Tuesday, September 26, 2006

Being fat and miserable

Lee Smith pointed out to me that Monash University researchers are investigating the effects of being obese on depression levels. Its not just another 'nobody loves me' type of sob story - some obese people struggle with excess weight all their lives and yet are perceived in society as lazy slobs who cannot exert self-control. The struggle can be pointless if their obesity is genetically driven. It is enough to make anyone depressed! But I cannot help thinking that some people react to depression by eating to excess - the expression 'comfort food' suggests this hypothesis. Kids are often rewarded with a cookie which associates food with a reward unrelated to hunger.

The rise in obesity is linked to the diabetes epidemic and might in turn be linked bidirectionally to a rising incidence of mental illness and depression.


Anonymous said...

and to think that the sterotype used to be that fat people were happy (the jolly fat woman).

Anonymous said...

Harry, you are confusing arguements here. The thrifty gene arguments are that some people get fat more easily (whether correct or not). That doesn't mean obesity is genetically driven -- there is always variation in populations, even in ones not supposed to have thrifty genes, so it seems reasonable to think that self-control is still the first issue.

Yobbo is still right.

hc said...

I think the thrifty genes argument is genetic - it suggests that some will always be battling the directives of their genetic codes - they are not lazy slobs who eat too much but people borne with a thrifty gene.

Anonymous said...


there are excuses for everything -- obsesity is basically a problem of the last 20 years in English (and a small number of other) speaking countries.

Given that the food supply 30 years ago in most Western countries is not very much different to now (I certainly don't remember it to be -- I probably have better access to better food now in fact), am I to conclude then that obese people now have worse genetics than 30 years ago? or am I to conclude that the same genetic population simply lacks self control in this aspect of their lives?

This same arguement applies to any number of things. I have a family history of high blood pressure. If I am now lazy and eat garbage, should I blame genetics when I need a heart operation (despite the fact that I am well educated and know how to avoid it) ? or should I blame myself when it could have been easily avoided, despite my predisposition?

I have a genetic disposition to risk taking. If I now drive my car like an idiot and have accident, can I blame genetics ?

I have a genetic disposition toward being a sociopath. If I now go and commit crime, should I blame my genetics (I believe such cases have in fact now occured) ?

I have a genetic disposition to skin cancer. If I now go and sunbake all day, should I blame genetics ?

and so on. I guess it really depends where you want to draw the line between personal responsibility and genetic dispostition to behavior. If you can claim obesity as genetic (despite it not occuring in most of the world through most of history -- including times when we had a decent food supply), I don't know how you can then start ruling out all of the other things based on the same logic (given a similar level of disposition).

FXH said...

harry - did you see where Prof David Allison, University Alabama, suggested the ambient temperature might contribute, (aircon etc) and lack of sleep, and that obesity in infants increases with maternal age?

FXH said...


mmh Allison has been criticised for taking drug company and weight watchers etc money:


hc said...

fxh, Poor sleep is associated with sleep apnea which in turn is associated with obesity so not surprised at this claim.

Conrad, Recognising genetic traits is just recognisding risk factors. I think medicos don't like this story because they don't like the implied excuse. But maybe it operates.

There are genetic bases for addiction, obesity, crime etc.

J. Taylor said...

Obesity has always been a significance of being easy to get diabetics.
Gestational Diabetes Resources

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