A recent article published in the BMJ reveals that our understanding of what causes obesity may actually be incorrect. The author of the study, Gary Taubes, stresses that if we are to make any actual progress in combating obesity we must further our understanding on what actually causes it.

Gary Taubes said: “What we want to know is what causes us to gain weight, not whether weight loss can be induced under different conditions of semi-starvation.”

There have been two different hypotheses about the cause of obesity. The accepted hypothesis since the 1950s is that obesity is caused by overeating, however, there is an alternative hypothesis which states that it is caused by a hormonal imbalance.

Taubes thinks that the recent obesity epidemic isn’t fully explained by the overeating hypothesis and that substandard science hasn’t helped either. He is determined to find the true cause.

He said that although the worldwide obesity epidemic is usually explained by the increased availability of calories there fails to be sufficient evidence to indicate whether it’s total calories to blame or the carbohydrate calories.

In addition, attempts to answer the cause of obesity fail to address whether people become obese “because they’re eating more, or eat more because the macronutrient composition of their diets is promoting fat accumulation … in effect, driving an increase in appetite.”

In an effort to finally answer what causes obesity, Taubes has co-founded what’s called the Nutrition Science Initiative, which will fund and facilitate “rigorously well controlled experimental trials, carried out by independent, skeptical researchers.”

He stresses that if we are to finally combat and put an end to obesity we must explore all other possible hypotheses of obesity and be willing to accept that there may be answers out there that substandard science hasn’t been able to achieve.

He concluded:

“With the burden of obesity now estimated at greater than $150bn (£100bn; €118bn) a year in the US alone, virtually any amount of money spent on getting nutrition research right can be defended on the basis that the long term savings to the healthcare system and to the health of individuals will offset the costs of the research by orders of magnitude.”

1.5 billion adults worldwide are overweight and a further 0.5 billion are obese; 170 million children are classed as either overweight or obese. Obesity is a worldwide pandemic that needs to be solved.

Written by Joseph Nordqvist