In sp!ked, Timandra Harkness explains why the publication of “Association of All-Cause Mortality With Overweight and Obesity Using Standard Body Mass Index Categories” in the Journal of the American Medical Association (JAMA) got such a strongly negative reaction from the media and various government spokespeople:
The reason this unassuming paper drew howls of outrage was the same as the reason the benefits of moderate alcohol intake are never noted without criticism: it spoils the headline health message that Fat is Bad.
Even worse, it blows the cover on the great myth — that an epidemic of Bad Fatness is sweeping the developed world. By including the dangerously obese, the innocuously tubby and the healthily plump in one category, ‘overweight including obese’, 60 per cent of the English population are labelled as potentially At Risk.
Being At Risk means these people need guidance and protection from their own vulnerable state, from the temptations of our obesogenic world and the frailties of their own sugar-addicted brains. At such a time of national peril, no measure is too extreme.
But less than a quarter of English adults are obese, according to new figures released just before Christmas, a fraction almost unchanged since 2007. And the ‘morbidly obese’ category — BMI over 40, the ones for whom it really might be worth shedding a few pounds, medically speaking — also remains steady since 2009 at 2.5 per cent of the UK population.
If only one in 40 of us is in significant weight-related danger, why do the other 97.5 per cent of us need to be protected by the state against sugary cereals and fizzy drinks? Could it be because only a few of us have fallen, but all of us are in peril? Weak, foolish and easily led astray, we need to be frightened back on to the right path. Thus Tam Fry, spokesman for the National Obesity Forum — who has called for children to be monitored from birth for signs of obesity — told the Independent: ‘If people read this and decide they are not going to die… they may find themselves lifelong dependents on medical treatment for problems affecting the heart, liver, kidney and pancreas — to name only a few.’
So there we have it. Those extra post-Christmas pounds aren’t going to kill you. If you’re approaching an age at which there’s any real prospect you will die, they probably have a tiny protective effect. But if you’re told the truth, suggest the obesity obsessives, you’ll gorge yourself into a disgusting ball of flab.