[Ed. Note: Dr. KSS writes for the Irregulars about medicine and biotech stocks. He has agreed to our trading restrictions, chooses his own topics, and his words and opinions are his own. Enjoy!]
It could be the premise of a tawdry unrated movie that teenage boys sneak glimpses of on Netflix when they’re home alone. Bristling stiff-necked German physician approaches zaftig female patient who is failing to lose weight as ordered. He scans her chart, his index finger leading him to a number he doesn’t like. “Was ist das?”
Ze doctor slips into high dudgeon. “I see here that you’ve been sehr naughty, ja? You veel shtep eento mein office fraulein at vonce.“
He closes the door, insists that she partially unclothe, and has her bend forward over his desk. Reaching into his jodhpur boot, he pulls out a riding crop. He thrashes her severely across the buttocks.
According to former patients, that’s exactly what Walter Kempner, MD, used to do to heavy women under his care as part of the famed Duke Rice Diet Program. Kempner was a Berliner who fled Germany in the run-up to World War II. He trained as an endocrinologist, and took up a post in 1939 at Duke, a new university with a reputation for welcoming Jewish scholars in an age when they weren’t always welcome elsewhere. But he brought with him certain Prussian heel-click sensibilities.
Based on notions that make sense and appeal to most people for all of about 10 minutes, Kempner popularized an idea that obesity, even then a problem in the US, was from a horrible diet, even in the age before fast food. His theory was that living only on rice and pears—pears and rice!—would restore health, lower blood pressure, and lead to extraordinary weight loss. After all, Asians subsist on rice and how many of them aren’t skinny? So went the half-cocked reasoning. For the next three decades, however, he amassed extraordinary evidence, much of it published, that with this strict diet, he could not only reverse obesity but also type II diabetes and even severe vascular disease. Kempner never avowed whether the benefits of this diet were from what it contained (carbohydrate with some protein) or from what it lacked (fat and salt). If his studies weren’t exactly double-blind and controlled, they didn’t ...
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