Fated to Be Fat?

  • Share
  • Read Later

A new blood test could help prevent this sort of thing

Here's a quick quiz:

Which would you rather do:
A) Have somebody prick your finger for a drop of blood
B) Diet constantly in a never-ending quest to lose weight
C) Spend your entire life dealing with food urges and worrying about weight-related health problems.

If you chose A, you may be in luck. According to Rockefeller University researcher Dr. Sarah Leibowitz, we could someday see a simple blood test that would determine a child's risk for obesity — and thus enable appropriate eating behaviors to be instilled at an early age.

Don't get too excited — the test is still years away. But as Dr. Leibowitz announced Monday at the annual meeting of the American Association for the Advancement of Science, the methodology has proven extremely successful in rats, whose appetite and weight gain mechanisms are incredibly similar to those of humans.

The rats in question were fed a low-fat diet until they reached what can best be described as "rodent puberty" — at which point they were all given a very high-fat meal. (Sort of the rat equivalent of freshman year at college). The rats whose blood showed a very high incidence of triglycerides (i.e., fat) after the meal were the same rats who became obese.

Sure, Leibowitz exposed the rats to a veritable wonderland of fattening food, and placed no limits on the rats' consumption — but remember, she was trying to recreate the temptations we humans face every single day. Even given equal access to the unhealthy fare, the rats who were doomed to really expand were far more likely than their slimmer peers to gorge themselves on the fattening foods.

Obese humans, scientists speculate, gain weight because they consume too much fat. Let's say I eat french fries every day with lunch. That fat is tucked away in my body for safekeeping (hello, lovehandles), a survival instinct that leaves my body craving still more fat to perform its normal functions. If we were all living on berries and nuts and only rarely eating meats and fats, nutritionists say, we'd probably use up all of our stored fat between big meals, and we wouldn't have any weight problems. But in our sedentary society, most of us struggle to exercise at all — let alone perform all the hunting and gathering it would take to burn off all the fatty foods tempting us from the supermarket aisles.

If Dr. Leibowitz's test becomes a reality, it would present a novel weapon in the fight against fat — those who are preordained to become obese would be indisputably forewarned. Armed with that knowledge, they could learn how to moderate their diets, stay healthy and recognize the warning signs of serious weight problems. The key to beating obesity, as with most illnesses, is prevention.

After all, as so many of us know, it's a heck of a lot easier to wave aside that second piece of cheesecake in the first place than it is to take it off once it's made itself comfortable along our hips and stomachs.