Yet another example of the fear of fat leading to ridiculous outcomes: Catherine Price of Broadsheet has a piece from the Guardian about British scientists working on an infant formula designed to prevent obesity later in life:
British scientists are working on a baby formula which would chemically restructure the metabolic system of children to ensure they never became obese.
Studies in mice have found that large doses of the appetite-controlling hormone leptin during infancy permanently prevent excess weight gain and reduce the chances of type 2 diabetes.
Now researchers at the University of Buckingham say a leptin-enriched baby milk which does exactly the same is less than 10 years away, raising a plethora of medical, legal and ethical questions.
To say the least.
For one thing, as Price points out, who’s going to offer up their infants for experimental research? And then, how do control for the diets these kids will eat later in life, or for factors that have nothing to do with appetite, like stress eating and the fucked-up relationship a lot of us have with food?
Leptin turns off appetite throughout life, but the scientists last year proved that high doses in mice through pregnancy and early life permanently reduced weight. They now believe it plays a role in hard-wiring the brain’s appetite response in infancy.
Mike Cawthorne, who led the researchers, said: “The supplemented milks are simply adding back something that was originally present: breast milk contains leptin and formula feeds don’t.
So, um, why not, say, make it much easier for women to breast-feed if it’s so vitally important to deal with the “obesity epidemic”?
Well, I guess that would be because nobody profits from breast milk. But a leptin-based formula would probably be patentable, and certainly profitable if you could convince people that it will keep their kids from getting fat in adulthood, no matter what they eat after being weaned.
Which of course is bullshit. People are fat for a variety of reasons, many of which are difficult to change because of structural issues like lack of funding for physical education, more busing to school and less walking, ginormous portion sizes at restaurants, godawful food served at school, food programs like WIC being geared more toward the needs of the dairy industry rather than good nutrition, the simple lack of availability of fresh, affordable foods in many neighborhoods and the time to cook them, and a car culture that encourages a sedentary existence.
Science keeps offering magic bullets for weight loss that promise to help us with our weight problems without us having to do anything else to change either our individual lifestyles or take a hard look at changing the way society is set up and doing the hard work to make lasting changes that will benefit everyone. And what do we get for all these breakthroughs? Heart damage and oily anal leakage — and not a whole lot of pounds lost to show for it.
And now they want people to put all kinds of hormones into their infants — hormones which will have lord-knows-what kinds of effects in the long term. And there will be people who will break down and give this stuff to their kids, because the cost of being fat is so great in terms of social disapproval and blame and shame. They’ll put down the money and hope that the formula won’t have any weird effects, all the while hoping that this will be just the thing to keep their kids from being the objects of disgust and ridicule. And they probably won’t do anything else to change their habits, and if the kid winds up fat anyhow, they’ll blame the kid.
UPDATE: Just to nip any mommy drive-bys in the bud here, this is not about breast vs. bottle and what’s better for kids and whether good mothers use formula.
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