You cannot tell by looking at someone if they do, indeed, try and keep their weight under control. And to say something about someone eating fast food, well, I think we should all be allowed an indulgence once in a while. Who is to say they are not eating the one meal a month they allow themselves as a treat?

nikipedia's avatar

@bob_ and @Seek_Kolinahr: I’m just wondering how far “personal responsibility” extends. I definitely don’t mean to make it personal; I was only interested in it as a theoretical question.

bob_'s avatar

@Arisztid Right, so she did her part. As I said, I didn’t mean to imply that there are no other factors.
@Keysha I get the feeling that you are thinking that I look at overweight people as lazy, gluttonous and disgusting. I do not.
@nikipedia It’s a perfectly valid question.

Captain_Fantasy's avatar

When we prevent people from speaking frankly. the free exchange of opinion is lost.

bob_'s avatar

@Captain_Fantasy You shouldn’t say tha… erm, I mean, nevermind.

Arisztid's avatar

I wish to point something out.

First, I am of a quite disliked ethnic minority. I have faced, shall we say, unpleasantness.

I have seen @Keysha face similar to what I face, just not for her skin color, but for her weight. I can get downright unpleasant about harassment that she faces while she ignores it just like she gets unpleasant when I face it, while I ignore it.

I am judged based on genetics. Keysha is judged based on genetics. The judgments of both of us do not take us, as individuals, into account. People are so ignorant about obesity that they automatically assume that every obese person has brought this on themselves. They do not stop to think that maybe, just maybe, it is genetics, illness, caused by a medication, etc. It can also be caused by mental illness… again, illness.

lucillelucillelucille's avatar

I rarely think about someone else’s weight or the causes of it.As for “scientific” studies,trials and such,alot of them are complete bullshit designed to benefit anyone but the patient.

nikipedia's avatar

@lucillelucillelucille: Wow, you sound like someone who has spent a lot of time designing, implementing, and analyzing research studies.

I cited the original text of the peer-reviewed published article above. If you cannot access it I would be happy to email you a pdf. I would love to see your detailed analysis of the methodological flaws that these wacky scientists managed to sneak by the team of experts in the field who reviewed and approved it. Can’t wait.

Arisztid's avatar

@bob_ I just wanted to rephrase this in a context maybe more can relate to. She has not faced all of what I have, like people trying to drive me out of a neighborhood, vandalism, and being attacked, but I see people who rail against discrimination not give this one a second thought.

CyanoticWasp's avatar

I’m not sure what answer you’d be looking for here. My “perspective” on obesity is… I’m opposed to it. (I am obese, according to BMI and weight charts, but I look pretty ‘normal’, body-wise.) Would I be more opposed or less opposed to it if I discovered it was an unwitting and unwilling effect of “disease”? Hard to say. I’m opposed to a lot of effects of other deformities, whether caused by accident, attack, illness, genetic abnormality… or personal choice.

I try not to let my lack of appreciation for another’s ‘body image’ unduly affect my opinion of the person inside the body, but I’m a very imperfect man, and that’s often hard to do. (By the same token, I am often unduly favorably impressed by a good-looking body, too.)

But if a person can spell, write a complete sentence (or poetry) that I can comprehend and agree with (or argue with coherently), then eventually the body doesn’t matter much.

lucillelucillelucille's avatar

@nikipedia -I am involved in a clinical trial as we speak .I have analyzed studies as they apply to me. I f you think that all published theories are valid,think again.Many trials have FAILED.Many drugs approved by the FDA have FAILED. Drug companies fund their trials.These are profit-oriented corporations and there is nothing wrong with that but there is plenty of evidence that shows that the corporations knew of the damaging effects their drugs caused and rushed them to market anyway…with the FDA’s approval.The evidence is all around you and in the news every day about some drug manufacturer downplaying or outright hiding the evidence of human adverse reactions.I am glad drug companies produce drugs that actually can help people but those that fabricate evidence don’t seem to be held accountable by the FDA.
Believe whatever you want,nickipedia.
P.T Barnum-“There’s a sucker born every minute”. ;)

Fenris's avatar

It wouldn’t change my perspective whatsoever. Regardless of the aesthetic value of the body, obesity is a health risk and therefore a detriment on the whole. I’ve seen morbidly obese people lose weight by finding the willpower to change themselves, which means egardless of the cause, sedentary lifestyles, weak wills (allowing for indulgences weakens the will and opens the gate to more indulgences), excuses, and highly improper diets (and the USDA food pyramid is one of them – put dairy up next to junk food and switch fruits and vegetables with grains and I’ll think about calling some semblance of a proper diet) are by far the main culprits of obesity, regardless of what makes us more susceptible to putting fat on. All the excuses and blame transference in the world doesn’t change the fact that there’s a few simple things that counter and prevent obesity and they aren’t being done. It’s hard in a world addicted to convenience technology, but those unable to change die and those that do survive. Medically-induced side-effect fat and weight gain due to completely immobilizing injuries is more forgivable, until it becomes an excuse.

Keysha's avatar

The thing is, people that are obese are like certain ethnicities. We are the invisible ones. We are discriminated against on a daily basis, and nobody cares. Nobody feels a need to stop imposing their values on us. Stop a person from riding a ride due to their color, and that is discrimination. Stop it due to their sex, it is discrimination. But stop it because they are too fat, and it is ‘safety’. Even if they are healthy.

We, as a society, find it perfectly acceptable to look down on some people. We do not care about their history, their needs, their values, or their life. We look at them, judge them, and treat them with utter contempt. We do not care how it hurts them, to be treated that way. We do not care the reasoning behind whatever offends us. We simply pick strangers, and feel quite comfortable expressing our utter disgust with them, telling them how worthless they are, how lazy, how much less they are than we are.

Were that to be done to one person, by one or two people, as often as it is done by strangers, it would be considered abuse. But, because the ones doing it, do so randomly, do not know us, and do not do it to us, specifically, all the time, it is simply something we must deal with. After all, were we to change whatever it is that is so disgusting to society, we would not be being treated as we are. So the abuse is our fault. Even when we cannot do anything to fix it.

It is no wonder there is so much depression and suicide in this world. If I treated many of you the way you feel free to treat those like me, you would be defensive, upset, and angry. But because you feel your points are valid I am to accept your demeaning attitude and learn from it.

I wish those of you that feel free to impose your values on others would end up with a good dose of the very thing you find so repulsive. Then maybe you would learn.

nikipedia's avatar

@lucillelucillelucille: Since you are so certain of your position, I continue to look forward to hearing your analysis of this study!

davidbetterman's avatar

@Judi Great quote, Philipians 4:12–13

lucillelucillelucille's avatar

@nikipedia -I know exactly what I think of these studies and claims by “experts”.I don’t believe everything I read or hear.Good luck to you.

SeventhSense's avatar

@lucillelucillelucille
It certainly seems less than objective to form an opinion prior to investigation of the study she refers to though.

Captain_Fantasy's avatar

Is there an extra dose of “defensive” in the fluther well water today?

Coloma's avatar

It is impossible to judge everyone on one continuem.

I have been incredibly fit & athletic and gone soft by 30–45 lbs 3 times over in the past 20 something years.

I have walked, ran 3 miles a day, done weight training and ridden endurance horses in the mountains for miles and miles….if I STOP working my ass off and living on the edge of starvation my bodies natural set point wants to remain somewhere between 20 and 50 lbs heavier than I want it to.

To maintain my ‘ideal’ weight I MUST walk/run 3 miles per day, 5–6 days per week, spend another 30 minutes on weights and floor excercises and ride my horse 10 miles 3x a week including severe uphill grades where I dismount and walk.

It SUCKS! lol

nikipedia's avatar

@lucillelucillelucille: Great! Since you continue to be so certain of your opinion, I continue to look forward to hearing your analysis of this study!

Vunessuh's avatar

Is there an echo?

nikipedia's avatar

@Vunessuh: I thought if I kept making my point, eventually she’d address it! ;)

SeventhSense's avatar

@nikipedia
I often think the same thing..sigh

Response moderated
Response moderated
lucillelucillelucille's avatar

@nikipedia -I addressed the question in my first post and also gave my opinion on studies,clinical trials etc.All relevant to the original q.Btw,that was no rant.
You on the other hand post statements that are not necessarily factual.I found that out in an earlier discussion with you.
@Vunessuh- P.T. Barnum knew what he was talking about ;))

nikipedia's avatar

@lucillelucillelucille: You have yet to tell me what is flawed in this study. I continue to look forward to your analysis.

I also would be interested to see which statements I have made that you can demonstrate are “not necessarily factual.” When the statements I make are not transparently true, I cite my sources. I have never once seen you do the same.

I urge you once again: if you consider the study I mentioned to be flawed, tell me how. Show me even one empirical analysis. At least read the study before telling me it’s nonsense.

;))))))!!! ;) ;) ;)

lucillelucillelucille's avatar

@nikipedia -I won’t jump through your hoops.I wouldn’t do your homework.Ever.I told you what I thought of studies in general.That is enough.
A simple study is not going to convince me of a cure for anything.I have seen numerous “cures” for diabetes and ms through the years that have turned out to be complete and utter bullshit.
Your sources are flawed,don’t you see?Your definition of a right the other day was proof of that.Seriously flawed.That spoke of your willingness to believe and quote anything that suits your agenda and state it as fact.Not good.

nikipedia's avatar

@lucillelucillelucille: My homework is done. I read the article. Asking you to defend my position would be asking you to do my homework. All I’m asking is that you give me any tiny shred of logic or empiricism to defend your position. Which you continue to be unable to do.

If you believe this source is flawed, show me any empirical evidence that this source is flawed. Anything. Please. I have asked you at least three times now.

If you don’t want to believe in “studies,” suit yourself. You say that your problem extends beyond clinical trials to “studies” in general. Does that include any study done by any biologist? Or is it all scientists? What about the laws of physics? Do you buy those?

nikipedia's avatar

Wait, sorry, I’m not done. If you don’t believe in “studies in general” then how do you suggest anyone ever learn anything new ever? I look forward to hearing your novel idea for scientific discovery that has eluded every scientist for the past, I dunno, three hundred years. Sock it to me.

Captain_Fantasy's avatar

Fluther fight!!!

Vunessuh's avatar

@nikipedia
I think this is part of @lucillelucillelucille‘s argument:

You said: ”My homework is done. I read the article.”

She is saying that you believe anything you read in which you interpret it as fact and preach it to others. @lucillelucillelucille ‘s initial response was saying that you can’t believe everything you read even with the word scientific stapled to it.
I’m not arguing, just making it a little more clear.

nikipedia's avatar

@Vunessuh: I am a trained neurobiologist. I understand the techniques used in the article and the statistical analyses employed. I have read plenty of articles that I thought were flawed and I could explain exactly why. This is not one of those studies.

The fact that flawed studies exist is not evidence that this study is flawed. I have read it, analyzed it, and concluded (along with, again, the experts in the field who reviewed the study and recommended it for publication) that it is a study with merit.

So it is incumbent upon @lucillelucillelucille or anyone else who disagrees with my conclusion to show me why my conclusion is wrong. It is not incumbent upon me to demonstrate why a study that I believe to be valid is an invalid study.

nikipedia's avatar

Oh, also, I want to point out again that unless she chooses to indicate otherwise, @lucillelucillelucille was rendering her judgment that the study was flawed without reading the study.

lucillelucillelucille's avatar

@ nikipedia-I don’t have to do anything.
I told you my opinion regarding studies and why alot of them are flawed from the get-go.As for “your” particular study that you place so much faith in?Time will tell,as it always does whether or not something works.Trained in the medical field or not,there have been HUGE mistakes with medications and treatments that have caused death….
You know what I think about most studies.That is enough.

Coloma's avatar

Well..another discussion turns to dueling egos. lol

Everyones a little bit ‘right.’

No harm, no foul.

SeventhSense's avatar

@lucillelucillelucille
You’ve only offered an opinion as to a preconceived idea about studies in general. What’s conclusive about that other than an indication of your bias? Are all studies flawed? Can that be logical?
Not that I’ve read the study either mind you but I also haven’t formed an opinion.

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