Monday, April 7, 2014

Is Obesity Mainly Caused by a Poor Diet?

               More than one-third of U.S. adults are obese. Obesity can cause heart disease, stroke, type 2 diabetes and even certain cancers. There are many causes of obesity today…but what is the main cause? In a recent study done at UCLA, evidence was found that obesity is mainly caused by a poor diet rather than being inactive and fatigue. Scientists led by Aaron Blaisdell, a psychology professor from UCLA, placed 32 female rats on two diets for six months. The first 16 rats were placed on a standard rat’s diet, with mostly fish and ground corn. The second half was placed on a more “junk” food diet, consisting of lower quality food with more sugar. After the first three months, a significance difference in weight between the two rats was seen. The rats on the poor diet were noticeably fatter than the ones on the standard diet. The poor diet led to obesity.
                The rats were also given a task in which they had to hit a lever to get food or water. The rats on the junk food diet took twice as long and twice as many breaks after a 30-minute session. After six months, the diets were switched. The overweight rats were given the standard diet for nine days, but scientist did not find an improvement in the lever task or weight reduction. The half on the standard diet was switched to the junk food diet for nine days as well. The results were the same; the rats did not increase their weight and performed just as well in the lever task.
                Does this apply for humans? Do people who are overweight become less healthy or do less healthy people become overweight? Blaisdell says “We interpret our results…that people become fat because they are lazy is wrong. Our data suggest that diet-induced obesity is a cause, rather than an effect, of laziness”. The researchers also found a greater amount of small tumors in the junk food diet rats. Blaisdell, himself, changed his diet into a more healthy diet avoiding processed food. He continues to see big improvements in cognition and increase in energy throughout the day.

                It is estimated that we Americans consume about 70 pounds of sugar, salts, and fat a year. It is hard to maintain a healthy diet especially as a college student. We have so many fast food restaurants close by, delivery services a phone call or online order away, and so much junk food served in the dining halls. Does reading this article make you want to grab an apple instead of a bag of chips? 

Posted by Amber Vien (9) 


  1. I don't find this result very surprising. Like you mentioned, there are so many opportunities to eat unhealthy and so much sugar is added to our food. With all the medical technology and knowledge we have its crazy something as simple as eating right is causing so many increasing health problems.

    Morgan Matuszko

  2. I'm confused by the time frames mentioned in this study. If the rats were on each diet for six months, why would there be any noticeable difference in only 9 days of switched diets? Fat rats are going to have more trouble completing the task simply because they will have more trouble moving their increased bulk. Diet is likely the most important part, but I'm not sure how much this study supports that claim.

    -Stephen O'Brien

  3. Very interesting article Amber. Like the first comment-er said, this is not a very surprising outcome. My question is, this is a very important subject, so many Americans have become obese. Why hasn't there been a study done on humans, or has there?

    Posted by Jacob Geier

  4. I agree with everyone. This was not a very accurate or surprising study. Of course a poor diet will lead to a poor life style. I agree that the time frames were off as well. I have not seen a study done on humans yet.

    Posted by Amber Vien