Obesity – Not Everybody Agrees It Is An Epidemic
Obesity has become such an important topic in health and self-improvement circles that it deserves its own “News and Views” column. Here is the February, 2006 issue.
**Book claims obesity “epidemic” is a big lie
In his new book, “Fat Politics: The Real Story Behind America’s Obesity Epidemic”, writer Eric Oliver claims that the ramped up concern over obesity in the last ten years has been driven by the weight loss industry.
According to Oliver his research led him to conclude that, “Based on the statistics most of the charges saying that obesity caused various diseases or that obesity caused thousands of deaths were simply not supported.”
The writer does not dispute that the average American adult is between 8 and 12 pounds heavier today than in 1975. But he does dispute the significance of this weight gain to average health.
He claims that pharmaceutical companies and the diet industry have funded groups like the International Obesity Task Force whose objective has been to promote the dangers of obesity. According to Oliver, “nearly every prominent obesity ‘expert’ has been financed or supported in some way by the weight-loss industry.”
One important outcome of this effort was the successful lowering of the obesity standard in 1998. As Oliver says, “Suddenly tens of millions of Americans became ‘obese’ even though they hadn’t gained a pound.”
Oliver’s main contention is that “the scientific evidence is simply not there that most people who are either ‘overweight’ or ‘obese’ are in any danger directly from their weight.”
This flies directly in the face of current orthodoxy on the impact of obesity on health. Those who warn us about obesity say it greatly increases the likelihood of conditions such as high blood pressure, diabetes, heart disease, and even some cancers.
**Obesity in Children linked to lack of exercise facilities
In a study published in the February issue of Pediatrics, researcher Penny Gordon-Larsen of the University of North Carolina’s School of Public Health and Medicine looked at the correlation between overweight and availability of exercise facilities.
The researchers gathered statistics on the number of physical-activity facilities, the rate of overweight children, and the average physical activity levels for each area. Facilities included were schools, public recreation facilities, parks and YMCAs, as well as dance studios and private gyms.
Not surprisingly, the study concluded that “more disadvantaged communities have a great deficiency in terms of the number and types of exercise facilities available.”
**Link between “food insecurity” and obesity challenged
In another study conducted by researchers at Tulane University, the link between “food insecurity status” and obesity has been challenged.
Prior studies suggested that people not sure where their next meal was coming from might overeat when they got food, or possibly eat less-nutritious, higher calorie foods.
But in the study of nearly 17,0000 kindergarten children, kids in “food insecure houselholds” were found to be 20% less likely to be overweight.
The researchers concluded that some risk factors did contribute to overweight. These were low physical activity, watching TV more than two hours a day, high birth weight, being from a low-income family, and being either black or Latino.