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May 10, 2004


Fat Kills!

This AP story (via MSNBC) caught my eye because it’s such a prime example of the fear mongering I mentioned in an earlier post. The article brings out the often-mentioned and not actually true declaration that “Obesity is fast becoming one of the world’s leading reasons why people die”.

Of course if you read long enough (over halfway through), you eventually see that “Simply being fat won’t necessarily kill you outright. And it’s not weight alone that determines your risk from several diseases.”

The “fat kills you dead” articles tend to be structured this way, starting out with a misleading statement that is gradually qualified with some “obesity is linked to…” or “diseases associated with obesity…..” phrasing.

Obesity does not kill people; heart disease, strokes, and complications from diabetes do. The reality is that thin people who eat crap and sit in front of the television are equally at risk for these diseases as the fat, lazy slobs that the press loves to be horrified about. Fat is not the enemy. Lifestyle is.

What makes this article truly stand out is a completely unsupported statement I’ve begun to see more frequently, Obesity Causes Cancer:

“Obesity also plays a significant, if poorly understood, role in many cancers. WHO data shows cancer accounts for about 12.5 percent of the world’s deaths, and that rate is expected to increase dramatically, mostly in developing countries.”

That’s like saying that if 5% of Americans are victims of violent crime, obesity plays a significant, if poorly understood, role in assaults and murders.

The obesity scare is just that – a scare, based on suspect science and manipulated facts. It’s a distraction from addressing real concerns such as these:

A study at U Mass. Medical Center in 2003 determined that 50 patients out of 188 who underwent gastric bypass surgery developed complications that required surgical intervention. Two died. (Interestingly, one of the indicators of complications form the surgery is hypertension)

Anorexia and bulimia affect nearly 10 million women and one million men (primarily teens and young adults) in reported cases in the U.S. Another 25 million people suffer from binge eating disorder.

Curiously, you won’t find those statistics from resources such as the official-sounding American Obesity Association, which boldly states that “obesity is the second leading cause of preventable death in the U.S”. That's because the AOA is sponsored by concerned health organizations that include:

Ethicon Endo-Surgery (develops surgical instruments for laparoscopic weight loss surgery)
Novartis Nutrition Company (manufactures sugar-free cake, pudding, and pie mixes)
Slim-Fast Foods Company
Weight Watchers International
Jenny Craig International
Health Management Resources (sells diet foods)

These companies all make millions, even billions of dollars off our fear of fat. So, the next time you read an article laced with these shocking obesity statistics, think twice about what that information really says and who’s saying it

categories: Business, Media
posted by Emily at 1:23 PM | #