The World According to Nick
My take on Software, Technology, Politics, and anything else I feel like talking about.
Monday, June 06, 2005

The Overblown Epidemic 

Here is an interesting article from Scientific American about the overblown epidemic on obesity (H/T to The Volokh Conspiracy):

Could it be that excess fat is not, by itself, a serious health risk for the vast majority of people who are overweight or obese--categories that in the U.S. include about six of every 10 adults? Is it possible that urging the overweight or mildly obese to cut calories and lose weight may actually do more harm than good?

Such notions defy conventional wisdom that excess adiposity kills more than 300,000 Americans a year and that the gradual fattening of nations since the 1980s presages coming epidemics of diabetes, cardiovascular disease, cancer and a host of other medical consequences. Indeed, just this past March the New England Journal of Medicine presented a "Special Report," by S. Jay Olshansky, David B. Allison and others that seemed to confirm such fears. The authors asserted that because of the obesity epidemic, "the steady rise in life expectancy during the past two centuries may soon come to an end." Articles about the special report by the New York Times, the Washington Post and many other news outlets emphasized its forecast that obesity may shave up to five years off average life spans in coming decades.

While I can't say I agree with everything said (when do I ever?)... I can say it's still mostly good, and has a lot of strong data. But, like many things written for Scientific American... it's long. Here is one of the parts that I can't buy into:

One of those complicated realities, concurs Campos, a professor of law at the University of Colorado at Boulder, is the widely accepted evidence that genetic differences account for 50 to 80 percent of the variation in fatness within a population. Because no safe and widely practical methods have been shown to induce long-term loss of more than about 5 percent of body weight, Campos says, "health authorities are giving people advice--maintain a body mass index in the 'healthy weight' range--that is literally impossible for many of them to follow." Body mass index, or BMI, is a weight-to-height ratio.

First of all... I'm not going to take the word of law professor. Not that they're unreliable... just that we're not talking about legal advice here... we're talking about the human body. Why don't they have a doctor saying this? Secondly... I go from person experience on this one. I lost 80 pounds (or 31% of my body weight) in a safe and I think very practical way... and have kept it off for a few years now, and see no signs of that changing in the near future. The problem is that the safe and practical ways don't work overnight without permanent lifestyle changes. Does that mean they're not practical? Of course not. Does it mean that they're not super simple? Sure... but practical and super simple aren't synonymous.

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Name: Nick
Home: Wauwatosa, WI, United States

I'm a Software Consultant in the Milwaukee area. Among various geeky pursuits, I'm also an amateur triathlete, and enjoy rock climbing. I also like to think I'm a political pundit.


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