Environmental contamination by artificial, human-synthesized compounds fits this picture very well, and no other account does

Sunday, October 23rd, 2022

Only one theory can account for all of the available evidence about the obesity epidemic: it is caused by one or more environmental contaminants:

We know that this is biologically plausible because there are many compounds that reliably cause people to gain weight, sometimes a lot of weight.


We need a theory that can account for all of the mysteries we reviewed earlier. Another way to put this is to say that, based on the evidence, we’re looking for a factor that:

  1. Changed over the last hundred years
  2. With a major shift around 1980
  3. And whatever it is, there is more of it every year
  4. It doesn’t affect people living nonindustrialized lives, regardless of diet
  5. But it does affect lab animals, wild animals, and animals living in zoos
  6. It has something to do with palatable human snackfoods, unrelated to nutritional value
  7. It differs in its intensity by altitude for some reason
  8. And it appears to have nothing to do with our diets

Environmental contamination by artificial, human-synthesized compounds fits this picture very well, and no other account does.


  1. David Foster says:

    (6) and (8) seem contradictory.

  2. Isegoria says:

    The explanation for Mystery 6 might clarify their point:

    Lab rats gain more weight from human foods than they do from rat chow with similar nutritional properties because obesity doesn’t come from fat or carbohydrate content, but from contaminants in the food, and human food has more contaminants than the rat chow does, likely from packaging and processing.

  3. Glyndwr Michael says:


  4. Isegoria says:

    They look at per- and polyfluoroalkyl substances (PFAS) as one potential culprit.

  5. Michael van der Riet says:

    Although this is couched in scholarly language, the usual scientific approach is an abstract of findings up front followed by the heavy lifting. I’m on Part V and they’re still being coy about naming the suspects. I’m a Rachel Carson fan, but Silent Spring contained some deviations from the truth and is not a credibly cited source. It’s a very cool hypothesis, until you see the number of morbidly obese people totally stuffing their faces full of junk. When I’ve overdone the calories, I see the effect in terms of belt notches within a couple of days. So I’m a skeptic, until further studies are in.

  6. Ezra says:

    Super-size was a big mistake. Once one fast food place began to serve, they all began to serve. Then the goal was to come up with even greater amounts of super-size and of course the response was everyone then followed suit.

  7. Space Nookie says:

    Also the sperm.

    Cocktail of chemical pollutants linked to falling sperm quality in research


    Study demonstrates rapid decline in male dog fertility, with potential link to environmental contaminants


  8. Altitude Zero says:

    I’m certainly willing to believe that the obesity epidemic is a lot more complicated than is commonly believed, if only because none of the approaches tried have done any good, but the case for contaminants still seems inconclusive to me. The thing about wild animals getting fat is odd, though.

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