September 5, 2007 at 8:17 am
A lot of mice have gotten fat so someday we won’t have to. Scientists recently discovered that turning off a gene in mice’s genetic code caused them to stop producing an enzyme which caused the build-up of an amino acid which caused cells to make new proteins and then destroy them over and over again burning lots of calories without getting fat. Did you get that? Basically, some people have cells that do a lot of busy work that waste time and energy – just like your office job! But unlike sitting in front of a computer all day, this busy work keeps them thin. It’s a long way of saying that genes do probably play a factor in making you fat and yes there really are some people who can eat cake all day and not gain weight. You can find more information in the easy-to-read MSNBC article or the more detailed Nature.com article or if you have PhD in cell biology you can dive into the original paper published in Cell Metabolism. The MSNBC article I found funny in particular because it talks about fat fruit flies. How can you tell if a fruit fly is fat? Do you weigh it? Do you squash it to see if it leaves a really big stain?
Articles like this seem to come out every couple months, talking about proteins and enzymes and genes. Each article convinces me more and more that a hundred years from now obesity is going to be a medical oddity. All the weight loss blogs will go offline. Lane Bryant will go out of business. If our descendants jeans get a little tight (assuming they still wear jeans and not shiny moon pants), they’ll pick up a leptin prescription from their doctor. Then they’ll laugh about how silly it was that people used to diet to lose weight as they wash their pills down with a double-fudge brownie milkshake.
When I think of diseases like polio or small pox, they’re not threatening at all. When Nicole Kidman dies of tuberculosis at the end of Moulin Rouge,* I just shake my head and thank God for antibiotics. I don’t fear polio because it can be prevented with a shot, but just last century it could kill you or paralyze you for life. While I don’t think obesity is as bad as polio or small pox, it’s certainly not considered a desirable, especially when you get as fat as I was and you injure yourself walking up the stairs.
As more and more fruit flies and mice get fat and skinny in the medical laboratories in the world, eventually we’ll reach a point where obesity can be controlled through pills or vaccines or genetic therapy. It just won’t happen in time to do me any good. My loose skin is already here. It’s possible they might eventually develop a cure for aging too, but I’ll probably be dead by then. Which isn’t fair, but how many things in life are?
I’m sure an anti-fat pill would stir up a lot of controversy, but I can’t see much wrong with it. You could argue that it would give people an excuse to over-consume food when other areas of the world are starving, but that seems to be happening regardless. If worse came to worse, we could just rise the price of corn syrup. An anti-fat pill would be the diet equivalent of birth control. We use condoms and birth control patches so we can enjoy all the pleasures of sex without having 20 children or growing genital warts like cauliflower. An anti-fat pill would let you enjoy as much double-cheese pizza and strawberry cheesecake as you like without the negative side-effect of obesity. I have no idea if it would also lower your risk of heart disease or diabetes too, but if I’m making up magic pills lets just say that it does.
So, if there were a magic anti-fat pill that made your cells run in circles endlessly building and breaking down proteins, would you take it? I probably would, but I also think I’d eat healthy most of the time anyway. I feel so much better when I do. Back when I ate junk food all the time I often felt sleepy or moody. Though I have to wonder if I would ever have figured that out if I could just take a pill before eating a box of cookies. There are advantages to a well-balanced diet that have nothing to do with how fat you are. That doesn’t come in a pill – yet.
* That’s not a spoiler by the way. They open up the movie by telling you she’s dead. And she coughs up blood and foreshadowing all through the film.