Monday, August 04, 2003

Is Obesity Bad For You?

The quest for scientific truth in our politically correct society is one of the main points I try to illuminate in this space. What with the proliferation of sources in today's web-enhanced universe there are more and more places to which one can turn it is surprising to me that so much junk science is taken at face value, as one can read opposing points of view to almost any thesis. But some sources do such a great job of expounding and arguement that they deserve special mention. Such a source is Tech Central Station. James Glassman does such a great job ferreting out the truth that I subscribe to their newsletter, and read something from their site almost every day. Today I read a particularly lucid exposition of the junk science behind the war on the overweight.

Beginning with the quote: "The war on fat has reached the point where the systematic distortion of the evidence has become the norm, rather than the exception," Sandy Szwarc goes on to detail how and why this war continues. As per usual, as with the war against (some) drugs and other modern campaigns, this war is sustained by those who stand to continue to gain financially from the effort. "[T]he leading obesity researchers all have enormous economic stakes in seeing expanded forms of obesity treatment applied to more Americans."
Oftentimes the most knowledgeable experts are within industries. That's not always a problem. But in the case of obesity, Thomas Moore, M.D., of Boston University School of Medicine, observed, "Due to their economic interests and bias, a suppression of research antithetical to the diet industry's position exists. Research not supporting weight loss isn't funded and isn't published."
Also, as with the war against passive smokers,
Researchers and public officials were increasingly reporting not just that 300,000 deaths were linked to obesity, but suddenly caused by obesity, too. Most, like a study published in JAMA, Oct. 27, 1999, didn't actually specify what obese people were dying from. But as the author, David Allison, Ph.D., noted, "our calculations assume that all excess mortality in obese people is due to their obesity."
Sounds familiar, eh? Swarc has done a fine job of tracking down the few peer reviewed articles to support her thesis, and does it well. If you are one who believes that dieting may be more dangerous than eating well, or can't believe that Michael Jordan is obese, or just need to find out if 300,000 Americans die each year from being overweight, then you must read the entire article yourself. And, while you are at it, subscribe to the TCS newsletter as well.