May 11, 2004

Jack Sprat - Poster Boy for Good Health?

In the comments to Friday's post, Ann cited an article today (though the time stamp is tomorrow for some reason!) on the globalization of obesity, which is interesting because it is a polar opposite to an article I found earlier today and had planned to post about tonight. Both articles are pretty long, so unless you are really interested in them and have more time and are less ADD-prone than most people, I'm going to trim the fat for you and get to the sizzle.

The globalization article is pretty comprehensive and it has the standard language and statistics that are de rigeur for articles and TV news stories on the subject. To cut to the chase for our purposes, use the Find function (CTRL + F) to search for "grave" - the next dozen-plus paragraphs have the meat of the scary "being fat is very bad for you" message. It does focus on the trend of weight gain around the world, but the spin is: America is getting really obese, but look, there are at least a dozen other places where it's even worse!

The other article is entitled "The big fat con story" and takes the stance that being fat doesn't necessarily equal being unhealthy, nor is being thin an accurate indicator of good health or longer life. He focuses on the reliance by health authorities on the body mass index (BMI) chart as a measure for obesity, which he feels is an insufficient and misleading benchmark for the alarmist messages of "the war on fat." To skip to the part I found interesting, use Find to search for "pageant" - the four paragraphs that follow are the crux of his argument and strike me as having a real ring of truth to them. (Note: 14 stone = 196 lbs. This site was an helpful find.)

Personally, I think that no one can deny that excessive weight can contribute to health problems, but Mr. Campos makes some really insightful observations on how the obsession with obesity is as much myth based on cultural bias as it is a health- and economic-based concern. The only thing he didn't touch on that I think would have bolstered his argument on the economic front is the recent focus on the "cost of obesity" to employers and insurers. Doesn't it seem convenient that being fat is now a focus of attention at the same time that U.S. businesses are trying to cut costs everywhere they can? According to the MSNBC article, however, India is increasing its girth and its working population has a high percentage of deaths from heart attack and strokes. So perhaps those businesses should take a long, hard look at the offshoring of jobs to India or they may have to wage this war there, too.