Thursday, January 8

The Skinny on the Fat

There is a boogeyperson in town and apparently he or she is eating us alive. Beginning in 1996, government officials like C. Everett Koop, the then U.S. Surgeon General began to combat "The War On Obesity". In 2006, Surgeon General Richard Carmona stated that "Obesity is a greater threat than terrorism." and said it could "dwarf 9/11 or any other terrorist attempt" in the number of lives that could be lost to the effects of overweightedness.

We have seen the enemy and he is us (more of us than we'd like). But, not so fast (and not so fasting), there is more to the obesity problem than meets the eye. According to Mother Jones News writer Kiera Butler in her article The Waistland, apparently obesity can be "attributed to low-fat foods, lack of sleep, ear infections, intestinal bacteria, pollution, plastics, poverty, air conditioners, socializing with obese people, your mom's age when you were born, and your maternal grandmother's diet."

And it doesn't help that the way that obesity is measured "body mass index" has been changed so that "Overweight" (as defined by the World Health Organization's Obesity Task Force) is defined as a body mass index (bmi) of 25 or more, down from 27.8. I suppose I should mention that this case of less is more may have a non-scientific causation: 70% of the Obesity Task Force's funding comes from the two drug companies that make the popular weight-loss pills Xenical, Meridia, and Reductil.

Nonetheless, according to Butler, "In 1998, the US government adopted the new bmi standards, spurring fears of an "obesity epidemic." That move was hailed by the American Obesity Association, a lobbying group that's received funding from Weight Watchers and Jenny Craig."

So we are fighting an enemy that we should be able to see and we should be very scared, right?Apparently weight kills, but not in the way you'd think. Active obese people are almost 50% less likely to die of heart disease than sedentary thin people. Statistically, persons over 220 pounds are less likely to die in car crashes. Persons who are underweight are in equal danger of dying than their chubbier cousins.

Despite some uncertainty about the effects of obesity, it's gotten so bad that schools in states like Pennsylvania, Delaware, South Carolina, and Tennessee send "obesity report cards" to parents. Even locally there is a desire to replace beverages and snacks in school vending machines with "healthy choices."

Over on the Big Fat Facts site , they caim that "the obesity industries, including commercial weight-loss programs, weight-loss drug purveyors and bariatric surgery centers, will likely top $315 billion this year, nearly 3 percent of the overall U.S. economy."

Remembering drugs like Ephedra, Fen-Phen and many others have been linked to death, as have bariatric treatments, perhaps encouraging healthy diets, exercise, and a positive self-concept might be a better treatment plan.
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