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Saturday, 8 March 2008

OBESITY EPIDEMIC CHALLENGED BY EXPERTS


When reading an article such as the one from Pennlive.com we tend to think that perhaps there is hope that the anti-obesity campaign will not corrupt public opinion to the level the anti-tobacco fear mongering campaign did.

The article exposes exactly the same points we have been bringing up for the last three years on the obesity issue. There is a very important factor that the article doesn’t highlight however, but that must be emphasized at every opportunity because it has changed the ‘’technical’’ perception of obesity, overnight: ‘’ In 1998, the U.S. National Institutes of Health brought U.S. definitions into line with World Health Organization guidelines, lowering the normal/overweight cut-off from BMI 27.8 to BMI 25. This had the effect of redefining approximately 30 million Americans, previously "technically healthy" to "technically overweight". (source Wikipedia). As for Health Canada, they made their ‘’adjustment’’ in 2003. In Quebec alone, that ‘’adjustment’’ created an additional 1 million obese people from one day to the next.

Excerpts from the long but most interesting read: Some experts doubt obesity epidemic

LONDON (AP) — Go on, have another doughnut. According to some experts whose views are public health heresy, the jury is still out on how dangerous it is to be fat.
"The obesity epidemic has absolutely been exaggerated," said Dr. Vincent Marks, emeritus professor of clinical biochemistry at the University of Surrey.
…….

But obesity contrarians say that there's no data proving why being fat — in itself — would be dangerous. "There's no good causal connection," said Eric Oliver, author of Fat Politics and a political science professor at the University of Chicago.

Blaming obesity for diabetes and heart attacks, Oliver says, is like blaming lung cancer on bad breath rather than on smoking. Excess weight may actually be a red herring, Oliver says, since other factors like exercise, diet or genetic predispositions towards diseases are harder to measure than weight.

In addition to questioning the dangers of being fat, researchers like Marks also criticize oft-repeated alarmist projections about the rise in obesity — like the British government's warning that nearly half of Britain will be obese by 2050.

Those simply aren't based on good evidence, they say.
……..

In 2005, Katherine Flegal of the United States' Centers for Disease Control and Prevention published a study in the Journal of the American Medical Association, finding that overweight people typically live longer than normal-weight people. More than a dozen other studies have come to the same conclusion.

Outrage ensued. Prominent health experts called the research flawed and worried that people would gleefully supersize their meals.
………

Some obesity skeptics question the motives of experts who make dire predictions about obesity.
With millions of dollars for obesity researchers, an industry of anti-fat drugs, and a boom in the number of doctors offering surgeries like stomach-stapling, the more fat people there are, the more profits there will be in selling them solutions.

Experts on both sides of the obesity debate have often criticized WHO's overweight and obesity measures, saying they are too low.

When WHO defined the body mass index scores constituting normal, overweight and obese, they appeared to be the result of an independent expert committee convened by WHO.

Yet the 1997 Geneva consultation was held jointly with the International Obesity Task Force, an advocacy group whose self-described mission is "to inform the world about the urgency of the (obesity) problem."

According to the task force's most recent available annual report, more than 70 percent of their funding came from Abbott Laboratories and F. Hoffman La-Roche, companies which make top-selling anti-fat pills.

The task force remains one of Europe's most influential obesity advocacy groups and continues to work closely with WHO.

The blurred lines between pharmaceutical money and obesity groups have also caused concern in Britain. In 2006, one of the country's top obesity doctors quit the organization he founded to combat obesity, the National Obesity Forum, complaining that its goals had been skewed by drug money.

"There's not a lot of money in trying to debunk obesity, but a huge amount in making sure it stays a big problem," said Patrick Basham, a professor of health care policy at Johns Hopkins University.

Still, while skeptics insist that obesity warnings must be taken with a grain of salt, nearly all agree that while a little bit of extra padding may not be too deadly, too much almost certainly is.

"The vast majority of people who get labeled under the obesity epidemic are well under 300 pounds and probably are not facing big health consequences," Oliver said. "It's the morbidly obese people who should be worried."

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