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Good Health and Bad Medicine:
 Diet - Part 2

 Diet - Part 3

 Diet - Part 4

 Diet - Part 5

 Some Common Food Fallacies

 Teeth - Part 1

 Teeth - Part 2

 Teeth - Part 3

 Obesity - Part 1

 Obesity - Part 2

 Read More Articles About: Good Health and Bad Medicine

Obesity - Part 2

( Originally Published 1940 )

Treatment of Obesity

In the treatment of obesity these two fundamental facts should be kept in mind:

1 That the source of excess fat is food intake, and

2. A person becomes fat because he has eaten more food than his body requires.

Consequently, diet is the basis for any logical treatment of obesity; other measures can, at worst, be extremely dangerous; at best they serve only to supplement the dietary method.

Obesity is occasionally due to a disorder of one or more of the endocrine glands such as the thyroid, pituitary, supra-renal and others. But this "endocrine" type of obesity is rare. Generally obesity is due to improper dieting, and it can be cured by a scientifically planned diet.

The word "scientifically" should be stressed over and over again. The dangers of trying to lose weight by the pet scheme of a friend or according to the recipe accompanying a bottle of grape juice or other special food preparations are very great. Many people have become seriously ill from following a poorly balanced diet or one not suited to their individual needs. The McCoy diet, the Hollywood diet and others are unscientific diet schemes that depend on inadequate nutrition for their effectiveness in causing a loss of weight. The fatal outcome in the cases of the movie stars, Leta Lee, Barbara La Marr, Renée Adorée and Louis Wolheim, not to speak of the hundreds of lesser known people, should be a warning to men and women who embark on weight-reduction programs without competent medical advice.

Reducing schemes, preparations and appliances are extensively advertised in newspapers and magazines. Some are effective, but invariably the effective ones are dangerous. Others are in themselves without effect, but they depend upon the rigid diet which they prescribe to accomplish their end. Still others are just out-and-out fakes which reduce nothing but the pocketbook.

Thyroid Compounds

Tablets containing dessicated thyroid or thyroid extract have been widely advertised remedies for internal use. Dessicated thyroid can, it is true, cause loss of weight. But it is a dangerous drug, and unsupervised use of it can cause serious disturbance of the endocrine glands, and of the heart.

Dinitrophenol and Dinitrocresol

These drugs, similar to each other in their action, were developed comparatively recently as reducing remedies. They have the effect of increasing the rate of metabolism so that excess fat is literally burned off. Their use is associated with so much risk that even physicians use them only rarely. Many cases of cataract, blindness and death have been traced to the use of medicines containing dinitrophenol and dinitrocresol.

Laxatives and Cathartics

"Reducing teas," "herb" preparations and all sorts of "crystal" compounds are advertised as weight reducers. These substances are almost invariably laxatives, which hurry food through the digestive tract, prevent the absorption of nutritive elements in food and thus bring about loss of weight. Actually the loss is associated with malnutrition and frequently with serious disorders of the digestive tract.

Food Nostrums -

Food products advertised as cures for obesity are in themselves uniformly valueless for this purpose. As the directions accompanying them make clear, rigid dieting must be followed to achieve the desired effect. But it must be emphasized that rigid dieting without medical supervision often results in malnutrition, vitamin deficiency and susceptibility to infectious diseases.

Diet is without question the keystone of a reducing program, but not via Welch's Grape Juice. Regardless of the testimonials of Miss Irene Rich, Welch's—or any other grape juice—contains sugar, and sugar is a food rich in calories. The advertising of Welch's urges that the juice be drunk before meals. Since grape juice contains a high percentage of sugar, a drink before meals is truly an excellent way of depressing the appetite. Because the appetite is depressed, less of the regular meal than usual is eaten. The same de-pressing effect on the appetite can be obtained by eating a couple of lumps of sugar before meals. Health is also likely to be impaired, since with the dietary restrictions that in-variably follow a depression of appetite, there is a real danger of malnutrition.

Some manufacturers attempt to take care of this danger by including vitamins and minerals in their products. Min-Amin and Dietene are two of the many vitamin preparations advertised as supplements to a reducing diet. A person on a long-range reducing program often does require a vitamin supplement, but a physician's care is necessary to determine how much of the various vitamins is necessary. Although vitamin supplements are useful, they can never take the place of a carefully worked out diet program. Reliance on anti-fat special food preparations is almost sure to bring trouble.

Mechanical Appliances

Rubber belts, rubber brassières and rubber girdles will not cause loss of fat. They do no more than compress the part of the body they cover.

Electric vibrators are another waste of time and money. No massage, whether by hand, vibrator or roller, has any effect on deposits of fat. Fat will disappear only when it is burned by the tissues of the body. It can never be massaged or rolled away.

External Applications

No cream or salve, rubbed into the skin, will cause a loss of weight. One preparation, Pomay R x 7, which has been extensively advertised by large department stores, consists simply of a base of white vaseline, into which is incorporated about 6.6% salicylic acid and some volatile oils, according to an analysis by the Chemical Laboratory of the American Medical Association. Marrilis is another ointment which claims fat-reducing properties. Such creams and ointments are not only worthless; they may even be dangerous. Those which contain salicylic acid can cause serious irritation of the skin or even general systemic poisoning. A recent issue of the Journal of the American Medical Association carried an article about the death of a boy of seven who was given treatments for a skin disorder by the application of 5% salicylic acid ointment to a large area of the skin. The boy died forty hours after a single application of the ointment. Autopsy revealed that death was due to poisoning from the absorption of salicylic acid through the skin.

Other external applications such as soaps and bath salts have not the slightest influence on stoutness. Their manufacturers generally recommend that they be used in hot baths. As a result, perspiration is induced. The manufacturers make no mention of the fact that hot baths alone can cause loss of weight due to production of perspiration, nor that this weight loss is quickly made up unless there is rigid supervision of the diet. There is the hazard, also, that too hot baths may have a harmful effect on the heart and circulation, especially in older adults.


Regulated exercises and sports help burn up fat and are, therefore, an integral part of a reducing program. Contrary to popular opinion, however, the effectiveness of the exercise is not proportionate to the amount of perspiration induced. Excessive perspiration arouses thirst and the large quantities of water usually drunk to satisfy the thirst completely re-place the fluid lost through perspiration. In addition, exercise and sweating leave one tired, weak and hungry, and unless the diet is rigidly controlled the normal tendency is to eat a larger meal than usual, so that weight will be maintained, if not increased.

It is absurd to go through the rigors of a hot room, steam room, electric cabinet and rubdown, and then to order a large whiskey-and-soda and a seven-course meal. More than absurd, such exercises and sweating programs can cause serious harm, especially to those in middle age. Exercises should be moderate, taken regularly and be well within the physical reserve of the individual.

Special exercises to reduce weight at particular regions of the body are a questionable if not a useless procedure. The purpose of exercise is to expend energy and thus burn up fat. As a rule, the fat will be lost from those areas where it is in greatest excess.

Fast walking, roller skating, cycling, and so on are useful exercises within the financial capacity of overweight people of all classes. Setting-up exercises at home or supervised in a gymnasium are, as a rule, futile.

A rational exercise and sports regime, plus a diet carefully planned with a physician, will guarantee successful and safe weight loss. The success of the treatment, however, requires full cooperation of the patient. Too many people, unwilling to go through a long and rigid treatment, turn to dangerous patent medicines which relieve them not only of weight but also of health and even life.

Reducing Diets

In a scientifically planned reducing diet, the physician takes into account not only calories, but also proteins, vitamins, minerals and bulk. All food taken into the body yields calories for the expenditure of energy. Therefore the first principle of a reducing diet is to reduce the total food intake so that the body has to draw upon stored-up sources of energy. The most important of these sources is the body fat. When the body fat is used up to supply the energy that the reduced food allowance cannot fully do, weight is lost.

In planning a reducing diet it is also essential that a sufficient amount of protein be eaten daily. An adequate amount of protein is essential for the life of the cells and tissues of the body and for the normal functioning of the enzymes and hormones. Carbohydrates and fats are used by the body chiefly as sources of energy or calories. Therefore in a reducing program the proportion of carbohydrates and fats are reduced.

Because the total food intake is reduced and because certain essential foods may be excluded from the diet, the physician frequently prescribes supplements of vitamins and minerals. As a rule, the supplement is in the form of a concentrate of vitamins A and D. However, if the patient is also troubled by an irritable colon and therefore cannot tolerate the large quantities of vegetables and, fruits that are usually the basis of a reducing diet, it may be necessary to advise a supplement of Brewer's yeast or other materials containing the vitamin B complex.

In embarking upon a reducing program it should be re-membered that a considerable weight reduction should not be achieved in one month. That would be dangerous. From six months to a year should be the time required for the weight loss. Such a prolonged period for reducing has the advantage of training the individual in good dietary habits and making them a part of his daily living routine.

It should also be kept in mind that weight reduction does not always proceed at a steady pace. Sometimes as the body fat is burned up, water is stored in almost equal quantity. It may take two to three weeks before water is also lost and weight loss is noted. One should not become discouraged. But neither should one try to accelerate the loss of water by heroic perspiration measures. These measures will weaken the body and compel the eating of a larger amount of food to prevent excessive fatigue or weakness.

Diet prescriptions for reducing should be made by a physician according to individual requirements. It is necessary to take into account the patient's habits, emotional make-up, occupation and financial condition. Considerable ingenuity and insight may be necessary in order to promote the desired weight reduction in the desired time and in order to prevent discouragement.

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