Medical study adds to confusion about obesity and what else is new?
April 20, 2005
To repeat myself: the three things the medical community knows almost nothing about are sex, lower back pain and nutrition. Today we discuss the third. A study reported in JAMA says that obesity is less of a killer than first thought, only 112,000 Americans a year instead of the 400,000 previously reported. Those affected were the really, really fat (say a 5-foot-4 inch woman weighing 204 pounds or so). Being underweight killed 34,000 Americans. The researchers, at the Centers for Disease Control and the National Cancer Institute used the body mass index in their study. [An aside: has anyone else noticed that the cancer institute home page has nothing but smiling people on it?] The reaction in the medical community was mixed and it was reflected in the stories published in newspapers, with Gina Kolata in the New York Times being considerably less skeptical than Rosie Mestel in the Los Angeles Times. Mestel quoted someone from the Harvard School of Public Health calling the study “really naïve, deeply flawed and seriously misleading,” which is not a quote you see very often in news stories about medical findings--and should. But we shouldn't dismiss the report out of hand. Those of us who are, shall we say, a tad round around the waist, in other words, just a bit overweight, tend to live longer, as if the extra weight afforded some protection, according to the study. We suffered 86,000 fewer deaths than those whose weight was in the “normal” range. Right on! I wonder how much of the bad press fat folk gets is actually aesthetic? And the increase in obesity does not require a government research contract to find. Anyone paying attention has noticed in the last 10 years a great increase in really overweight people, particularly Americans. Go to any mall, any airport, any sporting event. Walk down any street in the world outside of the U.S. and you often can spot Americans, mostly by their girth. You might confuse them with an occasional German, but thanks to the terrible things we eat (visit Burger King and order an Enormous Omelette Sandwich--their trademark--and gulp down 730 calories and 47 grams of fat, which ought to qualify you for a Darwin Award). All this reinforces my opinion that none of those guys have any clue what they are talking about, and in honor of the report I am about to go out and get myself a chopped liver (heavy on the schmaltz) sandwich on rye with tomato at Edmart for lunch, which is to die for. OK. Bad choice of words! [And yes, the picture above is a pastrami sandwich at New York's Carnegie Delicatessen, the gold standard of self-indulgence]
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