Those were the startling headlines that appeared in the Daily Mail on the 17th February 2011 and on first reading, there was much to find annoying in the article such as the headline ‘You can win the war on your wobbly bits: from muffin tops to bingo wings’ and which was written following an interview with Dr Marie-Claire Wilson.
What did I find particularly annoying? Well, for instance: the use of the inevitable ‘war’ analogy in the title heading because it’s never a good idea to declare war on yourself. Next up was the lone surname and those devil’s horns the single inverted commas used in that particular way, as in “Wilson says her secret weapon is BioSignature Modulation, which ‘diagnoses’ hormone imbalance by looking at where your body stores fat.” What I don’t like is that this does not give credit to Dr Wilson for her medical training, and is also covertly implying that the diagnosis is somehow plucked out of the air in a mysterious, hocus pocus and probably unreliable way. Finally, there is the superficial quick-fix bullet point approach to the complex subject of the role of hormones in problems of excess fat deposition on different parts of the body.
However, look a little deeper, and a fascinating subject emerges. Before the first use of blood, urine and other laboratory tests, doctors had only their five senses to make a diagnosis:
1. Hearing (the history and symptoms, and the sounds of the heart, lungs and gut)
2. Observation (of the signs of physical change or abnormality)
3. Touch (palpation of organs)
4. Smell (alcohol on the breath, early gangrene)
5. And even taste (urine in sugar diabetes)
The importance of the art of diagnosis
In the modern era with its very sophisticated batteries of lab tests, X-rays, scans, cardiograms and many more, it is easy to forget the enduring importance of the first three of the above. The art of medicine has perhaps been neglected for the science, the computer screen on the desk studied more intensely than the patient.
Today many diagnoses can still be made from observation, and then corroborated by the appropriate tests; for example the moon face of Cushing’s Syndrome (cortisol excess) and its characteristic deposits of fat behind the neck (the ‘buffalo hump’) and above the collar bones are a good example here.
If you log on to Dr Wilson’s website (www.bodyprogresscentre.com) you will find a coherent, clearly set out description of a rather different sort of fitness centre, grounded in science but with a holistic approach to fitness, well being and weight control, and using among other things the (previously unfamiliar to me) system of BioSignature Modulation developed over 20 years by the Canadian strength and fitness trainer Charles Poliquin (www.charlespoliquin.com).
He correlated the development of unwanted fat in specific sites on the body with the results of blood, urine and saliva tests for estrogen, testosterone, insulin, thyroid hormone, cortisol and growth hormone, to come to an understanding of the relationship between these patterns of fat distribution and a client’s hormone balance.
Disappointingly, I did not find any reference to testing for progesterone which is a crucial balancing factor in the hormonal symphony, but still feel this approach has much to offer in speed of diagnosis and reduction in the costs of investigation.
This system is an unusual but welcome synthesis which could have a significant benefit in various hormonal problems such as insulin resistance, thyroid deficiency, diabetes, and heart disease and obesity-related disorders in general. It certainly deserves more serious consideration than the Daily Mail gave it and I understand that it has already been taken up in the USA by both physicians and functional medicine practitioners. I for one will certainly be looking into it further.