Friday, February 1, 2008

Are health risks of fat exaggerated? (well duh!)

The health risks attributed to fat exaggerated from shaky conclusions and a misinterpreted causal relationship? Say it ain't so! :-) Seems like I've heard something like this before, just not sure where....

The Star Tribune in Minneapolis published a quiet little piece about a recent British Medical Journal debate where, wonder of wonders, a couple of rogue experts are actually disputing the epidemic and dangers of fat.

The article, "Are the health risks of obesity overblown?" is available to view once before you have to buy a subscription, so be sure to print it off. (note: if you delete your browser cookies you can read it again.) It features the highlights of a debate between two sets of scientists. One trots out the same tired old propaganda (OMGDIABETES!!!)

The other?

"Media claims about an epidemic ... often exceed the scientific evidence and mistakenly suggest an unjustified degree of certainty."

Really? huh. You mean having breasts doesn't mean I'll automatically get diabetes? Whoda thunk it?

Wait, there's more!

"...The death rates from heart disease and stroke have been falling, not rising. There's no direct evidence that excess fat causes diabetes. "We argue ... that obesity is a symptom of Type 2 diabetes, rather than a cause," said Luik in an e-mail interview. "For instance, changes in physical activity and diet reduce diabetes risk even without loss of weight. How does this support a cause and effect relationship?"

Holy crap on a cracker, Batman! You mean they're still teaching the difference between correlation and causation at those fancy medical schools these days? I would jump up and do a happy dance, but I think the guy at the copier would look at me funny :-)

"Health advocates have resorted to "deliberate exaggeration or, indeed, misrepresentation of the risks" of obesity."
Who cares what the guy at the copier thinks? *HAPPY DANCE!*

Oh, and it's a relief to know that Mememe doesn't get to dance on the graves of the fat people:

Isn't Obesity Deadly? "The evidence is not as strong as you might think. In 1997, the National Institutes of Health found that thin men had the same risk of dying prematurely as overweight men. Any increase in risk is relatively small compared to, say, smoking. "Despite the supposedly abnormal levels of overweight and obesity, life expectancy continues to increase," the two wrote in the British Medical Journal.
Huh...I think I've heard that one before as well....where could it have been? Oh well, I'm sure my memory would improve if I just lost 50 pounds, right?


In the meantime, Patrick Basham and John Luik are the co-authors of a book that's going right on my Amazon wish list: "Diet Nation: Exposing the Obesity Crusade." It's only available in the UK so far, but I may be able to track it down through the library.

More articles from the same authors:


Anonymous said...

Woo! Thanks for posting this up. :D I needed something like this for a thread I started on a popular forum for teens and some guy was on my case about the diabetes thing. ^^

Anonymous said...

That's like saying Intelligent Design must be true because a few rogue scientist support it over evolution. The vast majority of scientific evidence shows a strong correlation between obesity and certain diseases.

JoGeek said...

Look at your own words, anonymous... correlation, which as we should all know, is not the same thing as causation. Consider reading the blog Junkfood Science to better understand, rather than taking one post as an isolated argument.

There is also quite a bit of scietific evidence showing that when fitness is taken into account, the correlation between body weight and disease disappears. (yes, it is possible to be fat and still fit.)