The Skinny On Fat
Valid discoveries in medicine depend on the ability of researchers to make accurate observations in relation to the subject they are studying. As famous French scientific historian Claude Bernard pointed out more than 150 years ago, "To have an idea about a natural phenomenon, we must first of all, observe it.
All human knowledge is limited to working back from observed effects to their cause. Scientists with preconceived notions assume that they already know the cause and this makes it impossible for them to make valid observations. They are only able to see what they expect to see.
This is what has been happening with virtually all the obesity research carried out in the past 70 years. Researchers have been taking as a given a false assumption that, by now, has all the earmarks of fundamentalist dogma. This mistaken doctrine continues to blind them to the truth. To express it in the words of the Surgeon General of the United States, "overweight and obesity are the result of excess calorie consumption and/or inadequate physical activity."
This notion has reigned supreme amongst doctors, research scientists, and the media until this day. If you take as much time to plough through scientific papers as I have, you can't help but conclude that that this doctrine is completely false. As the prestigious National Academy of Sciences report Diet and Health points out, "most studies comparing normal and overweight people suggest that those who are overweight eat fewer calories than those of normal weight." Yet this dangerous false assumption continues to rule them and us.
Had Claude Bernard lived half a century later he would have celebrated ATW Simeons' methods of investigation. Simeons was a master of observation and practicality. He refused to be side-tracked by such facile beliefs about obesity.
Simeons postulated that a tendency to accumulate excess fat was likely to be the result of some metabolic disorder – not its cause. If obesity in its many forms were indeed due to an abnormal functioning of some part of the body, then each and every ounce of abnormally accumulated fat would have to have been the result of this functional abnormality. He set out to find what it was.
To identify the cause and effective treatment for obesity he faced four major challenges:
- He had to study the origins of obesity from an evolutionary point of view; to discover when in human history it had begun and, if possible, to determine what changes in man's way of living could have brought it about.
- He needed to investigate the various kinds of fat in the human body – both normal and abnormal – and to learn as much as possible about each in relation to weight gain and weightloss.
- If, as he suspected, obesity were a functional disorder he would need to identify in what organ, gland, or area of the body this metabolic distortion had taken place. Finally, it would be necessary to determine a way of restoring normal function to this locus, thereby allowing the body to shed its excess fat and preventing future regains.