Sunday, 26 May 2013

Is it complex, or not? Make up your mind.

Often when reading papers on obesity, authors will quite commonly refer to body weight regulation as "complex". They will say things like, "bodyweight is regulated by a complex system of redundant networks".  etc blah blah

Usually, they will use this type of terminology only when referring to the difficulty of producing meaningful and sustained reductions in bodyweight. Although its also used to explain why bodyweight usually returns to normal after overfeeding studies.

And yet, the very same authors will quite facilely state that obesity is "caused" by over-eating and/or sedentary behavior.

So here we are presented with something of a paradox and contradiction, because, on the one-hand, bodyweight is supposed to be complex regulated system, but, it is easily manipulated by simple CICO, by simply having a bit extra on your dinner plate, or by simply missing your morning workout, you can apparently very easily change your bodyweight.

Nothing is more simple than overeating and being lazy. But apparently  these simple actions can very easily produce large and sustained perturbations in a complex and regulated system. I.E. bodyweight.

Now, how can bodyweight be a regulated, complex  and redundant system if it can be perturbed by such simple stimuli? Doesnt that sound contradictory? Isnt the point of a complex system is that its not easily perturbed? And protected from simple stimuli producing significant changes.

The only way to solve this contradiction is that, one of the premises is wrong. Either.....

1) bodyweight is a NOT a complex regulated system, but is a simple matter of CICO

2) overeating and laziness are not CAUSES of bodyweight changes, I.E. these simple stimuli are not capable of producing significant perturbations in the complex regulated system.

So please, obesity researchers, which is it? Complex or not? Either bodyweight is a complex regulated system or its a simple CICO program.

Can you make up your mind please?


There is a possible 3rd

3) only reductions in bodyweight are part of the complex regulated system, meanwhile increases in bodyweight are a simple CICO system. If this is true, then beware, because every time you overrate a measly 5 calories, those 5 calories become a permanent addition to bodyfat!


  1. i suspect that it's a "simple" problem if "you" are having trouble changing your weight (up or down), but it's "complex" when "i" can't make my experiment work the way i want it to....

  2. The problem has much more to do with appetite stimulus within the food, our motivation and resilience not to overeat, are we able manager of our impulses, desires, expectations, emotions, aversions, compulsions, temptations, addictions and the like. The bio-available energy is a second lesser issue.

  3. Can there be a #4 that says: "Foods are more important than calories," or would that just be categorized somewhere under #3? (excluding super-athletes and those with otherwise pristine metabolisms.)

  4. Loved this Kindke. Great point.

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  6. A modern car is a complexe piece of engeneering "regulated by a complex system of redundant networks", yet it is (relatively) easy to drive, and even more easy to crash. Easy to drive in the space it's mean to evolve in : roads! Try driving the average car on sand, or in a lake and that's a different story.

    The complex system of weight/energy regulation was set up when food intake was more erratic, and minimum activity levels unavoidables, so i do not see a paradox in this "complex yet easy to crash" thing.

  7. Any mordern piece of engeneering is very simple when we compare it to a human body which is a complex system (like climate, ecosystem , economy of whole country...).
    Attempts to micromanage complex economy systems were made and failed in Soviet Countries, but convention medicine continues to follow utopian ideas with medical and diet advice.

  8. Good post, great point. I always think about that our bodies are wired to gain weight, or remain weight stable, and so it's not so easy to bypass that biological system to lose fat :(.

    1. Our bodies cannot be perpetually wired to gain weight, although I think for some people it certainly feels that way as gaining weight is ridiculously easy while losing it is next to impossible.

      Thats not "normal". Thats not the "design".

      Thats a disease.

      Do we blame fluid retention on drinking too much water? No.

      Do we blame triglyceride retention on eating too much triglyceride? Yes.

      And yet, in both cases we know that fluid retention and triglyceride retention are regulated by complex system interactions.

  9. Cool post, Kindke. Keep on bloggin', Dude. Said in my Keanu Reeves voice.

    (Okay, I've been drinking. I admit it.)