“Yes, we can” more like “no, we can’t” when it comes to obesity

While one can only applaud the Obama administration’s energetic approach to obesity, it has to be pointed out that solving the problem isn’t going to be quite as simple as the first lady appears to think it is:

“This isn’t like a disease where we’re still waiting for a cure to be discovered – we know the cure for this,” Obama said. “This isn’t like putting a man on the moon or inventing the Internet. It doesn’t take some stroke of genius or feat of technology.”

Actually, it’s a lot more difficult than putting a man on the moon or creating the Internet. These were engineering and mathematical problems.  But as New York Times science writer Gina Kolata pointed out it in”Rethinking Thin”  (a great summary is here), even with the best intentions in the world, most dieters fail. Moderate exercise doesn’t really work to reduce weight. There are astonishingly robust physiological mechanisms that prevent weight loss — and the genetic factors determining weight may be set in the womb and driven by our broader food secure and sedentary lifestyle.

In fact, what is most notable about the research on tackling obesity is that it points to the  futility of  “no, we can’t” rather than the hope that  “yes, we can.”

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