Stories like this belong in a little box in the Style section, somewhere close to the latest "news" on Paris, Britney, Lindsay and Nicole. The key passage in the story is this: "The researchers have applied for a patent and have begun negotiating with drug companies to license the technology." In other words, this is from a group of folks who are hoping to get rich quick.
Haven't we heard this all before--some new magic bullet cure for obesity?
This time, the researchers--using mice, not humans--say they've found a biochemical pathway that creates obesity in stressed out animals fed a high fat diet of "junk food." The key is supposedly a substance called "neuropeptide Y" and a receptor for it, the "neuropeptide Y2R receptor." (From the Y2K scare to the Y2R hope!). The theory is that people with too much neuropeptide Y get fat when also subjected to "stress"; block the neuropeptide Y and they won't.
As one scientist explained it in a commentary that accompanied publication of the research: "There is a lot of uncontrollable stress right now in our societies. There's also a lot of inexpensive high-fat food. This could help explain the obesity epidemic."
The problem with such blather is that humans have ALWAYS been subjected to uncontrollable stress. Indeed, for the first six million years of human existence--until about 40 years ago--much of that stress centered around "where's my next meal going to come from?" All in all, one can hardly say that life today is MORE stressful for most humans than it was at any other time in history. The difference may only be that the stress has shifted from worrying about survival to being concerned about trivial things such as what television channel will get Paris's first post-jail interview.
Since stress is nothing new, then that leaves "a lot of inexpensive high-fat food" as the possible culprit in the obesity epidemic. Bingo. But did we need scientists to figure that one out? Not really--all they're saying is that fat people are eating too much junk food. Duh. Perhaps the easier solution--rather than blocking a neuropeptide that probably does some useful things in the body--would simply be to eat less crappy food.
Do we really need a pill that will allow people to go into the Cheesecake Factory and stuff their faces with impunity? Will we have to double our output of food--and the attendant drain on world resources--just to keep feeding those people?