You are on page 1of 1

nature publishing group obituary

Ethan Allen Sims (1916–2010)

Judith S. Stern

Ethan Allen Sims was relationship between “calories in” and “calories out”
born in 1916 in New- and the fact that a pound of fat gained is equivalent
port, Rhode Island. He to 3,500 kcal do not explain the amount of weight
was the great-great- gained by a particular individual. His December
g re at g rands on of 2001 report in Metabolism led to his being featured
Green Mountain Boys in a New York Times article, “Is Obesity a Disease or
leader Ethan Allen and Just a Symptom?,” published 16 April 2002.
wrote a booklet called Ethan published many papers with his wife,
Ethan Allen, the Phi- Doro. In 1990, to celebrate their collaborative
losopher. He graduated research, they were both given honorary doctor of
from Harvard Col- science degrees by the University of Vermont. He
lege (1938), obtained was also honored for his extensive contributions
his MD from Columbia College of Physicians to clinical research through the establishment
& Surgeons (1942), and became a house officer by the National Institutes of Health of the Ethan
(1946) and later an instructor at Yale–New Haven Sims Clinical Research Feasibility Fund Award.
Hospital. He spent his entire academic career at The Obesity Society has honored Sims by creating
the University of Vermont (1950–2010) as a pro- The Ethan Sims Young Investigator Award.
fessor of medicine. In 1991, the university named Ethan was a true clinical investigator, and his
its metabolic research unit the Sims Obesity/ Vermont study on experimental weight gain
Nutrition Research Center. opened up new ways of thinking about obesity.
Ethan Sims was internationally known for his For example, we learned that complications such
work in experimental obesity and diabetes. To as type 2 diabetes occur in many who gain fat,
explain the relationship between obesity and dia- whether spontaneously or through force feeding,
betes, he coined the word “diabesity,” a term that and that when people gain weight for experimen-
describes the result of genes interacting with other tal purposes, they return to their starting weight
genes and environmental factors to produce obe- soon after the end of the study. Hence the puzzle
sity-induced type 2 diabetes. He conducted a study that obesity requires overeating, and many do it
to address the question of what would happen yet others do not, and we still do not know why.
if thin people who had never had a weight prob- Ethan’s puzzle is still unsolved.
lem deliberately got fat. His subjects, prisoners at Finally, Ethan was a very tall man—in stature,
a state prison, volunteered to gain weight. Over 4 in clinical curiosity, and in professional excel-
to 6 months they increased their weight by 20 to lence. He was esteemed by all.
25%—some had to consume 10,000 calories a day.
Thanks to the study’s findings, we now know that the © 2011 The Obesity Society

Departments of Nutrition and Internal Medicine, University of California, Davis, Davis, California, USA.

obesity | VOLUME 19 NUMBER 3 | MARCH 2011 467