While one key finding of this study has much merit and a universal lesson, the challenge of losing weight and keeping it off is about human biology, not a lack of willpower. The emphasis placed in the study on a slower metabolism as a primary explanation seems shortsighted. It’s an explanation very much in need of a larger context for interpretation, given what we know the field of endocrinology has found about the role that these obesogens play in promoting weight gain.
This is where the research disconnect occurs. Nowhere in the Obesity journal study, nor in The New York Times and other news coverage of that study, were important findings about the role of obesogens even mentioned. Not once! The study of The Biggest Loser contestants was conducted by metabolism experts at the National Institute of Diabetes and Kidney Diseases, whereas the studies of obesogens were mostly performed by cell biologists in the Department of Pharmaceutical Sciences, University of California, Irvine.
Are the experts in metabolism talking to the experts in cell biology and sharing their respective findings about the causes and mechanisms of obesity? Apparently not in this case! Yet, the findings of their studies, as outlined here, may be both compatible and reconcilable.
It’s not a stretch, not even for a layman, to see how a slower metabolism after weight loss can be a result of exposure to obesogen chemicals, either as cell programming experienced in the womb before birth or afterwards as a function of daily, living contact with endocrine-disrupting chemicals in the environment.
Obesogens promote obesity by altering metabolic set-points and disrupting appetite controls. These altered metabolisms and inability to control food cravings are exactly what The Biggest Loser study found as promoting weight gain in their test subjects. This is simply scratching the surface of what we are discovering about the effects of toxins. These obesogens have the power to manipulate the biological functions of the body and in some cases, reverse their roles. Calories have never posed such a devastating threat to the body as toxins. At this point in the game, we need to change how we view calories completely and instead of counting them, we need to utilize calories loaded with nutritional density. That will be another conversation.