Saturday, August 04, 2007

Leptin babies, redux

Now the New York Times has taken up the idea of lacing baby formula with leptin to create children who are permanently unable to become fat.

I posted about this back in May, when the research on this first appeared. And I haven't changed my mind. Haven't we done enough damage by our relentless pursuit of thinness? Do we really think creating a generation of children whose bodies are permanently and deliberately made inefficient is a step forward? What if those children should find themselves in a situation where they need some nutritional reserves? What if they develop anorexia? Imagine the hell of trying to re-feed a child who is physically unable to gain weight. And what about when those children grow old, at a time in life when being "overweight" is correlated with having the lowest mortality risks? Maybe thin won't look so hot when it's a life--or death--sentence.

Maybe someday we'll stop confusing aesthetics with health. Yeah, right. And maybe someday I'll be president of the United States.


mary said...

I would think that they'd need some type of parental approval before this could happen.
A magazine like 'Mothering' would be an excellent one for a story about altering genetics and the potential risks which are much more real the ones they say larger people have.
Harriet for president? Sounds good to me.

Susan B said...

Not just anorexia, but what if their kids gets, say, leukemia and has to go through chemo? Some fat reserves might help their survival rate. Stuff like this reminds me of the movie "Gattaca," where only those deemed genetically perfect are allowed to work or (sometimes) even exist.

Anonymous said...

I would think that they'd need some type of parental approval before this could happen.

Sadly, this doesn't see at all implausible to me.

Unknown said...

Any minute now we'll be offered a way to "fix" dark skin color to "prevent" racism. A baby formula to "avoid" teasing through the abolition of freckles, non-average height, and standardize hair texture.

Harriet said...


I have to agree with you. Sadly.

Once obesity is classified as a mental illness in DSM-V, what's to stop efforts like this, in the name of "good health"?

Excellent analogy, Laura.

Mary, as much as I like Mothering magazine, it's pretty much preaching to the choir there. The Times carries much more mainstream clout.

Anonymous said...

Ahem. "Oceans of soda, mountains of baked goods and sparkling glaciers of ice cream are now a permanent part of our landscape, and it may be easier to change us than them." Agreed, but not in the way they think. We can be taught that these things are just food and fat is just fat, and neither one is evil! And does it not occur to them that someone can be fat without ever touching those things?

Anonymous said...

I'm glad that you picked up on this piece, Harriet. (I figured you would when I came across the article in the Times a little while ago.) I think that experimenting on babies is a horrible idea, particularly because I don't think that fat is a demon (although obviously many people disagree). It occurred to me that women who breastfeed their babies would avoid this additive, but many women choose not to breast feed, for a variety of good reasons. I'm guessing that many women who don't breastfeed are in the poor and lower-middle-class economic groups, and these might be the same women who are less likely to read the formula labels and less likely to question the accepted wisdom. Yikes!

Anonymous said...

... Leptin is just a horomone. Maybe the stomach will absorb it as-is, maybe it will digest it first. Either way, it will wash out of the baby's system at the normal rate.

We'd have to put it in everything, to have any effect. If it has any effect.

Anonymous said...

"And does it not occur to them that someone can be fat without ever touching those things?"

And does it not occur to them that someone can touch those things, be chubby, AND be fine with that state? (Not picking on you specifically, Meowser, just playing devil's advocate.)

When I read Harriet's description here, I kept thinking of those 50s sci-fi films where a pompous announcer would intone, "He tampered in God's domain" while the scientist was destroyed by his own creation. Ok, a little dramatic, but when people start experiments like this, I get nervous.

Anonymous said...

A timely article.

My two month old foster child was born crack addicted and skinny, withdrawn.

In the two months my partner & I have had him in our care, he has blossomed. He coos, smiles, and has a very personable temper. Our older children love to hold him and get him to smile and hold their hands. But, his size has now become "an issue" according to the foster clinic physician.

On the charts, he is in the 20th percentile for length & head circumference and in the 50th percentile for weight.

Why is this a problem? He MIGHT develop the fat. They aren't even calling him fat now, though some might. Let me also add to the mix that I have adopted two older siblings to this baby. One is like his bio dad, square cut and more muscular. The other is like the bio mom, skinny as a rail despite having the biggest snacking habits of the family.

All of my kids went thru the roly polies at about this age- putting on weight to gear up for gaining the muscle mass needed to start moving and grooving.

I am so mad about the non issue!

mary said...

I always thought LIFE was a condition with life-or-death consequences! I do not know why Cawthorne thinks otherwise or that it's just an obesity thing in his opinion. I thought most people knew we are going to die someday.Should we inform him?
Besides , more people suffer from not living fully while they're here, being kind, and having true compassion for others.
I have an idea what of we can do with the mountain of ice cream. Grab your spoons!

Anonymous said...

Good idea, Mary! I often think that people forget that we do have to die of something, sometime. In the researcher's defense, I would say that people probably do feel the urge to justify their own jobs and research. If people start getting off the obesity epidemic bandwagon, this guy might not have a job!

Anonymous said...

Great point about it being "just food," Meowser. The way some people write about food when they're clucking over obesity... it reminds me of nothing so much as the religious Right lingering lovingly over every detail of how depraved and sinful and ooh, dirty homosexuality or fornication are. It's the people who deny, restrict, and repress who come up with these nigh-obsessive ideas. I may be fat, but at least I don't think food is a magical landscape.

Harriet said...

That's exactly right. It's like that old Lenny Bruce routine about his using the word c****ucker, where the judge, prosecuting attorney, everyone in the courtroom keeps saying it over and over, getting a thrill.

Anonymous, thank goodness your foster son has you to stand up for him.

Chunk-tastic, I hear you! how many times have I gotten The Look from someone thin when I eat a French fry or order dessert in a restaurant.

Thank you all for your thoughtful comments. I learn so much for everyone.