Is Dust Making Us Fat?

WTF are you doingI got an e-mail from a blog reader who prefers to remain anonymous who said “My mom just told me that studies show that dust makes you fat. I’m freaking out and I’m too scared to Google – do you know anything about this? Is this really a thing?  WTF?”

I did some Googling and found that the source is likely an article posted on a diet site that claims it can help people lose weight by showing them pictures of things they could eat instead of other things. The article (which I’m not linking to – if you want to give them traffic you can Google it,) was called “The Weird Way Your Dirty House Is Making You Fat.” After spending the first two -thirds of the article suggesting that this is based on research and evidence, they admit that the research team has, in fact, no idea if it’s true. Further, if it is true they don’t have any idea how much dust exposure might cause what amount of weight gain. The research team themselves say is it is only “a potential novel threat.”  This article does not smack of scientific rigor.

This is incredibly common. When it comes to weight and health – whether it’s a discussion of what makes people fat, or a discussion of what might make us thin, or if fat makes us “unhealthy” by some definition, scientific method seems to fly (or, perhaps more accurately, be thrown) right out the window. Sometimes it’s studies that are embarrassingly poorly designed (often for profit.) Sometimes it’s research that isn’t so much research as it is finding commonalities among outliers. So-called research on the efficacy of weight loss is even worse – as Lucy Aphramor clearly showed,

My point here is that a combination of scientific illiteracy among reporters, a 24-hour news cycle that too often cares more about eyeballs than getting to the truth of the story, and the profitability of anything and everything anti-fat, it can be absolutely impossible to get any kind of true information about weight and health. So we have to be smart about this. In the case of the fat and dust article they eventually came right out and said that their claim was ridiculous, but it’s not always that easy. We need to ask questions about things like who funded the research and how they are using it., how the study was designed. Regardless, we should start with the knowledge that there is every possibility that these studies are bullshit.

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5 thoughts on “Is Dust Making Us Fat?

  1. I remember you wrote on that dust thing before, and just under your entry is recommended “We’re Supposed to Worry that Dust Makes us Fat?” Which you wrote last year, I think.

    But don’t people of all sizes have dust in the home? And it’s plagued for millennia.

  2. Well clearly SOMETHING must make people fat. It couldn’t be down to just the differences in human bodies, now could it? That’s just silly.

  3. As your last article points out, this comes from a single study by Duke University in which a sample of eleven mice were exposed to dust and seven of them showed some metabolic disturbance that could, in theory, lead to weight gain.

    What elaborate game of media telephone warped that into ” SCIENCE! PROVES!! dust turns thin people into FATMONSTERS FROM HELL!” would normally baffle me, especially since the sample was so small and since the study has not to my knowledge ever been reproduced, there’s no telling whether the results are even typical in mice, let alone whether they apply to humans.

    However, since it’s the War on Obesity, that kind of thing is par for course. -_-

  4. Gaah! WTF, WordPress? Sorry if this is a duplicate comment, WordPress ate the other one when I commented using my Facebook account.
    So dust is making us fat. And we probably caused the dust by being fat. Because, blame Fatty for, like, everything.

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