Medical breakthrough: Cure for obesity or license to overeat?

Wednesday, December 5, 2018
by Cameron Shelley

I was interested to see different takes on the 'net concerning a bit of recent medical research.  The research involves inhibiting expression of a gene called RCAN1, which seems to regulate body fat.  Long story short, research suggests that inhibiting this gene in mice allows them to remain "thin" in spite of eating a diet in excess of their normal requirements.

The question naturally arises: What does this mean for humans?

One answer is that it could assist obese people in losing weight and thus becoming more healthy.  Thus the following headline:

Gene-silencing drug may allow for exercise-free, dieting-free weight loss

Another answer is that it could assist normal people in eating all they want without gaining weight, regardless of their diet or exercise habits.  Thus the following headline:

Scientists Identify Gene That Lets You Eat as Much as You Want Without Gaining Weight

Which is it?  Of course, it is too early to say whether or not the technology would satisfy either description.  Perhaps both will turn out to be true.

If the second view is true, then that would seem to be bad news.  People in wealthy countries already consume too much food on the whole, and too much of foods like meat and dairy that pose sustainability problems.  A drug that allows them to eat while reducing the personal cost to them seems like a recipe for even more overconsumption.