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Obesity - Sex Physioloyical Constitution and Temperament

fat, phlegmatic, choleric, conditions, deposition, extensive and physical


Sex.—Even under physiological conditions the female body, in the roundness of its parts and the softness of its outlines, is richer in fat than the male figure, which is more muscular and has a more angular contour.

The cause of this phenomenon lies in the greater development of the adipose tissue, which in women is naturally more extensive than in men; while the blood, being poorer in hemoglobin, is less favor able to the oxidation of the fat-forming substances in the food, so that their transformation into fat and deposition iu the adipose tissue can occur to a greater extent. As these differences between the two sexes can be observed even in infantile life, they must of course become more pronounced in later years during which nutrition and habits favor the formation of fat far more in women than in men, especially in those cases in which the development and deposition of fat appear as a morbid phenomenon.

We shall have more to say hereafter about the differences in fat formation, and the forms of obesity dependent upon them; these in women are not so much caused by excesses in eating and drinking, for which reason women are less liable to be lampooned and made sport of than men.

Constitution. —The conditions known as constitution and temperament have, as the facts prove, no inconsiderable influence upon the formation of fat. The constitutional tendency and the tem perament may be of hereditary origin and constitute influential factors in the hereditary disposition. In the constitution it is mainly the re laxed or torpid type which is characterized even under normal condi tions by weakness of the organic regenerative power and the slight capability of transforming the circulating albumin into organ albu min. One of the chief causes which produce these conditions lies in the hypoplastic anaemia, in the slight haemoglobin contents of the blood, in the decreased absorption of oxygen, and in the lessening of the oxidation processes in the body.

Since under such conditions there is not only an ample formation of fat from the circulating albumin, but also a slight combustion of the fat-forming substances, especially carbohydrates which these in dividuals consume in large amounts, the body contains an excess of material for the formation and deposition of fat.

slight energy of the psychic functions, of the impulses and passions, and the trifling changes in the emotions which constitute the nature of the phlegmatic temperament, furnish an additional factor in the individual disposition to corpulence. Op

posed to this stands the choleric temperament with its ready ex citability, violent impulses, abrupt changes of the emotions and passions, and bustling activity, which are unfavorable to the accumu lation of fat. Both temperaments probably are ultimately based upon the physiological constitution—on the one hand, relaxed, torpid, and characterized by hypoplastic anaemia; on the other hand, erethistic, excitable, and characterized by quick irritability of the nervous sys tem and by increased energy of the oxidation processes due to a blood rich in hicmoglobin.

The phlegmatic temperament includes a number of factors which favor the formation and deposition of fat. The desire for rest and comfortable enjoyment induces the phlegmatic person not only to avoid every extensive fatiguing muscular activity, but it also reduces the uncontrollable muscular movements in daily life which in the choleric become innumerable.

The choleric moves ten times before the phlegmatic decides upon a single movement, and while the choleric forgets to eat for his men tal and physical exertions, bustling activity, and psychical excite ment, the phlegmatic seldom allows himself to be disturbed at his long and extensive dinner or in his sound sleep afterward. In ordi nary life and in the arts too, the phlegmatic and choleric are typical figures for obesity and leanness, for quiet contemplation and mental excitability, for indisposition to physical exertion and restless activ ity, carousing, and excesses.

There is no doubt that the psychical and physical peculiarities which we summarize in the temperament have an accelerating or retarding influence upon the consumption of food, the nutrition, the metabolism, and the production of fat; in the one case furnishing. the cause for an accumulation of fat, in the other for an extensive combustion.

As regards, however, the personification in the opposite sense of the corpulent as a phlegmatic, indolent, dilatory individual opposed to physical and mental effort, as a Silenus and Falstaff, we do not find it always fitting, and history teaches that men of superior intel ligence, energy, activity, and vigor may be obese.