10 Questions Science Can't Answer (yet)


Micheal Hanlon


2007 Macmillan, New York

Among those interesting questions is the 8th, "Why are we all so fat... and does it really matter?" Micheal Hanlon is a British science writer so he uses a lot of funny words like "boffins" and "over-egging" and "spoiling the pudding" and "fine fettle."

Hanlon lampoons a lot of the prevailing sillyness that readers of my column already know about but his juiciest rebuttal concerns, "Morgan Spurlock, an American Journalist, (who) made a hugely successful movie in 2004 called Supersize Me, in which he lived on nothing but the products of one fast food firm, McDonald's, for several weeks. We were told that as a result, this previously lean, healthy young man put on a lot of weight, became stressed, lost his sex drive and, most terrifyingly, started to suffer from incipient liver failure. This film is now cited as strong evidence that you get fat by eating fast food, and as a result you will also start to die." p145

Hanlon responds to this (without citation details that I will have to track down) with the story of a Swedish investigator, Fredrik Nystrom, who put 18 volunteers on the alleged McDonald's death diet and got widely divergent results. The results diverged from each other among the 18 subjects but most widely diverged from Mr Spurlock's near death experience.

Hanlon wanders around some other epidemiology issues that are so hard to organize into a theme. He supports and refutes them in turn.

Finally he talks about the possibility that obesity is a viral infection which is interesting and has more evidence supporting it the the supposition that obesity comes from diet and lack of exercise.

I agree that obesity is one of those can't-be-answered-by-science-yet questions.