March 15, 2011

“Obesity crusaders” use “inherently flawed instruments, such as BMI and apple-body shapes, to misinform the public”

Filed under: Government, Health, Media — Tags: , , , — Nicholas @ 12:50

Patrick Basham and John Luik address the manifest failings of the public health crusade against obesity:

Since the anti-obesity campaign is allegedly motivated by scientific findings, it would seem reasonable and prudent to make doubly sure that those claims are factual and trustworthy. Yet, we continue to find that the case against obesity is significantly flawed. Not only are the claims of an obesity epidemic often wildly exaggerated, but the science linking weight to unfavourable mortality outcomes is also frequently nonexistent or distorted.

[. . .]

As Danesh suggests, other researchers have suggested concentrating on a measurement of the waist alone, while many cling to BMI, which calculates obesity based upon a weight-to-height ratio. Because of its easy applicability, BMI is universally used in officially defining obesity, despite its manifest shortcomings. The BMI is wholly arbitrary and has no scientifically valid connection with mortality.

“Obesity crusaders” are what we call the individuals who manufactured the obesity-epidemic story in the first place and continue, through application of inherently flawed instruments, such as BMI and apple-body shapes, to misinform the public. They are a relatively small group of public-health officials in the US, the UK, the EU, and the World Health Organisation, assorted academics (very many with close ties to the weight-loss and pharmaceutical industry), the International Obesity Task Force, and a collection of so-called public-interest science groups.

How are these obesity crusaders reacting to the unambiguously good news published in The Lancet? Surely, they rejoice at the fact there is one less thing for a health-conscious population to fret over? No, they are not in celebratory mood. Quite the contrary. The obesity crusaders did not waste any time on the New Good News; after all, the Old-Time Religion continues to serve them so well.

It gets worse for the “fat=early death” meme:

There is little credible scientific evidence that supports the claims that being overweight or obese leads to an early death. For example, Katherine Flegal of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention found that in the US population there were more premature deaths among those who are normal weight than those who are overweight. Indeed, in this study, Americans who were overweight were those most likely to live the longest.

In the American Journal of Public Health, Jerome Gronniger found that men in the “normal” weight category exhibited a mortality rate as high as that of men in the moderately obese category; men in the “overweight” category clearly had the lowest mortality risk.

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