Tag Archives: obesity

Oh Brother, More Stuff on Stem Cells

[It’s finally here – the diabetes and stem cells primer from Jerry Nora that I promised. 🙂 For those reading my blog for the first time, I decided I ought to explain who Jerry Nora is. Aside from being a good friend, he’s also a MD/PhD student with a knack for bioethics who is and occasional guest poster here. – Funky]

Okay, let’s talk about diabetes mellitus (which are diabetic conditions resulting from glucose concentration dysregulation in the blood) and stem cells.

First, about diabetes mellitus: there are two types. Type I, or insulin-dependent diabetes mellitus, generally occurs early in life and involves an autoimmune destruction of insulin-producing cells in the pancreas. Type II is much more common and tends to occur in adults; this is a more complicated disease in that one still produces insulin, but the body does not respond to insulin as it should. Diet and obesity are big factors in Type II DM; treatment involves weight loss and varying drugs to increase insulin sensitivity and boost insulin production. Cholesterol lowering medication comes in handy as well.

From the above guerilla introduction, one should see that in Type I diabetes, we can use stems cells to replace insulin producing cells in the pancreas; there is no guarantee that the immune system won’t just destroy the cells again, but it can give people a better lease on life for some time. In Type II diabetes, there is no obvious target for stem cell therapy that I know of.

So now let’s look at Type I diabetes. If we are to use stem cells to treat it, we have two choices: embryonic, and adult. For a good summary of how these stem cells compare, check out MedLinePlus, which is an excellent resource on biomedical issues. It isn’t exactly right-wing propaganda, either..

The current state of the art would support adult stem cells, even if one has no particular qualms about breaking down microscopic human organisms for their parts. The embryonic research lobby fights hard by playing on people’s subjective feelings of pity, and our natural (and ordinarily laudable) desire to not obstruct ill people from getting help. Recently a young Type I diabetic named Tessa Wick joined the likes of Christopher Reeve and Michael J. Fox in fighting for embryonic research.

Tessa bet on the wrong horse. You see, even pro-embyronic publications like the Washington Post have woken up to the fact that embryonic research has no immediate promise for diseases like Alzheimer’s. In the meantime, we’re on the cusp of adult stem cells delivering the goods for diabetics like Tessa. Adult stem cells are simpler. Embryonic stem cells are balky to handle, and the fact that they are less differentiated means that they can accidentally become that many more unwanted cell types. Also, we can give Tessa adult stem cells from her own marrow, thus bypassing tissue rejection issues. Oh sure, we could also perhaps create a clone of Tessa from her skin, but think of how many extra steps that would take. My brief training in engineering imparted to me the importance of KISS: Keep It Simple, Stupid!

You’d think from the biotech lobby that in denying embryonic research and cloning we’re doing something akin to yanking a flotation device away from the flailing arms of a drowning man, that we were giving them a death sentence. This emotional manipulation was long recognized by pro-lifers, but that Washington Post article is striking, given the source. Since that article, though, the party line in favor of embryonic research amongst the media continued, perhaps even in nominally unbiased wire services.

I should emphasize that I empathize with Tessa, who has a very scary disease and naturally wants to get well. My argument is with the people who manipulate our feelings and Tessa’s, and who blacken science by distorting its results and turning it towards the degradation of humans. My argument is not with patients like Tessa. I hope that Brother and other celebrities will use their gifts and bully pulpit to promote the branches of research that are much more likely to help Tessa in the near future, that are so much simpler than cloning and embryonic manipulation, and are no more ethically problematic than a blood or bone marrow transplant.

Portly Protesters

“Obesity is not a disease. All this does is open the door for the diet and bariatric surgery industries to make a potentially tremendous profit.” – Allen Steadham in “Fat activists start mass protest

Riiiiight…and smoking isn’t bad for you either. The campaign against smoking is just a front for extortion by a hippocratic mafia. *rolls eyes*

While I agree that too much emphasis is placed on appearance, in particualr thinness, in our society, I don’t think that means all superfluous weight should be accepted. Some people have genetic predispositions to being overweight. They should seek help. Some people have emotional problems that lead to overeating. They, too, should seek help. Some people eat too many damn super-sized burger meals and unhealthy snacks and drink too much soda. They should quit stuffing their faces with fat , get off their lazy, gluttonous asses and get some friggin’ exercise! (Pardon my French)

P.S. I practice what I preach. I’ve been eating better and working out. I’ve lost about 25 pounds over the last year or so.

Dance Marathon

Games to get kids off the couch

Some of the new video games on the market make children move more than their thumbs – they get the kids off the couch and get them to exercise. With television and video games often blamed for contributing to the growing problem of obesity in children, video game makers and children’s TV companies are creating shows and games that motivate children to move around or offer story lines that encourage exercise.


Lowenstein and others say the video game Dance Dance Revolution — which created
a craze in the nation’s arcades and is now popular among video game players at the
home — made the industry realize “gamers are willing to experience a game
other than in a sitting position.”

I played a version of this game at Dave
and Buster’s
recently. At first, it’s completely foreign and ridiculously complicated.
Once you get over the initial learning curve, though, it’s thoroughly addictive.
I spent more money on this game than I have ever spent on any other video game. Anyhow, anything that gets kids off their lazy arses is a good start to eliminating childhood obesity.

Common Sense Diet

Smoke and Mirrors of Food Labeling


“Food companies – including some that have pledged to act in the face of rising
obesity rates – routinely exploit labeling laws that allow them to make their products
seem less fattening than they really are, according to nutritionists and consumer

While deception in the form of dishonest food labels is deplorable, any furor over
it really just underscores a fundamental lack of common sense among consumers. The
trick to losing weight isn’t counting calories. Just eat sensibly. Eat many small
portions throughout the day with some care given to nutrition. Keep junk food to
a minimum. Exercise. How hard is that to understand? Maybe people already understand
but are too lazy to do it. Americans was quick fixes, not hard work. My diet is
far from perfect, but my portions are now smaller and I exercise – Yoga and Tai
Chi. I’ve lost about ten pounds over the last few months.

Fat Tax

This makes sense. If we’re going to tax alcohol, cigarettes, and other unhealthy things, we might as well tax fatty foods.

Government unit ‘urges fat tax’

Plans for a tax on fatty foods such as cakes and biscuits are being considered by government advisers.

The Prime Minister’s Strategy Unit is considering increasing duties on some food and having a sports drive to fight obesity, according to the Times.

The newspaper claims a document urges a fatty food tax as a “signal to society” because the number of obese British people has risen sharply in 20 years.