Thursday, September 07, 2006


Derek Lowe analyses how anti-obesity research is still not considered in the same high-profile league as cancer, alzheimer's and other life threatening conditions. To some extent, I feel that obesity is like global warming. Many of us accept it as a part of life, for ourselves and our friends and family. It's not going to matter until it hits home hard and frequently. Even this may be difficult to see, because unlike cancer, it is hard to see how someone (except for the most pathological case) died exclusively of obesity.

And while anti-obesity drugs could definitely help, I see some juicy economic controversies that may arise if people start using them regularly. Discovery of drugs that reduce appetite might spark off another conflict with corporate America. One of the big and very unnatural achievements of the era of processed food is that it turned demand for food into an elastic demand. Through diabolically clever advertising, the previously held notion that people don't necessarily eat more if you produce more was rendered redundant. Many of us, if not most, give in to advertising and often end up eating more than what we actually need. Michael Pollan's 'The Omnivore's Dilemma' makes this fact quite clear. If drugs that really reduce appetite became widespread (and start to be used by parents on their small children for example), it would mean untold losses for McDonald's, Hershey's and KFC, to name a few conglomerates, all of whom want us to eat as much as we can. Since the primary aim of both the food industry and the pharmaceutical industry is to make money, it should be very interesting to see how this conflict turns out.


Anonymous Anonymous said...

Perhaps if you differentiate between "lazy obesity" and "chemical imbalance obesity" it might help address the perception issues.

Laymen like me tend to think - why spend money on obesity research - let the fat pigs exercise and hog less!!? *shrug*

- Kapil

2:24 AM  
Blogger Ashutosh said...

You raise an interesting point; why waste ours, the taxpayers', money because the fat pigs did not watch their weight? I do not know the answer to that objection, except that it seems to be valid for other problems too. Cigarettes and alcohol and the diseases arising from their use are two striking examples. How can we tackle the dilemma??

10:53 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Not a dilemma for me. No need to spend on preventing suicides.

Trouble is often for diseases where things like smoking / alcoholism are NOT the only causes of the disease concerned.

Same psychology works for AIDS - where people classify the 'good' AIDS victims - people who caught it through transfusions and the lewed AIDS victoms - who got it by sleeping around.

- K

7:13 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Perhaps McDonalds and KFC should display on their packs - "excessive hogging is injurious to health".

-- K

7:21 PM  

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