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Find me a chubby chicken and I'll show you a virus

February 02, 2006|by TIM ROWLAND

As you might be aware, no journalist is more dedicated to covering the growing obesity crisis than I am, seeing as how I consider it to be a "hometown Hagerstown" issue, much the way journalists in Cocoa Beach cover Cape Canaveral.

The government, which defines "obese" as anyone whose ribs cannot be played like a xylophone and is basically one carrot stick away from abject starvation, is a willing accomplice in my quest for information, since every other day it is coming out with a new report under the scientific category of "You people are pigs!"

As a matter of fact, if the government pooled all the money it spends on reports and funding for the U.S. Department of Caloric Scolding, it could easily pay the liposuction tab for every overweight American.

That would be great news for fat people, but bad news for all the nutrition researchers who themselves pork up at the trough of government grants. Forget what they say, none of these health experts, nutrition Nazis and fitness gurus want you to be skinny because there's no money in it. If everybody's thin, John Basedow is out of business. You think there's a market for "Six-Pack Abs" in Ethiopia? Please.

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They want you to be fat so they can continue to make money by nagging you about it. So no, I don't have great news today for the people of ample carriage, but I do have good news.

It might not be your fault.

The next best thing to being thin is having a reason why we're not. Big-boned, water retention, genetics, tumor the size of a construction barrel - whatever it takes to shift the responsibility to some vehicle other than the dessert cart.

But I bet even in your wildest, fat-mitigation dreams, you never thought of this one: Virus.

According to - and don't laugh at this name, because for all I know it is a very reputable Web site - Redherring.com: "... scientists have wondered whether viruses should shoulder some responsibility for the wave of obesity sweeping the planet. On Monday, a U.S. medical journal released a study establishing such a link in chickens."

It continues, "In all of human history, obesity stands alone among chronic diseases for the rapidity of its spread. In fact, the pattern of its quick rise looks very much like that of an infectious disease epidemic."

Well, that or food.

It just seems weird to think of obesity as something you can catch, like a cold, or disco fever.

"Dear Miss Marmelstein,

Please excuse Johnny from school today. Over the weekend, he came down with a bad case of the fats."

Six viruses have been identified that cause obesity in animals, and now the American Journal of Scientific Gobbledygook says a human virus that causes obesity in chickens suggests people might themselves suffer from viral voluminousness.

The financial implications of this breakthrough are obvious. I know that I, for one, would pay a lot of money - a lot - to see a fat chicken. We've all seen fat dogs and fat cats, and maybe even what could be considered a fat horse. But a fat chicken? I don't even know where you would find the gut on a chicken.

But, beyond that, if fatness is caused by a virus, a vaccine could theoretically be developed to combat the affliction. It would be like anti-steroids, I suppose. A simple shot and you begin to wither away. Oh, and all those people who have told you through the years that they can't give blood because they're "scared of needles"? That's a phobia that'll get tossed by the wayside with a quickness, because I guarantee you that they are a LOT more scared of treadmills.

And it brings up another question: If obesity is caused by a virus, does this mean fat people are contagious? And do we need to quarantine them?

Of course, with our luck, fat will turn out to be like the common cold. We'll be able to identify it, but we will be powerless to do anything about it. Take heart, however, because although the drug companies won't come up with a permanent cure, they will doubtless come up with a TON of medicines they can sell us over and over and over again for the "fast, temporary relief" of symptoms. They'll have catchy little names like "Slow-besity: The fat reliever doctors prefer most."

But a cure?

A Hagerstown taxicab company will put a brand-new automobile into service before that happens.




Tim Rowland is a Herald-Mail columnist.

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