American Obesity Epidemic Traced To Single Heavyset ‘Mayflower’ Passenger

Top Headlines

Science & Technology

‘Seek Funding’ Step Added To Scientific Method

PARIS—In an effort to modernize the principles and empirical procedures of examining phenomena and advancing humanity’s collective knowledge, the International Council for Science announced Thursday the addition of a “Seek Funding” step to the scientific method.

The Pros And Cons Of Artificial Intelligence

As technology advances to the point where machines have almost human-like capabilities, humanity is left to ponder the consequences involved with either advancing or holding back the field of computer sentience. Here are the pros and cons of artificial intelligence

Biologists Still No Closer To Discovering How Birds Have Sex

BERKELEY, CA—With not a single scientist having successfully observed the behavior despite extensive ongoing research, the field of biology has made no progress in its understanding of how birds have sex, experts at the University of California told reporters Wednesday.

What Smoking A Cigarette Does To The Body

With the FDA recently pulling multiple cigarette brands off the market, the conversation surrounding the harmful effects of smoking has been returning in full force to the national stage. Here is what happens to your body as you smoke a cigarette

Alarming Report Finds Only 6% Of Earth’s Surface Indoors

LAWRENCE, KS—Drawing attention to the distressing prevalence of outside areas on the planet, researchers at the University of Kansas released an alarming report Monday revealing that a mere 6 percent of the Earth’s surface is actually indoors.

Meteorologists Say Upcoming Hurricane Season To Be Permanent

SILVER SPRING, MD—Warning residents to prepare for extreme winds, heavy rainfall, and flooding starting in the near future and continuing indefinitely, meteorologists at the National Weather Service announced Friday that the upcoming hurricane season would be permanent.

NASA Deploys Congressional Rover To Search For Funding

WASHINGTON—Calling the program “the most crucial in the agency’s history,” researchers at NASA announced Wednesday they have successfully deployed a Special Exploratory Rover to Congress as part of an open-ended mission to seek out any possible trace of funding on Capitol Hill.

What The Planet Will Look Like In 2100

As scientists try to project the effects of climate change into the future, many of these forecasts only go as far as 2100, a year beyond which the alterations to our environment become much harder to predict. Here is a breakdown of what we can expect our world to look like in 2100

What You Need To Know About ‘Female Viagra’

The FDA recently approved the sale of Flibanserin, a pink pill intended for women diagnosed with low sex drive; critics have questioned the pill’s effectiveness, while advocates are praising the move toward supporting both men and women with these sexual issues. Here are some of the most common questions about Flibanserin

GMOs: Myth vs. Fact

Consumers have consistently distrusted the use of genetically modified organisms in their food, believing that they make food unsafe for consumption, although a majority of scientific evidence contradicts these views. Here are the common myths associated with GMOs and the facts that refute them

Timeline Of Google’s History

Google recently announced the formation of Alphabet, an umbrella corporation that will separate the company’s internet search business from its forays into robotics, biotechnology, and other areas of innovation. Here are some of the most notable milestones in Google’s 17-year history:

How Hackers Steal Data From Websites

With millions of Americans’ personal information becoming compromised by recent high-profile data breaches, many people are wondering just how anonymous hackers target and infiltrate these supposedly secure systems. Here is a step-by-step explanation of how your data can be stolen

Man’s Body Running Out Of Ideas To Convince Him He Full

BAYTOWN, TX—Having repeatedly ratcheted up the 34-year-old’s level of discomfort with no noticeable effect on his behavior, the body of local man Kent Dugan confirmed Wednesday that it was starting to run out of ideas to convince him that he was full.

How Apple Plans To Rebound From Apple Watch Flop

With sales of the Apple Watch reportedly down 90 percent since its initial release, Apple is suffering in the wearables market and faces a lack of enthusiasm about its latest product. Here are some ways Apple can improve the watch and prevent the company from falling into a slump:

Astronomers Just Going To Go Ahead And Say Dark Matter Nitrogen

‘Fuck It, We’re Done,’ Say Scientists

WASHINGTON—Declaring that this is the last time they ever hope to speak of the aggravatingly enigmatic substance, astronomers from NASA announced Thursday that they are just going to go ahead and say that dark matter is nitrogen.

What We’ve Learned About Pluto

Nearly 10 years after its launch, the New Horizons space probe made a flyby 7,750 miles from Pluto, marking the first time in history a spacecraft has examined the dwarf planet up close, and NASA has begun to release data and images transmitted from the approach. Here’s what we’ve learned about Pluto so far

Timeline Of Mass Extinction

Scientists predict that human activity has put the world on the brink of the sixth mass extinction in earth’s history, an event characterized by the elimination of a large number of species within a very short period of time. Here is a timeline of extinction events over the planet’s history

Study: Floating Heap Of Trash Now Ocean’s Apex Predator

SANTA BARBARA, CA—Noting that no marine species posed a threat and the total domination of its habitat, a study released Wednesday by researchers at the University of California, Santa Barbara revealed that the floating mass of trash known as the Great Pacific Garbage Patch is now the ocean’s apex predator.

Dementia Study Reveals Fond Memories First To Go

BALTIMORE—Researchers at Johns Hopkins University published a new study this week on the cognitive effects of Alzheimer’s disease and other deteriorative brain disorders, finding conclusive evidence that dementia sufferers’ fondest memories are nearly always the first to go.

FDA Approves Female-Libido-Enhancing Man

WASHINGTON—In an effort to address the needs of women suffering from a lack of sexual desire, the FDA announced Tuesday that it had approved a new female-libido-enhancing man, which is expected to be made available to the general public by year’s end.

New Report Finds Humanity 10 Years Away From Something Called Ash Age

TUCSON, AZ—Explaining that the large-scale shift in geologic conditions and social organization would require a new taxonomic classification, researchers at the University of Arizona released a report Tuesday revealing that humanity is approximately 10 years away from something that will be called the Ash Age.

NASA Announces Bold Plan To Still Exist By 2045

WASHINGTON—In what is being described as the most ambitious mission ever undertaken in the space agency’s history, NASA officials announced at a press conference Tuesday their bold new plan to still exist by 2045.

YouTube Turns 10

On April 23, 2005, three former PayPal employees started a video-sharing site called YouTube, which has since grown into an influential media platform with over 1 billion users.

Pros And Cons Of Screen Time For Kids

As technology becomes more of a staple in everyday family life, parents are making choices about how much screen time to allow their children—and asking questions about how computers, phones, and TVs might help or hinder a child’s development.

Geologists Unearth Fully Intact Rock

FORT COLLINS, CO—Describing the discovery as the most flawless specimen ever unearthed, a team of geologists working in northern Colorado announced Friday they had excavated a fully intact rock.

Rehabilitated Otter Released Back Into Food Chain

SAUSALITO, CA—Following nine months of surgeries and physical therapy to heal the aquatic animal’s debilitating injuries, officials from the Marine Mammal Center released a fully rehabilitated sea otter back into the food chain Tuesday.

Conservationists Attempting To Get Head Start On Mars

WASHINGTON—Fearing that any further delay might prevent their movement from having any meaningful impact, a consortium of leading conservationists confirmed Wednesday it is attempting to get a head start on preserving the planet Mars. The newly form...

Apple MacBook vs. Google Chromebook Pixel

Shortly after Apple debuted its new ultra-thin MacBook this week, Google announced its new Chromebook Pixel 2, which similarly boasts the new Type-C USB port and high-tech trackpad.

How Cable Companies Plan To Fight Cord Cutting

More consumers than ever are “cord cutting,” or getting rid of their cable service in favor of watching shows online, challenging the cable industry to launch new initiatives in order to keep customers.

Features Of The Apple Car

After dominating sales of smartphones, tablets, and other electronics, Apple is reportedly secretly designing its first car, code-named Titan.

2015 Tech Trends

Showcasing everything from wearable devices to self-driving cars and personal drones, this year’s Consumer Electronics Show revealed the latest in new technology.
End Of Section
  • More News
Up Next
TV Listings
Just Like Everything Else!: Fox 8 p.m. EDT/7 p.m. ABC Pete's wife is still on him about building that darn shed, these kids are going to be the death of Sheila and Dave, and the hot next-door neighbor is up in EVERYBODY'S business! Sunday nights on ABC couldn't be any more familiar!

Special Coverage



American Obesity Epidemic Traced To Single Heavyset ‘Mayflower’ Passenger

Fellow passengers described a “greate & fearful creaking of wood under-foot” as Alden walked about the Mayflower.
Fellow passengers described a “greate & fearful creaking of wood under-foot” as Alden walked about the Mayflower.

BOSTON—In a startling discovery that sheds new light on the link between the earliest American colonists and their modern descendants, researchers at Boston University announced Thursday they have traced the U.S. obesity epidemic back to a single heavyset Mayflower passenger.

Through an exhaustive analysis of genetic samples, as well as diary entries, ship logs, and tattered medical records from the early 17th century, a multidisciplinary research team has reportedly determined that the majority of severely overweight individuals in the United States today share key genetic markers and unhealthy eating behaviors that appear to be passed down from a 307-pound Plymouth Colony settler named Jeremiah Alden.

“At a time when the average European male weighed perhaps 135 pounds, Jeremiah’s tremendous size was an exceedingly rare trait, which is indicated by contemporary accounts of him as a ‘startling behemoth’ and ‘wide-across as three men together,’” biologist Allan Fortner said of the man who, by fathering nine portly children, is believed to have introduced a predisposition toward slow metabolism and sedentary personal habits into the American genome. “After carefully sequencing the DNA of his remains, we have pinpointed this hefty Pilgrim’s appearance in the New World as the single most crucial event giving rise to modern Americans’ elevated BMIs, tendency toward overeating, and aversion to exercise.”

“We would certainly not have a situation in which 62 percent of the U.S. population is either overweight or obese had this man simply stayed in England,” he added.

Noting that early American colonies were frequently plagued by starvation, researchers said Alden’s sheer caloric intake—a 17th-century journal claimed he “consum’d three-and-twenty biscuits every noonday”—allowed the separatist Puritan to thrive despite the odds, resulting in a selective genetic advantage. The study’s authors also confirmed that the United States’ high rates of Type 2 diabetes, hypertension, knee joint pain, and sleep apnea are almost solely a result of this one enormous man’s contributions to the gene pool.

Researchers said they were first inspired to study Alden after reading several passages in William Bradford’s Of Plymouth Plantation, which described the settler as a “slothfull fellow who erupteth through his waistcoat with girth” and “labours hard for his breath, the swett allways upon his crimson-hued face.” Though he counted for only one of the Mayflower’s 102 passengers, logs kept during the voyage claimed he had “near devowered rations set a-side for one man’s intire voyage” before the ship had even left port in England, enraging his gaunt and scurvy-prone fellow travelers.

“Upon their arrival in the New World, the Pilgrims quickly got to work laying the foundation for a new civilization, but it appears Jeremiah just sort of hung out on board for a few days, nibbling on salt pork,” historian Karen Harmon said. “And once he disembarked, he made quick work of the colony’s stores of grain and dried provisions, leading to around half the settlers dying in that first winter.”

Citing records that indicate Alden required “the skines of seven otters to cloathe wholy his great bodily expance,” the research team suggested that his excess reserves of adipose tissue allowed him—and the genes he would pass along—to survive until spring.

Numerous artifacts provide further evidence of Alden’s rotundness, including a contemporary woodcut that depicts a nearly spherical man, the buckles on his doublet straining to contain his frame as he stands among a group of rail-thin Pilgrims and Native Americans. Additional documents also describe first Thanksgiving in 1621, at which, according to one account, this ancestral forerunner of U.S. obesity “did go back for double, treble, and quadreble servings” of wildfowl and maize.

“Mr. Alden hath the breadth of many men & eats as such, w’out nary a mite of shame, his wide, flesh-ly hands etern’ly imparting morsels unto his happy mouth,” reads an entry from the diary of Mayflower captain Christopher Jones. “The savages cry at his immense appearance, be-lieving they that he is some terrible monster.”

“This morn we went to gather straw fit for thatch and return’d to finde Jeremiah eating merrilee of our common victuals, which did anger us plenty,” it continues. “Yet he merely shrugged & smiled in a bashfull way, in accordance with his gener’ly joyous & agreeible comportment.”

The researchers stressed, however, that their discovery of a single obese progenitor should not be used as a scapegoat by modern Americans for their poor dietary habits and dangerously high body masses.

“While this is a significant discovery, we must not blame Jeremiah Alden alone for today’s pervasive obesity problem,” Fortner said. “He certainly set our nation on the wrong path in terms of excessive weight and unhealthy food choices, but we must all take responsibility for our own health. Otherwise we might end up just like Jeremiah, who died of a heart attack at age 46 after being accused of witchcraft.”