Taubes starts out
“The very notion that we get fat because we consume more calories
than we expend would not exist without the misapplied belief
that the laws of thermodynamics make it true.
Obesity is not a disorder of energy balance,
or calories-in/calories-out or overeating,
and thermodynamics has nothing to do with this.”
There are three laws of thermodynamics.
“The first one…is known as the law of energy conservation:
all it says is that energy is neither created nor destroyed
but can only change from one form to another.”
He goes on
“All the first law says is that if something gets more or less massive,
then more energy or less energy has to enter it than leave it.
It says nothing about why this happens.
It says nothing about cause and effect.
It doesn’t tell us why anything happens;
it only tells us what has to happen
if that thing happens.
A logician would say that it contains no causal information.”
As an example,
Taubes suggests that instead of talking about why we get fat,
we could talk about why a room gets crowded.
In this example the energy we’re discussing is energy in entire people,
rather than just their fat.
So, we want to know why this room is crowded and so overstuffed with energy (people).
If I said, “the room is crowded because more people entered than left,”
You’d say…”Of course…But Why?”
If I then said, “rooms that have more people enter than leave
will become more crowded. There’s no getting around
the laws of thermodynamics”.
You’d say…”So what.?”…because I still haven’t given you any reason why.
I’m just repeating the obvious.
“This is what happens when thermodynamics is used to conclude
that overeating makes us fat.
Thermodynamics tells us that if we get fatter and heavier,
more energy enters our body than leaves it.
Overeating means we’re consuming more energy than we’re expending.
It says the same thing in a different way.
Neither happens to answer the question why.
Why do we take in more energy than we expend?
Why do we overeat?
Why do we get fatter?”
He goes on:
"The vast majority of experts who say that we get fat
because we overeat
or we get fat as a result of overeating
…are making the kind of mistake
that…should earn a failing grade in a high-school science class.”
Taubes says maybe we should start with the 1998 National Institutes of Health report
“Obesity is a complex, multifactorial chronic disease that develops from
an interaction of genotype and the environment.
Our understanding of how and why obesity develops is incomplete,
but involves the integration of social, behavioral, cultural, physiological,
metabolic and genetic factors.”
I’ve read many books and online discussions about
the First Law of Thermodynamics.
So, despite my lack of knowledge about such Scientific issues,
I am familiar with what that First Law says.
Usually in these discussions, people wind up arguing about things like
the differences between energy burned inside an open container
and energy burned inside a closed container.
Frankly, this tends to make my eyes glaze over,
and I want them to talk about something more interesting to me,
or at least, something I could better understand.
I like the fact that Taubes gives a simple explanation
of the First Law of Thermodynamics
and how, while that Law is always True,
it doesn’t explain what causes of obesity.
Also I definitely agree that obesity is a very complicated disease
and that no one completely understands how and why it happens.
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