The obesity crisis: an expert’s view

The first lecture to be aimed at senior boys in QE’s new series was focused on the rising international obesity epidemic. Dr Kevin Murphy, of Imperial College London, spoke to Year 11-13 boys as part of the School’s new enhanced enrichment programme.

Dr Murphy set the scene by pointing out that we live in a world in which calories are cheap. Since 1985, there has been a huge rise in the proportion of people with excess BMI in developed countries such as the US and UK.

A Reader in Endocrinology in the Faculty of Medicine, Dr Murphy has a particular interest in how the gut senses nutritional status and how it signals to appetite centres of the brain such as the hypothalamus and brain stem to regulate food intake.

Scientists had looked at giving people medication to control obesity, but there was, he explained, considerable uneasiness at this prospect, since patients would potentially have to take this medication for life.

""Another line of research has been to look at controlling the hormones in the digestive system as a way of curbing appetite. Dr Murphy explained how studies have been undertaken involving implanting neurons in mice and these have had startling effects.

Overall, said Dr Murphy, the ‘bottom-line’ message was clear; if we eat sensibly and get exercise, we can all avoid obesity, whatever our genetic makeup.

Head of Academic Enrichment, Nisha Mayer, who organised his visit, said that the next talk in the six-lecture series will be in the Spring Term. It will be given by Dr Jason Lowe, of the Met Office, who will address the senior boys on weather.