Obesity and Adolescents: Is the Low Fat Diet to Blame?

Obesity and Adolescents: Is the Low Fat Diet to Blame?

The mainstream theory about what causes obesity in kids is the Caloric Balance Hypothesis. This theory, that overeating and sedentary behavior drives fat accumulation, is endorsed by prestigious organizations, such as the American Heart Association, the USDA, the National Institutes of Health, and the CDC. Caloric Balance says that changes to “calories in and calories out” cause changes in the amount of fat stored in the body.

Obesity and Adolescents: An Alternative Hypothesis

An alternative explanation about obesity and adolescents, the Lipophilia Hypothesis, flips things around. It insists that changes in the amount of fat stored cause changes in calorie balance. The cause and effect is reversed. Lipophilia was the dominant hypothesis about obesity in Europe prior to World War II. It was abandoned without cause and revived only recently by people like science writer Gary Taubes.

Why the Caloric Balance Hypothesis is Much More Popular Than Lipophilia

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How could a renegade science journalist and a few others “get it right,” when the entire medical community “got it wrong”? Consider these points:


  1. Birds of a feather flock together: Groupthink is a powerful force in academia. The social pressure to accept what is taught, particularly in medicine, is next to overwhelming. Obviously, this can be useful. Doctors should not be “inventing” their own medicine. On the other hand, this hierarchical approach to learning has a downside. Ideas outside the mainstream (such as Lipophilia) often get ignored, even if substantial evidence supports them.
  2. People believe what they want to believe, even it is irrational: The Caloric Balance Hypothesis is intellectually unsatisfying, at best. This mainstream idea runs into dozens, if not hundreds, of logical paradoxes; whereas the alternative hypothesis solves these paradoxes. But once one buys into an idea (especially if others buy into it, too), it is all too easy to ignore/unfairly discredit counterevidence. That is human nature.
  3. Not everyone has dismissed the Lipophilia Hypothesis: Lipophilia supports the low carb diet, which is as old as time and which boasts considerable support from medical heavyweights. From Paleolithic man to William Banting to Dr. Atkins, people keep rediscovering how effective the low carb approach can be.

Lipophilia is More Technical and Difficult to Understand

Two theories compete to explain how and why people get fat.

  • Caloric Balance can be summed up in two words: “Calories Count.” This is a big, simple, two-word slogan. It is, at first blush, compelling. It may ultimately be wrong, but it is easy to convey to people.
  • Lipophilia can be summed up as follows: “Eating Too Many Carbohydrates Drives an Over-Secretion of Insulin Which Pulls Glucose into the Adipocytes, Where it is Burned for Fuel, Thus Creating an Intermediary Molecule Called Alpha-Glyercol-Phosphate, Which Inhibits Lipolysis and Thereby Drives the Accumulation of Excess Triglycerides in the Adipose Tissue, Thus Causing Obesity.” Not as simple!

Understanding the Misplaced Focus on Calories

The idea that adolescents get fat because they eat too much and exercise too little has nearly boundless support from conventional medical authorities. But this hypothesis, known as the Caloric Balance Hypothesis, may be untrue. An alternative explanation, the Lipophilia Hypothesis, explains the evidence a lot better.

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