[lit-ideas] Re: Fat Is An American Imperialist Issue

  • From: Donal McEvoy <donalmcevoyuk@xxxxxxxxxxx>
  • To: lit-ideas@xxxxxxxxxxxxx
  • Date: Thu, 6 May 2004 11:05:21 +0100 (BST)

 --- andy amago <aamago@xxxxxxxxxxxxx> wrote: > The NIH I believe recently
came out with a statistic that obesity is the
> leading cause of death in this country, surpassing even lung cancer from
> smoking, which heretofore had been the leader. 

But trotting out this kind of authoritatively-sourced "fact" is exactly the
kind of thing the article disparages. By repetition it might seem to gain
currency, but is it supported by the data?

If you read it, you may recall this paragraph from the article:

"Annual Deaths Attributable To Obesity In The United States, which appeared
in the Journal Of The American Medical Association (Jama) in 1999, is the
source for the endlessly repeated statistic that overweight causes around
300,000 extra deaths in the US every year. (This "fact" has been cited in the
major media more than 1,700 times in the past two years alone.) Look at these
figures more closely. As Glenn Gaesser, a professor at the University of
Virginia points out, studies have consistently failed to find any correlation
between increasing BMI and higher mortality in people 65 and over, and 78% of
the approximately 2.3 million annual deaths in the US occur among people who
are at least 65. Thus, 78% of all deaths lack even the beginning of a
statistical link with BMI. "That leaves 500,000 annual deaths in persons
under 65 that might be related to BMI," Gaesser told me. "These include
deaths from every possible cause: motor vehicle and other accidents,
homicides, suicides, cigarettes, alcohol, microbial agents, toxic agents,
drug abuse, etc, etc. To think that 60% [ie, 300,000] of these deaths are due
to body fat is absolutely preposterous."" 

>The physiological pathway
> behind the problem seems to be that fat irritates tissues (including blood
> vessels), which causes an inflammatory immune response, which in turn
> causes the damage and premature death.  

Really? Who says this? I can see that excess weight might put a strain on
other organs (the heart), and clog up arteries, but is this really the true
etiology of "fat=increased death risk"?

>Inflammation has also been co-opted
> by the those who exploit buzzwords and turn them into profitable books, not
> always based on fact.  

Well yes: not adequately "based" on fact.

>Nevertheless, the real thing is real.  

Here you slip, it seems to me, from the pressing factual issues into a piece
of Parmenidean metaphysics or perhaps Wittgensteinian tautologising - I can't
be sure which.

>One might
> argue that since we're all going to die anyway, buying a few extra years
> with the coin of significantly diminished pleasure is less than a good
> deal.

One might. But as the article implies the link between so-called overweight
and illness-and-death seems 'not proven' on a close look. (Remember George
Clooney is "obese" by the standards used). 

Commonsense tells me that humongous overweight is not good for the health:
but this is not the standard being used. 

There is the question also of whether calorie-controlled diets work. Ans. No.

And whether such diets cause overweight and damage health: ans. very likely
on both counts. 
So I am rather more sceptical of the fat-death link than you might be on the
basis of having heard something from the NIH. (Didn't they tell us until the
1970s that homosexuality was a psychological affliction, backed up in this
idiocy by a Freudian-hangover in the psychiatric profession?)


Yahoo! Messenger - Communicate instantly..."Ping" 
your friends today! Download Messenger Now 
To change your Lit-Ideas settings (subscribe/unsub, vacation on/off,
digest on/off), visit www.andreas.com/faq-lit-ideas.html

Other related posts: