In a recent post at TCS Daily (Technology. Commerce. Society), John Luik takes on the food fascists. About time, too.
In Ã¢â‚¬Å“Fat and Happy: The Weight Story No One Wants to Talk AboutÃ¢â‚¬Â, he observes,
It’s been a tough time the last little while for the fatties among us – which is supposedly most of us. According to the just released report from the American Institute for Cancer Research being fat and eating certain foods increases our risk for cancer. The secret to a long life according to the report’s authors is to be as thin as you can, while avoiding red meat, processed meats, alcohol, French fries, milk shakes and, well, you get the picture.
But in contrast to the cancer report, which received enormous and largely uncritical media attention, a new study about obesity by Katherine Flegal and colleagues from the Centers for Disease Control and the National Cancer Institute made few waves. Yet Flegal’s quiet and careful study could do much to calm our growing national hysteria about obesity.
Luik identifies key factors that I have also drawn attention to:
- Contrary to the scare stats, only seriously obese people (body mass index over 35) are at greater risk of premature death. (You can calculate your own BMI here.)
- being a bit pudgy may actually be good for you. People with body mass indexes of 25 to 30 tend to live longer. (This makes sense if we assume that they would better withstand the siege of a long, serious illness.)
- being underweight isÃ‚Â far more dangerous than being overweight, in the sense that underweight people are more likely to die young.
One might object that people may be underweight because they are sick already. Fair enough, but the takeaway point is that if you want to live to be old, you are more likely to accomplish your goal if you are well padded.
So, are you an American? Did you have a second helping of turkey at the Thanksgiving Dinner last night? Are you hoping to stage a second assault at half time this afternoon, armed with a knife, mayo, and two pieces of bread?
Relax. You are NOT at greater risk of death. DonÃ¢â‚¬â„¢t let the food fascists scare you. The actual mortality statistics do not support their war on enjoyment.
Bottom line: The single most important factor in your health status is exercise. If you get little or no exercise, you are in danger whether you are fat or thin. But if you do get exercise, it doesnÃ¢â‚¬â„¢t matter much if you are statistically overweight.
The Toronto Humane Society has a wonderful ad for adopting a dog. The message from the hopeful canine reads Ã¢â‚¬Å“I am an excellent source of outside.Ã¢â‚¬Â Adopting a dog and walking him twice or thrice a day will typically do far more for your health than paying inflated prices for the latest Mean Cuisine. And the dog isn’t in it for the money.
Our weighty obsession – this one should be required reading for teen girls you know. Eating disorders very often begin with a diet. And things have got so bad now that fashion gurus have started throwing emaciated models off the catwalk.
Other stuff IÃ¢â‚¬â„¢ve written recently:
AIDS numbers downsized: a learning experience
The origin of life: Unsolved problem now shopped to offmarket solutions?
The Darwinian left discovers group selection
Darwinism and popular folklore: Neanderthal man died out on account of equal opportunity?
From the academic literature: Fred Flintstone vs. the law
He said it: Origin of Life pioneer on the challenge of origin of life research