Where Is the Flaky Fringe?


Referring to a previous post, we recall the work of science writer David Berreby, who reminds us that the energy balance model, which limits the possible influences on obesity to two (calories consumed and exercise performed) is probably not the whole story. If nothing else, the fact that it has been glommed onto and relentlessly promoted by the soda industry might be a clue to the theory’s inadequacy.

Apparently, the body’s fat metabolism is more like the weather on earth, subject to a number of influences that may or may not come into play in any given scenario. The concept of synergy has to be taken into consideration. Circumstances and conditions combine to produce results that are unexpected and indeed unpredictable. Ideas that once inhabited orthodoxy’s “fringe” have a way of slipping into the mainstream.

A formulation attributed to philosopher Arthur Schopenhauer, but actually expressed in different words by many thinkers, goes like this:

All truth passes through three stages. First, it is ridiculed. Second, it is violently opposed. Third, it is accepted as being self-evident.

A lot of different factors have been looked at suspiciously. How much light is in the room during the hours of sleep? Is childhood obesity caused by a virus? Industrial chemicals? Absent fathers?

In Belgium, a theory arose that maybe kids are fat because they don’t get enough beer. What if the beer proponents turn out to be correct? Ten years from now they might be basking in Nobel limelight. (Just kidding — but that is the point. Today’s absurd joke too often becomes tomorrow’s reality.)

The shocking future

When researchers first started to talk about the trillions of creatures that live in the human digestive system, skepticism was rampant. Now, the health community is getting used to the idea that the microbiota might control quite a lot of what goes on in there, so much so that fecal transplantation is an actual thing. The technique has incontestably saved human lives from the particularly menacing C difficile.

For Guardian Liberty Voice, Julie Mahfood assembled a concise primer:

C. difficile is a naturally occurring bacteria amidst the millions in the human intestine. When a person has what is known as broad-spectrum antibiotic treatment, usually before a surgery and while in hospital, much of the body’s microbiota (a new term for intestinal flora) is killed off. The antibiotics are given as a precautionary measure to prevent post-op infection, but ironically, without the usual host of microbiota to keep things in check, C. diff tends to proliferate. Once symptoms begin (diarrhea), it is very hard to combat this nasty bacteria.

This was two years ago, and even then, it was possible to say that “many more conditions than we have previously realized may be affected by our gut flora” — including obesity.

The writer noted the conviction of researchers that it is only a matter of time before fecal transplants are used to cure many conditions, including childhood obesity. Spoiler alert — anecdotal evidence coming up. Reader Michal K. Hurst added a comment to Mahfood’s article, describing his complete recovery from ulcerative colitis, thanks to fecal transplantation:

Interestingly enough my body weight is now about 20 lbs less than it was before the fecal transplants — it matches the body weight of my donor who is also the same height.

Your responses and feedback are welcome!

Source: “Can Childhood Obesity Be Cured By Fecal Transplants?,” Guardianlv.com, 02/26/14
Photo credit: tabsybelle via Visualhunt/CC BY

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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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