Developments on the Flaky Fringe

What negative space_Childhood Obesity News keeps track of some of the more improbable proposed causes of and cures for childhood obesity.  Who knows? Some day one of them may prove to be the key that unlocks some secret to stopping the obesity epidemic. David Berreby explains the reason for denying that the diet plus exercise (thermodynamic) model has to be the only one. The human body’s fat metabolism is susceptible to other influences, including temperature. Fat burning can increase when a body is too hot or too cold.

Light is another significant factor. A rat study resulted in weight gain among animals who were not allowed a dark night to sleep in, but showed no increase in the weight of their fellow subjects who received the same diet plus the benefit of dark nights. One theory says that humans are meant to only eat in the daytime. Artificial light at night awakens our primitive instincts, which tell us it’s okay to eat all around the clock.

Berreby mentions some other things that have been named as possible obesity villains, such as viruses, bacteria, and industrial chemicals. They can all directly alter the activities of our cells, so why not? However, many authorities relegate such ideas to the flaky fringe. But Berreby says:

These theories are important for a different reason. Their very existence—the fact that they are plausible, with some supporting evidence and suggestions for further research—gives the lie to the notion that obesity is a closed question, on which science has pronounced its final word. It might be that every one of the ‘roads less travelled’ contributes to global obesity; it might be that some do in some places and not in others.

In other words, he suggests maintaining an open mind. So, with all prejudices and preconceptions laid aside, we ask ourselves whether the cause of childhood obesity could be a lack of Japanese comic strips—or more specifically, a lack of lessons presented in “manga” comic book style, characterized by “minimal texts, immersive narratives and detailed graphics.”

At Hunter College, assistant professor May May Leung arranged for a teaching session with several dozen 11-year-olds in an after-school program. In this subject pool, three-quarters of the kids were African American, making them statistically more likely to develop obesity than their white counterparts. The results of this study were published in the Journal of Nutrition Education and Behavior, and here’s how it went:

The professor presented a test group of children with a 30-page narrative comic titled “Fight for Your Right to Fruit,” in which young comic characters chat about how fruit “tastes awesome” and about how David Beckham, the soccer legend, enjoys fruit. The comic included a non-narrative guide to healthy eating at the end. Leung offered her control group instead a five-page newsletter and word-search puzzle on Greek mythology.

After the two groups perused their separate literature, they were offered a selection of snacks, including an assortment of fruits along with processed snacks like cheesy crackers, cookies, chips and nachos. Of the kids who had been reading the Japanese-style comic narrative, 61 percent chose fruit snacks, while fruit was chosen by only 35 percent of the other group.

Or maybe childhood obesity happens because kids don’t get enough beer, as a Belgian group called the Limburg Beer friends suggested back in 2001. Recognizing that soft drinks and juices promote weight gain and consequent medical problems, the club president thought it would be better to serve school children with tafelbier, a weak concoction with about half the alcohol content of regular beer. To protect students between the ages of 3 and 15 from obesity, this seemed to be the obvious answer. Surprisingly, one school agreed to sponsor a test of this idea and learned that indeed, three-quarters of the kids preferred tafelbier over their customary sugar-sweetened beverages. But due to “parental concerns,” the experiment was not repeated elsewhere.

Your responses and feedback are welcome!

Source: “The Obesity Era,”, 06/19/13
Source: “Can Japanese Comics Cure Childhood Obesity?,”, 02/11/14
Source: “Crazy Belgians Fight Childhood Obesity With Beer,”, 12/18/13
Image by Sonny Abesamis

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OVERWEIGHT: What Kids Say explores the obesity problem from the often-overlooked perspective of children struggling with being overweight.

About Dr. Robert A. Pretlow

Dr. Robert A. Pretlow is a pediatrician and childhood obesity specialist. He has been researching and spreading awareness on the childhood obesity epidemic in the US for more than a decade.
You can contact Dr. Pretlow at:


Dr. Pretlow’s invited presentation at the American Society of Animal Science 2020 Conference
What’s Causing Obesity in Companion Animals and What Can We Do About It

Dr. Pretlow’s invited presentation at the World Obesity Federation 2019 Conference:
Food/Eating Addiction and the Displacement Mechanism

Dr. Pretlow’s Multi-Center Clinical Trial Kick-off Speech 2018:
Obesity: Tackling the Root Cause

Dr. Pretlow’s 2017 Workshop on
Treatment of Obesity Using the Addiction Model

Dr. Pretlow’s invited presentation for
TEC and UNC 2016

Dr. Pretlow’s invited presentation at the 2015 Obesity Summit in London, UK.

Dr. Pretlow’s invited keynote at the 2014 European Childhood Obesity Group Congress in Salzburg, Austria.

Dr. Pretlow’s presentation at the 2013 European Congress on Obesity in Liverpool, UK.

Dr. Pretlow’s presentation at the 2011 International Conference on Childhood Obesity in Lisbon, Portugal.

Dr. Pretlow’s presentation at the 2010 Uniting Against Childhood Obesity Conference in Houston, TX.

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