Fat is contagious again

Several of you have alerted us to news about a study of an “obesity virus” that, when caught, appears to increase the number of fat cells in the body. (Long-time readers may remember that fat was already contagious through the power of magical thinking.) Now, I haven’t read the original study; I have no idea how much credence to give it. But what I can attest to is the oh so familiar treatment of this idea in the news. No article is complete without a headless fatty, of course (though this one went for the next best thing: the dreaded scale!).

The headless fatty pics set the tone for the freakout to come. The venerable BBC asks:

So if we want to remain slim, should we be shunning fat people?

Yes, that is an actual quote from a news article. Not from a person quoted in the article, mind you; that is just what the reporter asked the doctor who ran the study. You may find yourself wondering who this “we” is who wants to shun fat people, given that the graphic RIGHT NEXT TO THIS SENTENCE says that almost a third of Britons are obese. I’m guessing that Diane Roberts, BBC news health reporter, meant to file this under “Confidential: Thin people only” but messed up the html tags.

This article from the UK Daily Express site makes sure to include quotes from skeptics who just want us all to get off the damn couch, even if you have some stupid virus. In fact, the last several paragraphs in this article are a master lesson in cognitive dissonance:

Dr Shahrad Taheri, clinical director for obesity at the Birmingham Heartlands Hospital, said: “Most people believe obesity is caused by environmental factors.

“But there is a lot of information about how things like the furring up of arteries could be linked to infections. It is not beyond reason to think about various different factors, including infections, adding into the mix about what causes obesity.”

Tony Barnett, professor of medicine at the University of Birmingham, said: “These associations may give some clues but they detract from the basic message that we all need to take more exercise and eat a bit less.

“This kind of research needs to go on but we have to be cautious.”

Dr Colin Waine, chairman of the National Obesity Forum, said: “We must acknowledge it is a contribution to the research but it doesn’t alter the management of obesity.”

The documentary also reveals research which claims to explain why those on diets feel permanently hungry, even when overweight.

A US study found that people have a “natural body weight” and respond to losing a few pounds in the same way as if they were starving.

The findings suggest that overweight people who diet will always suffer hunger pangs, even if they become lean and healthy.

Let’s break this down a bit. Dr T says fat is caused by a mix of many different factors and that we don’t know how they all go together. Then Dr B says we should be “cautious” about studying the causes of fat because he is not going to change his prescription no matter what is found: have you tried diet and exercise, you stupid fatties? Dr W backs him up on the “management” of fat, virus or no. Then we not-so-seamlessly transition into the idea of natural set points and the hellishness of dieting.

So, the takeaway from this article is that you’re fat for a whole lot of reasons including that you maybe caught a virus way back when that magically made your fat cells multiply, but that’s no license to not diet even though you will literally feel like you’re starving. Fat is contagious, but it’s all your fault. Probably some other fat person sneezed on you when you were at Chili’s a while back, so now you lie around all day eating baby donuts and making all your friends fatter. Why don’t you hit the gym if you’re so susceptible to viruses and everything? Just wash those infectious hands before you touch any equipment.

Achoo!

147 thoughts on “Fat is contagious again

  1. I know it’s childish but sometimes I just really want to rub my fat up against people like the reporter in that first article. Just to watch them realize that they’ve just been touched… BY A FAT PERSON!

    *infinite headdesk*

  2. See, this one time I was in Chili’s, eating dinner with my thin friends. And they’re still thin.

    The problem, I think, is that too many of these people have been following that “stick it in your ear” diet, and now they’ve stabbed their brains with pickle spears enough times that garbage like this seems smart to them when they write it.

  3. Do you think they mean by “contagious” that you could “catch” your fatnesss from say….YOUR PARENTS DNA?????? Cuz if that’s what they mean….then I can totally get behind this one.

    *headslap/eyeroll/little-swirlyfingers-around-temple-while-saying”Cuckoo”*

  4. Um, SugarLeigh, I just laughed so hard snot came out my nose. I’m really hoping that this is due to the fact that you’re hilarious and not a symptom of the OBESITYPLAGUEOMG.

  5. Bwah! I love you guys! I just read an article about this too and was hoping you would post about it! I’m thinking about writing about it myself, but these things take time and distract me from actual work I’m meant to be doing… (means I probably will anyway!)

    And besides, your responses are always so much more eloquent and hilarious than mine!

    The article I read only has 4 comments on it (so far) and they’re all what you would expect – references to McDonalds, and this – “If obesity could be caught like a cold it would have been a problem always, it has only been a major problem in the last few years. ” Hmmm so there were no fat people until the last few years? I don’t think so!

    Thing that really got me in the article I read was the suggestion that this “discovery” could speed up development of an antiobesity vaccine. WTF?

    *sigh*

  6. The findings suggest that overweight people who diet will always suffer hunger pangs, even if they become lean and healthy.

    Um, aren’t constant hunger pangs a pretty clear-cut sign that you are not, in fact, healthy?

    How do you even say that someone “will always suffer hunger pangs” and that they’re “healthy” in the same sentence without the cognitive dissonance making your brain explode?

  7. Randomquorum, if people think fatness is new they should really go check out Baroque art. Fat chicks everywhere! Many of them naked!

    But clearly it was all intended as a cautionary tale to future generations, because we all know no one could find fat women (or men) attractive.

  8. The study shows a correlation, not a causation. It seems like it could just be that fat people are more likely to have the adenovirus than thin people. Not great evidence.

  9. How do you even say that someone “will always suffer hunger pangs” and that they’re “healthy” in the same sentence without the cognitive dissonance making your brain explode?

    Took the words out of my mouth.

  10. The findings suggest that overweight people who diet will always suffer hunger pangs, even if they become lean and healthy.

    Um… is it really healthy to be constantly hungry?

  11. Apropos of nothing, I just have to say I think it’s hilarious that my avatar looks like a Ding-Dong with crab claws.

  12. I don’t know if this is the same “fat virus” discovered a few years ago in chickens, and last year in monkeys? As I recall, there was also some flap about an adenovirus (cold virus in people) which was supposed to “cause” fatness.

    Thing is, it’s not impossible. But IIRC, the chickens were supposed to be contagious *before* they put on the additional weight; after awhile they weren’t contagious anymore, and then got fat after some period of time. So if my memory serves, “quarantining” wouldn’t do any good anyway, unless you tested *everyone* for carrier status – which would be absurd.

  13. I love this. From the BBC, of the virus theory:

    But Dr Tam Fry, chair of the Child Growth Foundation, said: “I’m sceptical because this theory has been around for 10 years and no-one has come up with a comparable study to back this up.

    Ho-HO! Dr. Tam Fry is clearly concerned with the evidence. No poorly-backed-up theories for Dr. Tam Fry!

    “Concern over the obesity epidemic seems to be throwing up a whole load of off-the-wall ideas but the message remains the same, that sensible eating and exercise are the major components to get your weight under control.”

    Er… oh.

    (Also? Mmmm… Fry.)

  14. The documentary also reveals research which claims to explain why those on diets feel permanently hungry, even when overweight

    How much money was spent on this research that tells us that starving people are hungry?

  15. On the totally off-topic crab front, I got an email the same day as I was reading here about all the evil beasties like giant sloths and megaladons, and I found the thing I’m most afraid of!

    Google the coconut crab. And he’s not extinct.

    YIKES!

  16. How much money was spent on this research that tells us that starving people are hungry?

    Seriously.

    Step 1. Get grant for obesity research
    Step 2. Hang out on the beach for six months.
    Step 3 Publish findings.

    Repeat.

  17. Coconut crab=AHHHHH oh my god randomquorum that is…I mean…four images before even really…is it hairy?

    Is that…the evil diet fairy? COCONUT CRAB SAYS NO CHILI’S. NO BABY DONUTS EITHER. (Big scary horror movie voice.)

  18. Gonna just go ahead and be a loud rude American –

    BBC ain’t so venerable. They can’t even get it together enough to put together a decent schedule for the Australian Open. Hey! Sulking b/c Verdasco put your boy Murray away?
    That’s karma for not bothering to broadcast the tourney all these years. Hah.

    /end slightly OT sleep-deprived mini-rant

  19. Ok maybe I shouldn’t have said anything, because now I’m turning purple and crying from silent-laughing at my desk LOL.

    I just thought it was so ironic that my friend emailed that to me the same day as all the beastie discussions on SP! I swear you guys live in my head, along with the guy who writes Dilbert.

  20. Ok, what is this? Not being one to promote conspiracy theory (Not me, no WAY!! *He sezs while checking keyboard for bugs*), I’m beginning to think there’s an agenda here. First we can catch teh fatz but associating with fat people. Even via long distance phone or the internet. Now, when it becomes apparent that people aren’t stupid enough to buy that one, they’re trying to convince us it actually IS some new, previously completely undetected, airborne bugaboo that might -maybe- contribute to obesityness. . . If it’s not caused by something else.

    Why does it feel like someone, somewhere, is war gaming scenarios to see what might work? Are there people out there so desperate to make others shun and abandon their fat friends and family members that they will, literally, postulate ANYTHING? What did we ever do to them?. . . Well, besides not share our pathetic anger bread.

  21. Why does it feel like someone, somewhere, is war gaming scenarios to see what might work?

    It’s the fucking coconut crabs!

  22. So if my memory serves, “quarantining” wouldn’t do any good anyway, unless you tested *everyone* for carrier status – which would be absurd.

    I think I can see a major motion picture based around this one. Like Logan’s Run but with fat people instead of old people. I think all the good points have been made so I’m just going to say, they tested everyone for the virus, but Dr. Gaius Baltar was afraid I would kill eat him so he lied to everyone.

  23. Emmy, I don’t think your partner is that paranoid, at least about this. Coconut crabs aside, there are a lot of industries built on discontent and the diet industry is one that not only plays on insecurities but creates its own customers.

  24. Omg, thank you, randomquorum! Now I have a new phobia of coconut crabs, which handily crowded out the old phobia of collapsing hotel balconies. This is good for me, because I’m in hotels a lot more often than I’m anywhere close to a coconut crab, heh heh… I mean, right? Why are you looking at me like that? Oh God… there’s one behind me, isn’t there?

  25. So if we want to remain slim, should we be shunning fat people?

    Yes, that is an actual quote from a news article. Not from a person quoted in the article, mind you; that is just what the reporter asked the doctor who ran the study.

    So this is the sort of person who can get a media job?

    I guess journalistic integrity really is dead.

  26. OMG!! You mean, 8 out of 10 women have it and it usually doesn’t cause any symptoms!!!

    Oh, wait. That’s HPV.

  27. Oh man, I just actually spent the whole day arguing about this on Metafilter.

    And yeah, I mean, I don’t really care if they want to investigate the cause of obesity or try to pin it on a virus or whatever. It’s still obvious that, whatever this virus is, it’s not the *sole* cause of fatness, or likely even a major cause of fat humans.

    But how it’s reported, and the fact that people interpret this instantly as some kind of blame game (because of course we’ve got to find someone to blame for the terrible fat scourge! I believe one article described it as “blighting” England) really rubs my nerves raw after a while.

    Anyway, what I most often smell behind these magic-bullet theories of fat causation is a desperate, sweaty attempt to get the attention of pharmaceutical companies. Because finding the cause (and therefore the key to the cure) of “obesity” is basically like the scientific gold rush.

  28. I’ve read the abstracts of the studies by Dhurandhar (interviewed in the BBC article), and like many suspected above, they’re old. 2001, and 2005, respectively. Dhurandhar also coined “infectobesity” in his 2001 article. Egads.

    The first study was on animals. It was the typical animal obesity study – inject with this-that-and-the-other, compare, draw correlations. The correlations were that this particular adenovirus made some animals fatter. Whee.

    The second study was on humans, who were participating in other obesity studies. It was on both obese and non-obese people, a whopping total of 500 individuals. It found that 30% of the fat people carried the adenovirus, and 11% of the thin people carried the virus. It also had a twin study – and found no correlation between fatness and twins who had the adenovirus, and twins who didn’t (though they reported they found a correlation, it was well within the margin of error, like most of these junk studies).

    So why weren’t those 11% of thin people fat again? Hmm, maybe it has something to do with the statistics of small numbers. But hey, I’m a scientist with formal training in statistical analysis and error analysis, like the hellz I know, right?

    I posted the links and quoted the abstracts on my blog, if anyone is interested. You can also Google the dude’s name, tack on “obesity” and “adenovirus” and you’ll find all the right info.

  29. (Too busy gibbering at coconut crab images to post coherently)

    On viruses, I read in a New Scientist a few months back that there’s some research to suggest that Diabetes (Type – whichever type it is that people blame on lifestyle factors) could be caused by a virus, too. And that adipose tissue exacerbates the symptoms/renders it symptomatic. So in a large group of obese people who hadn’t been exposed to the virus,not one developed diabetes, but that in a group of mixed weight who had been exposed the obese people were more likely to develop diabetes.

    But I googled this just now and couldn’t find it. Does anyone else know what I’m talking about? I was fascinated at the time by the complete lack of press the study got, given that it looked (to my unscientific eye) pretty comprehensive and pretty compelling. Fascinated, but not surprised, because of course we can’t have the suggestion that diabetes is not your fault out there, can we?

  30. okay, I can’t be the only one who thinks that crab is more cool than scary, can I?

    *crickets*

    On topic, if it’s conspiracy theory to think that the diet industry and the medical-industrial complex pathologizing everything they can possibly sell a pill/piece of equipment for have more of an interest in scared, ashamed and dissatisfied people than happy confident ones, sign me up for my tinfoil hat now.

  31. The findings suggest that overweight people who diet will always suffer hunger pangs, even if they become lean and healthy.

    What? That… that doesn’t even make sense. Aside from hunger pangs being unhealthy, as noted before, the word “even” implies that one would normally believe that losing weight means… you’d stop being hungry? ::english teacher reading comprehension head asplode::

    ::googles coconut crab::

    ::may never sleep again::

    I wanted to give a shout out to my favorite freakish animal, the mola mola: http://bigpicture.typepad.com/writing/mola_mola.jpg I saw one once in the Big Fish tank at the Monterey Bay Aquarium–while the other fish dashed around neurotically, it just meandered around the bottom like it didn’t give a fuck. It was like the Vito Corleone of fish.

  32. the word “even” implies that one would normally believe that losing weight means… you’d stop being hungry? ::

    I guess the reporter believes that thin people are above squalid things like hunger. Their farts are vanilla scented and their clothes repel lint.

  33. Rainne, following on from what you said about type 2 diabetes being exacerbated by fat. I actually read the Wiki on type 2 diabetes a while ago, the whole thing, not just the “diabetes is bad” bit. I ended up writing a post about it because I was surprised that no-one seems to have picked up on this, but the Wiki says “Other research shows that type 2 diabetes causes obesity “.

    So ok, maybe this isn’t ALL the research, but surely that warrants further investigation and discussion? And less of the “fatties give themselves TEH DIABEETUS” blame?

  34. At this point I’m nearly incoherent due to coconut crab, but I actually do have a point: it’s really, really freaking hard to determine causation,not just correlation, for pretty much anything related to humans due to variable control and whatnot.

    Also, coconut crabs cannot swim as adults. This is good to know.

  35. Their farts are vanilla scented and their clothes repel lint

    Bwah! I love this and plan to steal it. Sniper, you are my hero.

  36. Tony Barnett, professor of medicine at the University of Birmingham, said: “These associations may give some clues but they detract from the basic message that we all need to take more exercise and eat a bit less.”

    The basic message is all that matters.
    It doesn’t matter why you are fat as long as you keep eating less and exercising more.

    If diet and exercise weren’t such profitable businesses, we’d probably hear a lot fewer doctors saying that it doesn’t matter why people are fat as long as they maintain the status quo and a lot more doctors actually helping their patients with the problems they really have.

    Dammit, how can we make curing disease as profitable as blaming the patient?

  37. In honor of my friend Karen, naked mole rats are pretty damn scary, too – in a whole ‘nuther way. And they’re better known so not as funny, I guess.

    Also “Nature” in PBS tonight is all about skunks. Whoa on a close-up of a skunk, er, hiney spraying stink. Double-whoa for the HD.

    Back to the study: The quote on hunger still happening after fatties lose weight was even weirder in the earlier bit: “…those on diets feel permanently hungry, even when overweight.” I guess we’re supposed to live off blubber like hibernating bears? Or chew on our own girth? *head scratch*

  38. Aw, A Sarah, coming from you, that’s pretty cool.

    It doesn’t matter why you are fat as long as you keep eating less and exercising more.

    Right. And you keep doing it until you’re eating nothing and moving constantly. At least that’s what they imply – just how much should you cut back? Just how much is enough? It’s like when they say losing 10% of your weight is “enough”, but it never is. You’re supposed to keep losing 10% until you’re acceptable. Fucking hell.

  39. sister ann, I think the crabs are pretty awesome. Though 3 feet is a bit bigger than necessary.

    No where near as terrifying as the foot-long poisonous cave centipedes that jump into the air to catch bats. Nope, doesn’t get any worse than that.

  40. Marine science writer Susan Scott mentions on her website that a friend of hers filmed a coconut crab (aka robber crab) dragging a machete down a path. She opines that, because it had been used to chop coconuts, it smelled irresistible. Still, if I met one of those clutching a weapon in a jungle somewhere, I’d just assume I was being mugged–and I wouldn’t fuss about handing over my purse, either.

  41. Interesting that this is posted today.

    I went for bp /medication refill check today. I’ve been on my healthy eating kick for the past month and proud of it. But, the doctor was not amused, and insisted I go to an obesity seminar at the hospital’s brand spankin new obesity clinic.

    When I flat out told her I wasn’t going, she said “You will be dead in a year”.

    I fired my doctor btw.

  42. The documentary also reveals research which claims to explain why those on diets feel permanently hungry, even when overweight.

    You mean, their fatz don’t stave off the hunger pangs? Shit, who’s gonna tell the press?

    OMG!! You mean, 8 out of 10 women have it and it usually doesn’t cause any symptoms!!!

    Oh, wait. That’s HPV.

    Heh! Maybe Lysol works on obesity too!

    Also, coconut crabs are fucking terrifying.

  43. Oh god, Coconut Crabs!! I just got over the Ground Sloth nightmares!!!

    ::files Shapely Prose Comments under “things not to read before bed”::

    I have to be well rested for the morning so I can make sure to transmit Teh Fatz to everyone on the morning train. Everyone on the 7:00 Purple line is DOOMED!

  44. The documentary also reveals research which claims to explain why those on diets feel permanently hungry, even when overweight.

    I know, this has been addressed in many comments, but my head is not done asploding over this one. It reminds me way too much of my childhood where it was made perfectly clear that because I was fat I was not allowed to be hungry. Which is making my head asplode more.

    As for coconut crabs, I looked at the pictures and thought “I wonder if they’re good to eat. There’s probably a lot of meat on them.” Wikipedia says they are….

  45. volcanista- STFU about giant jumping centipedes. I mean it. I mean, have you had any experience with the normal sized (I mean thin, of course) ones? Fuckers are FAST! They are almost as scary as sprickets, which, to the best of my knowledge, only exist in southern Illinois bathtubs. But still.

    I think we need a scary animal open thread.

  46. The documentary also reveals research which claims to explain why those on diets feel permanently hungry, even when overweight.

    And isn’t that just the constant lie you hear about diets? Oh, you won’t even be hungry. You’re eating too much food! You’ll adapt! Your stomach will shrink! You’re not really hungry; you just think you are because you’re bored/lonely/pathetic!

    Uh, yeah, no. Fuck that. I was hungry.

  47. How much money was spent on this research that tells us that starving people are hungry?

    A lot less than a dinner at Chili’s with three Cokes, and not as tasty either!

  48. Coconut crabs are good to eat.

    Back in my 20s, I spent a couple of years knocking around Micronesia with my dad. I saw a lot of coconut crabs. Mostly babies, but now and then a big one, especially on the roads at night. They’re … assertive, I guess would be the best way to put it. Not aggressive, but they didn’t back down either.

    I wasn’t afraid of them — so long as I didn’t mess with them, they returned the favor — but when I ran across one of the larger ones on a narrow road through the jungle, in the moonlight? Made me feel like I’d stepped back into the Jurassic.

  49. Saw the coconut crab pic once before. Of course, this reminded me of Camel Spiders (DO NOT Google! Well, maybe just a little. But you’ve been warned!)

    And now my therapist would like to thank you for re-awakening previously suppressed night terrors.

    Re; Scary Critter open thread- I’ll second that. (Must be the masochist in me)

  50. Sorry I don’t have the citation, but the New York Times Sunday magazine a year or two ago had a long article on the adenovirus (sp? It’s too far to scroll back up) being associated with being obese. I recall from that article that they only spoke of correlation, NOT causation – I remember it as a pretty responsible bit of journalism, no blame or transmittability being implied, and being disappointed because there didn’t seem to be a “cure” for fatness, which I was desperately seeking then.

    My point is the research is not new news, but the blaming is. Do you think with the economy in turmoil that there is a backlash against us fatties using too many “resources” – space, calories, etc.?

  51. Granted, centipedes are also much less fun than Batboy. Also, he probably isn’t too fond of the jumping cave-dwelling ones either.

  52. I would make a smartass comment about fat folk having to wear bells and shout “Unclean! Unclean!” when approaching populous areas, but the WHO estimates that 1 to 2 million people worldwide are permanently disabled due to Hansen’s disease (leprosy). And that’s sad.

    But I think you catch my drift.

  53. Okay…so I actually squee’d when I saw the picture of coconut crabs. My hands formed pudgy fists and clamped over my mouth as I squinched my eyes shut as fast as I could.

    Thank you….thank you all for enticing me to google Coconut crabs. I now have the body tingles from head to toe and surely nightmares.

    :God I love this forum!:

  54. I read the article which says the 33% percent of obese people have contracted the AD 36 Virus, while only 11 % percent of thin people have it.

    Apparently thin people are immune to the virus, or if they do have it, they are not effect by it so they will not gain weight.

    But that 11% percent of thin people might be carriers of the virus, so if it is contagious as the article claims, then thin people could also spread the virus to other people causing them to get fat.

    Yeah! I heard about this a couple of years ago, and there had even been some suggestions the we fat people should be quarantined, or at least made to wear surgical masks on our chubby faces when we go out in public.

    YEAH RIGHT!!!

    So, for all I know, there is a 1 in 10 chance that I might have gotten “fat cooties” many years ago in school when some skinny kid sneezed on me!

    AH AH AH AAAAAHHH CHOOOOOOOOOO!!!

  55. I am getting very tired of the exercise more/eat less commandment. If you exercise more, you burn more calories and speed up your metabolism. Consequently, people who exercise a more tend to eat more (the amount professional athletes eat would make ordinary people sick). Exercising more and eating less tends to lead to being hungry and tired, and slows down one’s ability to put on muscle and generally enjoy and benefit from the exercise.

    But of course, it’s not about being healthy, or enjoying life, or anything crazy like that. It’s about being thin. And being hungry all the time, because apparently suffering and self-deprivation = health.

  56. I just read the very first comment here and burst into helpless laughter. I was going to comment with “This makes me want to rub up against thin people. A LOT.”

    Thanks, TR. I needed that today.

  57. Yay I finally got a post up about this LOL. Bit behind the times!

    I found the abstract that all these news stories are referring to, and I have to say – what a pile of hooey. I can’t believe the thing ever even got published.

    What the media DOESN’T say is that the study also shows (and I use that term loosely) paradoxically that this virus reduces cholesterol. So ner.

  58. OMG COCONUT CRABBLIES.

    So, has anybody read the legend about the coconut crabs and the shipwreck victims?

    Not verified, as far as I know, but rumor tells of a group of brown-haired gentlemen (8 strong, I think) who were wrecked, thankfully not far from shore… except they collapsed exhausted onto the beach and a group of enterprising coconut crabs, mistaking their brown fuzzy heads for food, started cracking skulls, killing 2 of the men before the others regained sufficient consciousness to figure out what was going on and vacate the premises.

    YAY! Ask me anytime about my knowledge of bizarre and macabre stories and anecdotes! I collect them like STAMPS.

    :D

  59. Sniper,

    You missed a step. It’s:

    Step 1. Get grant for obesity research
    Step 2. Hang out on the beach for six months.
    Step 3. Do “research” while shitfaced on Mai Tais
    Step 4. Publish findings

  60. When I read “coconut crab,” all I could think of was some coconut shrimp I had that were delicious. Not kosher, but tasty.

  61. randomquorum says

    “What the media DOESN’T say is that the study also shows (and I use that term loosely) paradoxically that this virus reduces cholesterol.”
    ———-

    Yeah, the last time I had my cholesterol levels checked was about 3 months ago, and my total cholesterol was only 105.

    Maybe I got the virus!

    Also, my triglycerides were only 90.

    So, both are lower than what one would find in the “average sized” person.

    I’m about 5 ft 6 in tall, I’m 57 years old, and I weigh about 400 pounds.

    Yet my blood pressure in normal, usually around 100/65.

    Hey! If the virus also lowers ones triglycerides and blood pressure, then maybe it’s a good thing! Who know?

    Could it explain why NOT all fat people have high blood pressure, or heart disease, or any of the other so-called “fat diseases”, eh???

    Of course, I do think my diet might have something to do with that. I don’t eat a lot of junk foods. I get plenty of vegetables, and lots of fresh fruit which helps to control my craving for sweets.

    Maybe, just maybe, catching this so-called virus might help some of us fat people to live much longer. I have known fat people who were in their 70s and 80s.

    This is all mere speculation of course, so don’t take my word for it. I’m not a medical “experts” and half the time they don’t know jack shit either!

    But it is something to think about.

  62. @ Volcanista

    I googled all the scary creatures (I’m compulsive that way) and was more and more horrified with each pic until I came to those giant centipedes. Then my scalp literally crawled anyd my hair tried to uproot itself from my head and go hide in a dark corner. Why oh why did you tell us about the centipedes?

    I’m going off now to wash my eyeballs and brain. Then I’m going to inhale an entire box of baby doughnuts while I do NO exercise. Once I’m done with that I’m going to hug a few thin people.

  63. I sort of want a pet coconut crab, except the whole skull crushing capability may kind of suck. They’re sort of cute.
    Fortunately, they will help me in my new plan to shun fat people so I don’t catch the fat. I’m even shunning myself so I don’t re-infect and get more fat. If I sneeze near myself, I’m training my pet coconut crab to attack!
    Also, this story does totally sound like batboy. Who also is infectious, and should be shunned.

  64. JESUS FUCKING H CHRIST.

    Last night, right, I spent about ten minutes explaining to my daughter’s father that since she’s an early-developer in every way we can expect her to hit puberty in 4-5 years, at which point she will become fair game as a target for sexual harassment from strangers on the street. I forgot to mention that at about the same time EVERYONE IN THE WORLD will think it’s better for her to be hungry than fat (a lot of people don’t mind fat or chubby five-year-olds).

  65. To be fair to the Beeb, to me it seemed like that shunning fat people line was an attempt to segue into the next bit about how we all probably caught this when we were kids. It’s horrendously worded, and an outrageous statement, but I think more blame lies with the editor than the interviewer on that one.

    In any case, someone clearly wasn’t paying enough attention in statistics class: correlation does not does not does NOT imply causation.

  66. Google the coconut crab. And he’s not extinct.

    YIKES!

    I don’t know, I have trouble being afraid of things I find tasty with drawn butter. Sharks on the other hand, no matter how delectable they’re purported to be, scare the hell out of me.

    The only thing I miss about living on the Gulf Coast, it’s impossible to get fresh lump crab meat up here.

    I’m sorry, I got distracted and wandered off topic.

  67. Seriously, I don’t know what I would do without Shapely Prose. A couple of years ago, I would probably have taken most of this article at face value, felt guilty for not exercising enough and for eating too much, and worried about never becoming thin because of this “fat virus”. I’m so glad you’ve all helped me to learn to think outside that box.

    What I found most galling about this article was the bit about how “those on diets feel permanently hungry, even when overweight”. I know science is about dis-proving basic assumptions as much as it is about anything else, and I guess it’s a good thing that people that did not know or believe this may now be inspired to change their minds, but … really? This is suprising? This needs an “even”?

  68. Also, the suggestion that we should all “just” (regardless of what individuals may or may not be doing in terms of eating and exercising) eat a little less and excercise a little more, even if that might lead to constant hunger pangs… but I guess you’ve all sufficiently addressed that. We really can’t win.

  69. I watched Horizon last night, which is the documentary around which this news story is based. The reporting around the story is pretty lightweight (quelle surprise), but the actual documentary was really interesting.

    The rest of the media has picked up the “obesity virus” angle (and yes, it was the chicken adenovirus they were talking about, men_in_full), but the main bulk of the program was discussing how it was impossible to make some thin people put on weight permanently (c.f. the 1967 Sims experiment which aimed to get prisoners to put on 25% of their body weight). The doctors they spoke to talked about setpoints, weight being largely down to genetics (and possibly what happened in the womb, whether your mother was older, if you had a version of a particular gene that made you more likely to eat even if you were full). It was a far cry from the usual fat-hating “you just don’t try hard enough” message that you get in most reports on obesity. They concluded that some people just don’t have to try to stay thin, even if they gain weight they will lose it again quickly (as the volunteers in their “overeating” experiment did), and that they are not resisting becoming fat due to their amazing willpower – they are genetically programmed to be this way and it’s not hard work for them. So all in all I was quite happy with the program.

    Cat – I agree that the shunning fat people line was a clumsy attempt at a segue. It’s also what a lot of people at home were probably thinking, so I’m quite glad the reporter asked it in order to get a resounding “No”.

    In any case, surely it would be more accurate to suggest that it’s non-fat people that should be shunned, if anything? Fat people have already had the virus long enough to move past the contagious phase… Oh wait, I remember, shunning people because they *might* make you fat is a horrific idea that no sane person should contenance for a minute.

  70. “Imagine if you recognised yourself in one of these pictures.”

    Th…that’s me!? I have no HEAD!?

    NOOOOOOOOOOOO!!!!

  71. I threatened my coworkers that, if they weren’t nice to me, I would sneeze on them and make them fatties too. Or very very hungry skinny people.

    I would like to point out that manticores are not even as scary as coconut crabs. Really.

  72. Ugh. I too, am getting sick of the tacked-on contradictory prescription, “but you can’t use [ FILL IN THE BLANK PRO-FAT STUDY ] as an excuse not to eat less and exercise more.”

    This is, as others have pointed out, an ostrich mentality. Do we really want our doctors to be blatantly ignoring scientific truth? I agree that they most likely do so for their own financial benefit, but I’d argue that it’s so popular to be anti-fat in the medical establishment today, that part of the ostrich mentality comes from their fear of being ostracized for taking a different stand (in this case, more aligned with the actual science).

  73. *eyes start twitching* It….it weighs 9 pounds and has claws that can crack COCONUTS?!??! Or HEADS??? Legs more than 3…feet…long?! It freaking climbs TREES?!!

    *looks up cautiously*

    “The coconut crab also has a range of local names. For example, ‘AHHHH Oh My Freakin…Holy…IT’S ON MY FACE!!!!'”

    *twitch*

    And okay I’m not a scien-ma-tician or anything so maybe this IS the technical term to use and all but did anyone else read “the furring up of arteries” and think of large kittens prowling through their blood vessels? No? Just me then?

  74. Hey, it wasn’t me who first brought up the centipedes! I mentioned them because I am STILL horrified about them after someone introduced them on the manticore thread! I swear!

  75. Yes, the cave centipedes are nasty. Much worse than the Coconut Crab.

    But what about the colossal squid? Having said that, I really like cephalopods, so I don’t find it particularly scary.

    sherunslunatic – if you like the mola mola, you might also like the Megafishes project. It aims to document and protect the world’s largest freshwater fish. The freshwater stingray is absolutely enormous…

  76. First of all OMFG COCONUT CRAB!!!!!! UGH! -shudders-

    Oh, and Mola Mola=Awesome, Camel Spider (damn you all I had to Google just because it said not to, lol)=totally fucking not -shudders again-

    Now that that’s (mostly) out of my system, there are some great points on this thread, I’m not sure I can add to them. I also can’t decide whether or not to vote for an open creep-the-f-out thread…I’ll get back to you on that :)

  77. “…those on diets feel permanently hungry, even when overweight.”

    This is hilarious! Especially the part where it expects you to think that fat people are never hungry.

  78. Well but Keeks, it just makes sense right? All us fat people just munch on our inner fat when we get the munchies so we never actually know what Hunger is. Either that or we always have a baby flavored donut on hand in the off-chance that some strange tummy rumbling might occur! ;)

  79. I suggest that this journalist should try the “shove it up your arse” diet if they wish to ensure that they don’t catch fatness off the likes of me!

  80. I wanted to point out that the scale used for the one article is reading around 126 or 128. It struck me as odd.

    There’s another commentary about this ‘study’ from ABC news (http://blogs.abcnews.com/health_insider/2009/01/is-a-virus-maki.html)… the title gave me some hope, but it’s the same tired old ‘eat less exercise more’ argument. *sigh*

    Did anyone else see the segment on ABC World News last night about how eating less is supposed to improve memory (http://abcnews.go.com/WN -“Less Food, More Thought”)? I was flabbergasted. Here’s a text article: http://www.telegraph.co.uk/health/healthnews/4346116/Cutting-back-on-calories-can-help-improve-memory.html It’s just… it doesn’t make sense!

    And I’m intrigued by the coconut crab, though I don’t think I’d want to stumble across one in a dark alley. ;)

  81. I don’t know, I have trouble being afraid of things I find tasty with drawn butter.

    Oh, I’m afraid. But I’m afraid, and looking around for a bigger pot at the same time. Multi-tasking FTW!

  82. Not sure if this is the right spot to point towards this, but, hey, have you seen http://www.thestar.com/living/article/577561 ?
    Here’s “news”! Mind you, about mid-way through it wanders off onto a discussion about “type 3″ diabetes, and even just having read it, I’m not quite sure how that happened. Starts off gangbusters, though.

  83. Looks like there could be a lot of good eatin’ on a Coconut Crab . . . you’d have to work for it, but it might be worth it.

    Mmmmm. Coconut Crab . . . . that actually sound pretty good . . .

  84. The most disturbing part is the “we must be cautious.” These fucking medical people who are supposed to be scientists are terrified that their research, if not “cautious,” might ruin their preconceived notions.

    HEADESK OW! HEADESK OW!

  85. “Research shows that eating less and exercising more doesn’t actually cause weight loss, but this is no excuse not to eat less and exercise more, fatty!”

    Re: thinking that thin people don’t get hungry: yes, absolutely they think that. I assume you guys have read the “studies” showing that fat people are hungrier, fat people don’t have cues to stop eating, fat people eat more but don’t realize or report that they’ve eaten it, etc. Absolutely they think that thin people don’t get hungry.

    Alyssa, props for the Bat Boy reference!

  86. @ mel:
    because apparently suffering and self-deprivation = health

    Um, eggzactly. I’m a little effing tired of this hard mind/body binary that we’re all supposed to blindly accept.
    Could we not assume that ignoring your physicality makes you better/more deserving/respectable?

  87. There are very serious diseases that research indicates may be caused by viruses, from Parkinson’s disease to some forms of cancer.

    Nobody says “OH SHOULD WE AVOID PEOPLE WITH PARKINSON’S BECAUSE WE MIGHT CATCH THE PARKINSON’S” even as a joke.

  88. Re: thinking that thin people don’t get hungry: yes, absolutely they think that. I assume you guys have read the “studies” showing that fat people are hungrier, fat people don’t have cues to stop eating, fat people eat more but don’t realize or report that they’ve eaten it, etc. Absolutely they think that thin people don’t get hungry.

    This is amazing to me!! I have met so few people who are hungrier than I am. And they were also very thin, but taller. And this week, I can’t seem to eat enough. I’m wanting like five meals a day. Can I have lunch soon??

  89. Mmmmm. Coconut Crab . . . . that actually sound pretty good . . .
    I love that I’m not alone in this. Granted, I haven’t actually googled the thing yet, but my mouth began to water just reading the words “Coconut Crab.” I imagine the most fabulous crab cake ever!

  90. I wonder how much of the “suffering and self-deprivation = health” comes from our whole puritanical society thing. You know, fun=sin and suffering=moral uprightness or some such bullshit. I’m sure that’s where fat=lazy/immoral/evil comes from.

    Meh. I only get evil when I get hungry. I wonder where that fits into the world view.

  91. I assume you guys have read the “studies” showing that fat people are hungrier, fat people don’t have cues to stop eating, fat people eat more but don’t realize or report that they’ve eaten it, etc. Absolutely they think that thin people don’t get hungry.

    They probably don’t, since unlike fat people, thin people aren’t on fucking diets all the time.

    (Yes, I realize some thin people certainly are, but I am constantly amazed at the number of people who seem to think fat folks have never heard of eating less and exercising more, much less tried those things 5 BILLION TIMES, while all thin people are thin because they’re constantly dieting, which makes them virtuous. Does. not. work. like. that.)

  92. No where near as terrifying as the foot-long poisonous cave centipedes that jump into the air to catch bats.

    OK I’m never going outside again. I’ll drive my car into the living room if necessary.

    SAVE ME BATBOY

    On the actual topic at hand:

    Ugh. I too, am getting sick of the tacked-on contradictory prescription, “but you can’t use [ FILL IN THE BLANK PRO-FAT STUDY ] as an excuse not to eat less and exercise more.”

    Indeed. How many times can they repeat “Well we have all these questions about why people are fat or thin and we don’t actually really understand how any of this works BUT you should still stick to the programming until told otherwise!”

    It’s one step away from giving up all hope of deductive reasoning and relying on divine providence to answer every question and if you don’t simply accept that you’re a heathen unbeliever who will burn in hellfire die fat and alone and unloved. There’s some serious circular logic at work here.

    DRST

  93. JP, people still say that about HIV, though…. seriously, and not just in a safe sex kind of way!

    Good point, The Bald Soprano. H’mmmmm….

  94. I kinda like the coconut crabs. They have some awesome attributes. They can smell! They have a thing between lungs and gills! The babies have to find shells to use like hermit crabs! Aw. They’re nice critters. And it takes 30 years to get that big, cut ‘em a break already.

  95. They probably don’t, since unlike fat people, thin people aren’t on fucking diets all the time.

    I’m confused. The article is ridiculous because it’s suggesting that it’s some kind of DISCOVERY that a person would feel the sensation of hunger while starving themselves to the point of wasting. Of COURSE you would feel hunger under those circumstances, severe severe hunger (though eventually I know a lot of people stop feeling that sensation after a while). But… you can feel hunger every day when you’re eating enough and are not literally STARVING your body of nutrients. Like, between every meal. Hunger ≠ starvation, right??

    Thin people feel hunger.

  96. The findings suggest that overweight people who diet will always suffer hunger pangs, even if they become lean and healthy.

    And we’re supposed to think that’s acceptable? That lean and “healthy” is so important a goal that you should just resign yourself to constant pain? I’m probably reading too much into this but this sounded like it was being reported as just another interesting health factoid rather than an appalling statement. So not only is it blatantly false, it’s creepy in its cold heartlessness.

  97. Hunger ≠ starvation, right??

    Yes! I think Kate was equating “hunger” with “constant hunger,” though, since the article seemed to be doing the same.

    Thin people feel hunger! But in a society where “hunger” is coded as “inability to control one’s urges,” the assumption is that thin people don’t, you know, feel hunger. Because they are moderate and disciplined! And Kate’s right that a lot of thin people don’t (needn’t) feel hunger in the way fat people do, not because they aren’t wired for it, but because when they are hungry they get to eat.

  98. And okay I’m not a scien-ma-tician or anything so maybe this IS the technical term to use and all but did anyone else read “the furring up of arteries” and think of large kittens prowling through their blood vessels? No? Just me then?

    I will never be able to get this out of my head! Cutest. Death. EVER.

  99. The “fatty” pictured in the Daily Express article isn’t even fat. Her pants are just way too small with a super low rise that doesn’t flatter her figure…

  100. A different angle…Bearing in mind that there are, as that program showed, plenty of thin people who can’t put on weight…is there any research into the possibility that that might have a viral cause? Probably not, I’m guessing, because there’s such a strong assumption that thin is the norm and fat is some kind of pathology.

    And, coconut crabs? Somewhere between cute, awesome and eeek lies the territory of “So, I’ll be needing a sledgehammer and a really great chowder recipe…!

  101. hunger hunger hunger hunger

    Right, constant hunger: not so much. So hungry my stomach hurts and I can’t think straight: before almost every time I put something in my mouth. :)

  102. Marine science writer Susan Scott mentions on her website that a friend of hers filmed a coconut crab (aka robber crab) dragging a machete down a path.

    Best horror movie premise ever.

  103. BTW – The TV series Boston Legal just aired a hilarious episode based on this whole idea! Shatner’s character fires one of the female lawyers specifically because she’s “too fat” for their image. So, the woman sues. The defense they drum up is that being around fat people is a contagion, and that fat employees are a burden to the company. The judge assigned ended up being a very full-figured woman herself. The episode is so funny, in case you ever get to see it.

  104. “Maybe, just maybe, catching this so-called virus might help some of us fat people to live much longer. I have known fat people who were in their 70s and 80s.”

    When you’re old, higher cholesterol correlates with living longer. I’m also fat with low cholesterol but my mother is 74 and her’s is only 160 so I may have inherited it. Supposedly your cholesterol goes up as you age. BTW, there was an article the other day
    http://www.apha.org/publications/tnh/current/Dec08Jan09/WebExclusives/AmishWebX.htm

    Anyone who thinks they gave themselves diabetes because they got fat should read this.
    http://www.phlaunt.com/diabetes/14046739.php

  105. So the research has reached new conclusions, but we should ignore it? Because that’s certainly how science functions in my experience.

    :S

    Fun fact, though, in relation to the crabs:

    ‘It may be interesting to know that in such a dilemma [being gripped by a coconut crab] a gentle titillation of the under soft parts of the body with any light material will cause the crab to loose its hold.’

    Which, I don’t know about the rest of you, certainly comforts me and makes the imminent threat of skull-crushing a bit more whimsical. Tickle the crabs, let the puppies roam free, but be cautious about that science, thar.
        
    And apparently those children:

    ‘Children sometimes play with coconut crabs by placing some wet grass at an angle on a palm tree that contains a coconut crab. When the animal climbs down, it believes the grass is the ground, releases its grip on the tree, and subsequently falls.’

  106. nonegiven, I swear, I’m taking the articles in that link on type 2 diabetes to my endocrinologist when I go in again (since it appears that she’s the ONLY english-speaking one in town who accepts my insurance… *grumble*)

  107. The idea of children playing with coconut crabs is both hilarious and FUCKING TERRIFYING.

    YOU’RE DICING WITH DEATH. RUN AWAYYYYY.

    That’s how I will end posts from now on.

    Don’t think I won’t hold you to that.

  108. I think that the article misses a lot of the nuances of the way the information was conveyed in the documentary.

    When the interviewer asks (re. the virus) “so should we all avoid fat people now” the expression on the doctor’s face (to me) read “you are a moron” and he said as much.

    Until the end where there was the obligatory “well it seems you have a set point etc but even so: Lose weight you fatties” the documentary wasn’t negative about fat. The researchers generally used neutral terms and healthy in regard to thin-ness was only mentioned once. Several of the doctors and scientists mentioned a need to end the stigma towards fat people.

    It is important to emphasise that the last piece quoted “that overweight people who diet will always feel hunger pains” is an inaccurate reporting of the findings. What the research examined was a group of people who had lost weight being given sufficient calories to maintain it yet feeling hungry. What this means is that diets get you thinner but you will forever have to eat less than your body needs to maintain it. The hunger levels seen weren’t imaginary as some have suggested but measured by physical and neurological responses. I thought this was a powerful anti-diet message and much more sophisticated than the “duh of course they’re hungry” responses.

    The main study of the thin people trying to put on weight was interesting because it disproved many myths, especially the calories in/ calories out nonsense and showed that weight gain and loss is very different between individuals even those who are eating a similar amount.

  109. “The documentary also reveals research which claims to explain why those on diets feel permanently hungry, even when overweight … The findings suggest that overweight people who diet will always suffer hunger pangs, even if they become lean and healthy.”

    *sputters* I just… it… ARG! Maybe, just maybe, people on diet are hungry cuz they aren’t getting enough fuel! OMGZ!

    Anyway, I guess this is my official de-lurk, as opposed to the one which I didn’t announce myself in back from the “Obama takes the oath of office” post.
    I’ve been reading this blog for probably two years now, and I totally love it but have been too shy to say anything until this month. So… ya know… Hi! And thanks to the awesome ladies how run this swanky joint!

  110. Oh and if anyone needs to purge creepy critter vibes; here’s a very cute shirt that I must have: Cogito Ergo Nom

    I read that as Cogito Ergo NORN. I’ve been playing too much Creatures, I swear my first thought was “My norns don’t do much thinking, must be why the keep dying on me.”

  111. @ Godless Heathen

    My Latin is rusty…ok ok, non-existent. Does Cogito Ergo Nom = I think therefore I eat?

    Because if that’s the case then I want one of those shirts. :-)

  112. Nothing relevant here, but about those scary animals, though I know I’m a bit late, I have a favorite to add…
    Google Komodo Dragon Lizard. Those get 12 feet long. And are man eaters, to boot.

  113. First thing I thought when I wiki’d coconut crab: Do they taste good? There’s also pic on wikipedia with blue and orange crabs; they’re really pretty. Also, I don’t think they’d try to crack your head unless it smelled like a coconut.

  114. @ Tahia

    Correct me if I’m wrong but isn’t their saliva poisonous? I seem to remember watching a doccie about them and I think it was mentioned that their mouths are so filled with bacteria that their saliva can kill.

  115. Yeah, it’s not exactly that their saliva is poisonous — they don’t have any venom — but anything they bite basically gets sepsis immediately.

    Also, gila monsters poop in their tails. (This is not true, but a falsehood I’ve been spreading for a long time to see if it will get traction.)

  116. You know, whenever I read stories like this, especially on the BBC website I get really annoyed, because there is never an opportunity to comment on the stories I would like to comment about .

    I wanted to ask the “So if we want to remain slim, should we be shunning fat people?” the following question:

    Are you clinically insane? If so, are you being treated or are you a victim of the so-called Care in the Community service? Perhaps your relatives should have you sectioned.

    Hey, I’m going to be shunned, so it’s only fair.

    I BURN to ask this question.

  117. buttercup: “I kinda like the coconut crabs. They have some awesome attributes. They can smell! They have a thing between lungs and gills! The babies have to find shells to use like hermit crabs! Aw. They’re nice critters. And it takes 30 years to get that big, cut ‘em a break already.”

    Yeah! And I happen to think they’re quite beautiful. I just wouldn’t go near them. Those kids are little turds though, I must say.

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