March 18, 2008

In The News: Obesity vs. Technology

Another interesting tidbit emerging from Tufts -- chemical and biological engineering assistant professor Kyongbum Lee has spent a large portion of the past five years researching how to "manipulate metabolic reactions in fat cells to make them dump excess nutrients that might otherwise be stored as fat."

Consulting with medical researchers throughout the entire process -- and funded by grants from the National Institute of Health and the National Science Foundation to the tune of $750,000 -- Lee is trying to determine if fat cells can be made less efficient at storing energy.

His research and proposal are up for peer review soon; Lee eventually hopes to eventually convert his research into a non-invasive drug that can treat obesity.

So then we get to the critical thinking.

Is the desire for an "anti obesity" pill portraying us as helpless victims?

Where does personal responsibility fall in this paradigm?

Is it too shallow to think of health solely on the basis of weight?

Is being at a healthy weight sufficient?
Think of someone who doesn't exceed their recommended caloric intake but subsists mainly on nutritionally void processed foods, for example.

Is there a need for an anti obesity pill?

Remember, too, that many health conditions are brought on by inadequate Omega 3:Omega 6 ratios, excess sodium, vitamin and mineral deficiencies, and high saturated fat intake.

Obesity may aggravate these factors and increase risks, but an obesity pill is by no means a miraculous cure.



Tom Blogical said...

I think if it works, it would be quite amazing. Very cool and interesting stuff, if they're successful.

That being said, my thought is, if it sounds too good to be true, it probably is. Let's suppose for the sake of argument that the "obesity pill" is already FDA approved. If the pill works to an extent, I'm betting it will encourage people to consume even more, which would render the pill ineffective.

A bit like the person who starts wearing their seatbelt and then goes ahead and drives at much faster speeds than they did prior to using the seat belt, and does it more often.

I'm also betting it would encourage a sedentary lifestyle.

If you have a magic pill, why do the work or use moderation?

Do the diet pills on the market now encourage these behaviors?

If an obesity pill ever does hit the market, I may consider buying stocks in those companies anyway. Can you imagine the numbers of people willing to buy it? It would also keep my future business thriving. Of course you know I say these things's a bit of a double-edged sword. ;-)

Anonymous said...

If the pill causes your body to store energy less efficiently, the energy you intake still has to GO somewhere. Would it make you run a constant fever to burn off the energy? Or would it uncouple the electron transport chain in your mitochondria as some (lethal and removed from the market) products have done? Or would it decrease your body's ability to absorb something, say a fat, resulting in the need to wear black pants and stay close to restrooms? The side effects could range from unpleasant to deadly. What if extra fat was dumped in the bloodstream and caused strokes?
Exercise and good food will never earn big pharma big bucks, but they do work. It's not about being the "proper BMI",but about being able to enjoy life into old age without carrying a "monkey on your back" of excess weight and all the health problems that can go with it.