Paid to pig-out: Study seeks why some are obese without consequences

French fries, chocolate cake, a porterhouse steak - imagine eating it all and gaining lots of weight, but not suffering any of the health consequences. For some obese people, that is a reality.

Now researchers believe that finding out why could be key in treating obesity, and their putting their money where our mouths are.

"It's a worse epidemic than the bubonic plaque, than HIV infection, than almost anything you can think of," said Samuel Klein, MD, Director of the Center for Human Nutrition at Washington University School Of Medicine in St. Louis.

More than 60% of people in the USA are considered FAT

"It's abnormal; it's unusual to be lean in this country," said Dr. Klein.

For some, obesity will lead to type two diabetes, heart disease and high blood pressure. But for 25% of obese people, there are no adverse effects.

Now researchers are trying to learn why, and they are using Kentucky Fried Chicken, McDonald's, Taco Bell, Pizza Hut and Burger King.

The goal of the study is to find out why obesity causes metabolic diseases, such as diabetes and heart disease, in some people but not in others. The findings will help identify the factors that are protecting some obese people from those adverse effects.

"We really are paying people to gain weight,” said Dr. Klein. “There's no question about it."

People like operating room nurse Dawn Freeman. As part of the "overfeeding" study she is getting $3,500 plus food expenses, to eat an extra 1,000 calories a day.

"McDonald's, I finally settled on their Angus burger," said Freeman.

Dr. Klein said that using fast food is a cheap and easy way to track calories. Freeman gained 20 pounds in two months.

"I couldn't climb stairs after 2 to 3 weeks. I was tired I couldn't breathe," said Freeman.

"If we can understand that link better, we can develop better therapies to break that link," said Dr. Klein.

After gaining 5% of her body weight, Freeman was put on a six -month weight-loss program.
Five months into it, she dropped the pounds and gained a taste for something else.

"I consciously put vegetables on my plate now," said Freeman.

Back to her normal weight and back to normal eating.

Dr. Klein said preliminary study results show that some people really are resistant to the adverse effects of weight gain. The study is funded by the National Institutes of Health, and is still enrolling. Volunteers must already be obese.

To find out how to participate, click the link below:


WHAT IS OBESITY?: Obesity is a label for ranges of weight that are greater than what is typically considered healthy for a given height as well as ranges of weight that have been shown to increase the likelihood of certain diseases and other health problems. A person's body mass index (BMI) is used to determine whether they are obese because it correlates with their amount of body fat. Adults with a BMI of 30 or higher are considered obese; however some athletes can have BMIs that would indicate that they are overweight when that is not the case. (Source:

HEALTH PROBLEMS RELATED TO OBESITY: Obesity has been linked to many health issues. Here are just a few problems that can occur as a result of being obese.

1. Sleep apnea and respiratory problems.
2. Cancer: being overweight increases the risk for breast, colon, gallbladder, and uterine cancer in women and the risk of colon and prostate cancer in men.
3. Joint problems, including osteoarthritis because of extra stress placed on the joints from excess weight. (Source:

OBESITY AROUND THE WORLD: More than 300 million people in the entire world are considered obese and more than 750 million people are overweight. Obesity rates are the highest in some Pacific nations with a rate of 75%, and some of the lowest are found in Asian countries with an obesity rate of only 2%. 30.5% of adults in the United States are obese and health care costs attributable to obesity exceed $100 billion in the United States, which is 6% of the overall health care costs in the country. Obesity rates seem to be rising all over the world, with the percentage of overweight children in the world doubling from 1980 to 2000. (Source:

CENTER FOR HUMAN NUTRITION: Samuel Klein, M.D., from the overfeeding study is the medical director and program founder of the Weight Management Program, director of the Clinical Nutrition Research Unit, and director of the Veronica and Robert C. Atkins Center for Excellence in Obesity Medicine. The Clinical Nutrition Research Unit has received $35 million in National Institutes of Health grants to support pioneering research on obesity. The research is directed at understanding the mechanisms responsible for the subcellular changes obesity produces. Other than the aforementioned overfeeding study, NIH grants are also funding a major effort to pinpoint the relationship between obesity and the growing problem of nonalcoholic fatty-liver disease. This is all a part of Klein and his colleagues' attack on obesity. (Source:

For More Information, Contact:

Judy Martin
Director of Media Relations
Washington University School of Medicine
(314) 286-0105

Comments are posted from viewers like you and do not always reflect the views of this station.
powered by Disqus
WNDU - Channel 16 54516 State Road 933 South Bend, IN 46637 Front Desk: 574-284-3000 Newsroom: 574-284-3016 Email:
Copyright © 2002-2014 - Designed by Gray Digital Media - Powered by Clickability 172147651 -
Gray Television, Inc.