Saturday, May 27, 2006

Phat. O-B-E-S-E, Phat.

Ok, so it's been well established that in our society's transition to a more sedentary lifestyle we've become a more obese people. This has caused all sorts of health problems; in fact, many of the most common health issues plaguing people today have to do with the fact that we're all just fat.

Now, the usual response is something like "we need to get less fat. Be more active, eat healthier, blah blah blah"; we all know what we need to do.

But here's my question: what if we didn't? Say we just decided we like our sedentary lifestyle, our culture of obesity, and therefore we decided we'd just live with the health risks. What would happen to people - humans as a species - if we decided that's what we wanted to do? Would we evolve to the point where being obese (by modern-day BMI standards) was no longer a health risk? Presumably there could be mutations which would allow bodies to handle fat or cholesterol, or whatever in a way that is not unhealthy. And these mutations should allow people to thrive in a sedentary culture, without the health risks that others face, thus eventually, over a long period of time, leading to a new type of persons, for whom obesity is not a health risk. They could be fat (by our standards) without any of the traditional health risks attached.

Could this happen realistically? I mean, people have certainly evolved over time, because of pressures from nature. But could we evolve because of cultural pressures? Have we in the past? I think this is fascinating stuff. Of course, I'm all for living a health life style, and would never advocate this type of idea as a solution to our world's obesity problems, but still, it's just kind of neat to think about the potential, right? Thoughts?

I don't want her
You can have her
She's too fat for me


Nate said...

If you are really interested in seeing what a "fat society" would look like, then check out the film "Muffin Man". As for evolution as a mechanism to create an obese society free of fat related health risks, thats not gonna happen, at least not anytime soon. Evolution is a very slow process taking effect over thousands or millions of years. The kind of changes that would need to take place in order to resolve the health issues caused by obesity are very large. Essentially, man would essentially have to become a completely different life form. The human body was not designed to accomodate extreme excesses of fat, and when it is forced to, problems result. Also, evolution is no longer effective in humans. It works through mutation propagation as directed by natural selection for the survival of the fittest. In modern times we have disrupted the selection process with the use of modern medicine. These days people with debilitating conditions can live to produce offspring of their own, with copies of their defective genes being passed on to the next generation and remaining present in the population. Nothing is being selected, everything is being preserved.

Eat healthy and lead an active lifestyle, its really not that hard.

the marvelous patric said...

i beg to differ nate, it is really hard to eat healthy and lead an active lifestyle when you're lazy.

as a Lazy America, i'm becoming part of a very powerful lobby. I say it is my right as an american to evolve into fatness. Maybe I should change my name to Jabba the Marvelous. Oonah tooto wookie, solo!

Don't you people realize that eating healthy and exercising costs me time and effort that i just don't want to spend? I mean, it's sooooo much easier to sit my fat ass on my couch, which now has a great ass groove, and watch "Mansquito" than it is to exercise. Oh and healthy food? Science fact, it doesn't taste as good as chocoloate covered bacon.

dyk said...

To elaborate on nate's comment: evolution really only applies through the end of an organism's reprodictive capacity. Once you've reproduced, as I have, (creepy) it doesn't matter what kind of crazy traits or diseases show up. If my offspring can live to or through their reproductive years, the species goes on. I may have some bizarre metabolic quirk that causes me to gain three hundred pounds at about my fourty year mark, but it really doesn't matter, evolutionarily speaking, because the deed is done. As nate seems to point out, we've subverted the evolutionary process, making it possible for even the most ill qualified to pee in our gene pool. My rather unscientific observation is that very few people are so obese in their twenties and thirties as to prevent their reproducing. Certainly not enough to make a noticeable difference in subsequent populations. There is, however, an unconscious impulse of varying degrees in our own population to find mates that are 'genetically fit' and that would preclude pairing with obviously obese individuals, though certainly not in every instance.
Going way out on a limb, I hypothesize that our species will continue to push our luck against that reproductive window. If we do start getting too fat, too early (and with reports of mounting child obesity, perhaps this is already in the works) we may in fact start to see reproduction by those with 'get fat early' genes inhibited.

And that's the, er, 'Too Fat Polka', which I'm reasonably sure was played at my wedding.

Matthew B. Novak said...

Ah, but don't people with serious health complications - even if they live beyond child-bearing age - have fewer children? Thus, unhealthy fat people have fewer children than healthy fat people. And sure, evolution is a slow process, but you've gotta learn to think beyond yourself. Who cares if we won't be around to see it? It's just sort of cool to think about us evolving as a response to culture, and not as a response to nature.