How to solve the obesity crisis: turn the central heating down

We have long been, well, how to say this, umm, somewhat unconvinced, of the standard explanations for rising obesity. As we've mentioned just recently, that more people seem likely to die in some decades from popped fat pustules is less of a problem than our older now solved problem of people dying next week from lack of food. But it is still true that rampant obesity, if for no other than aesthetic reasons, isn't to be greatly welcomed.

Yet we just cannot bring ourselves to believe the standard explanations. That it's all to do with increased sugar consumption is obviously nonsense given that sugar consumption per capita has been falling. That it's about increased calorie consumption is also obviously wrong: the average diet today is lower in calories (and significantly so) than the standard WWII ration at which weight would be lost. So, it must be some other cause here, something else is going on.

We have leapt from there to the idea that the major use of energy in mammals is maintaining body temperature. Something of a leap to be sure but that epidemic of obesity is at least correlated with the widespread adoption of central heating across time and countries.

Now we learn that our leap is not simply fanciful:

Elderly adults are bigger around the middle when they turn up the heat inside their homes during the cold season and have smaller waistlines when their homes stay cool, new research finds. Investigators from Japan presented their study results Friday at the Endocrine Society's 98th annual meeting in Boston.

"Although cold exposure may be a trigger of cardiovascular disease, our data suggest that safe and appropriate cold exposure may be an effective preventive measure against obesity," said the study's lead investigator, Keigo Saeki, MD, PhD, of Nara Medical University School of Medicine Department of Community Health and Epidemiology, Nara, Japan.

Cold exposure activates thermogenesis, to generate body heat, in brown fat. This type of fat is the good calorie-burning fat that prior research found most humans have. However, Saeki said the association between the amount of cold exposure and obesity in real life remains unclear.

We can thus junk all the currently fashionable nostrums. It's not killer sugar, not the food industry ramming doughnuts into our gobs, all that is required it to turn the central heating down. Sure, there's no plaudits to be won in fighting against The Man here, no tax revenue to be collected, no social justice warriors to be employed in 5 degrees today outreach. But it does have the advantage of being consistent with the empirical evidence we have. 

We're eating less, consuming less sugar, keep our homes much warmer than ever before and are getting fat. Given the increase in weight it's likely to be the thing that we've increased, not that we've reduced, to blame.

Logical, evidentially supported, it'll never catch on as public policy, will it?