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> Obesity in society and in the past Issue: 2006-2 Section: Biology



Nowadays, the media multiply articles, polls and magic recipes about obesity. The fact is that this “new” disease affects more and more young people, from every class. Today, fitness and diets are very popular. Moreover researchers have discovered genes and cells responsible for obesity.

Has the disease called obesity always existed? How has it been dealt with in the past?

It might have always been present, but it wasn’t really considered in the same way by society.

Thus, in order to answer these questions we have conducted a research about obesity, and we have come up with three major issues.

Indeed, first of all we are interested in the history of obesity, then in the environment’s role in this disease and the natural adaptation and lastly we will study the obesity as a disease.


First and foremost, obesity was for a long time appreciated as a quality which represented people’s social influence; it was the disease of the rich.

Moreover, in the Middle Ages and until the XVIII century, having fast foods and taking meals repeatedly symbolised prosperity. Indeed, most of the sovereigns were big and sometimes Obese.

For instance, Louis VI, in the XII century, was nicknamed Louis the Big, because of his fatness. In the XVI century, Henry VIII’s death was accelerated owing to his obesity.

Then, the French king Louis XVIII was nicknamed the Chair’s King, for the same reason. Finally, queen Victoria, in the XIX century, became obese by ageing. Some of these sovereigns developed their social influence through obesity.

An important stoutness was a sign of a social and bodily ease: obesity was the disease of abundance and sedentary society. Nevertheless, we mustn’t conclude that everybody dreamt to become obese…

Thus, in the XVII century there were already some dietetics rules and people were very strict with the quality of their meals.


Nowadays as lots of people are affected by obesity, these dietetic restrictions are more and more important.

Actually, the rate of obesity increases each year because of environmental factors.

All the living things are able to adjust their nutrition to their environment, and there is no denying that mankind has this capacity as well.

For example, when we compare the traditional diets of the Eskimos and the Asians with the East Africans’, we can notice that they are obviously opposed.

More precisely, the Eskimos and the Asians consume only lipids and animal’s proteins they never consume vegetables. On the contrary, the Africans eat lots of vegetables, and very rarely lipids or proteins.

Now, without food shortage periods, these populations don’t suffer from nutritional deficiency. Thus, human genetic patrimony testifies that they have got great plasticity.


So, mankind is adaptable, but only through time. Besides, the consumption of exotic products or other cultures’ products favour some allergies and food poisoning.

In brief, people possess adaptability to an important degree.

Nonetheless, people are used to adapting their environment to their needs instead of adapting themselves to the environment: it’s the main cause of obesity.

The evolution of living conditions has a role in the development of obesity. Sedentarity is considerably developed: cars, escalators, lifts…

We must add to this two other facts: the lack of exercise, which could allow people to spend energy and an important availability of foods.

In fact, our organism isn’t able to deal with this abundance, since it isn’t genetically prepared.

Therefore, our food habits change and our meals are less and less structured.

What’s more, the stress caused by modern life increases the generalization of this disease called obesity.


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