Cogent quotes – the basics of fat.

Just a few quotes pulled from off-the-top-of-my-head articles addressing The Basics of Fat. For the benefit of people who genuinely haven’t heard this stuff yet.

On the scourge of OMGbesity:

“The claim that we are seeing an ‘epidemic’ of overweight and obesity implies an exponential pattern of growth typical of epidemics. The available data do not support this claim. Instead, what we have seen, in the US, is a relatively modest rightward skewing of average weight on the distribution curve, with people of lower weights gaining little or no weight, and the majority of people weighing ~3–5 kg more than they did a generation ago.”

Campos et al, International Journal of Epidemiology 2006 35(1):55-60

On fat and mortality:

“Except at true statistical extremes, high body mass is a very weak predictor of mortality, and may even be protective in older populations. In particular, the claim that ‘overweight’ (BMI 25–29.9) increases mortality risk in any meaningful way is impossible to reconcile with numerous large-scale studies that have found no increase in relative risk among the so-called ‘overweight’, or have found a lower relative risk for premature mortality among this cohort than among persons of so-called ‘normal’ or ‘ideal’ [sic] weight.”

Campos et al, International Journal of Epidemiology 2006 35(1):55-60

On fat and mortality, again:

Flegal et al, JAMA. 2005;293:1861-1867

On increased life expectancy in the United States:

“Life expectancy for Americans surpassed 78 years for the first time in 2006, and life span increases occurred for both men and women, the National Center for Health Statistics recently reported. Although the results are estimated, the report found the average life expectancy for Americans born in 2006 was four months greater than for children born in 2005. Although (sadly) an estimated 2.4 million Americans died in 2006, there were 22,000 fewer deaths in 2006 compared to 2005, which is a statistically significant decline. Even infant mortality rates dropped more than two percent in 2006. For adults, the improvement is based on falling death rates in nine of the 15 leading causes of death, including heart disease, cancer, accidents, and diabetes. There was a drop of more than six percent in stroke and respiratory diseases, such as bronchitis and emphysema. Heart disease and diabetes deaths also declined by more than five percent in the U.S.”

Medline Plus, July 2008

On the consequences of dieting:

“Even granting the existence of an association between increasing body weight and higher mortality, at least for younger people, it does not follow that losing weight will reduce the risk. We simply do not know whether a person who loses 20 lb will thereby acquire the same reduced risk as a person who started out 20 lb lighter. The few studies of mortality among people who voluntarily lost weight produced inconsistent results; some even suggested that weight loss increased mortality.”

Kassirer & Angell, New England Journal of Medicine, Vol 338:52-54, no. 1, 1998

On the “success” rates of dieting:

“Using these figures, it appears that there are 76 800 000 people dieting…According to the NWCR Web site, there are currently 4000 people enrolled. So the researchers can demonstrate a “success rate” of 0.001%, which is not even close to the dismal 5% estimate cited in the scientific literature.”

Ikeda et al, J Nutr Educ Behav. 2005 Jul-Aug;37(4):169.

(I did a similar bit of arithmetic in 2002, though the numbers I used were slightly different. Fat Fu did an excellent bit of arithmetic using Weight Watchers statistics.)

On fat people being gluttonous overeaters:

“Everyone knows what it feels like to skip a meal or to refrain from enjoying that alluring cheesecake. From this shared experience comes the conclusion that obese people restrain themselves less well than the lean. The problem with this view is that it ignores the basic neural system that controls the drive to eat and the variability of its potency in different individuals.”

Friedman, Nature Medicine, 10, 563-569 (2004)

(My version of this same argument.)

On why we hate fat people:

“Weight is seen as controllable, unlike other stigmatized traits such as race and gender. Our subjects held a particularly strong explicit belief that fat people are lazy. This belief assumes that overweight individuals simply lack motivation or responsibility for a condition that is under their control.”

Wang et al, International Journal of Obesity (2004) 28, 1333–1337.

On just how much we hate fat people:

“The prevalence of weight discrimination in the United States has increased by 66% over the past decade, and is comparable to rates of racial discrimination, especially among women. Weight bias translates into inequities in employment settings, health-care facilities, and educational institutions, often due to widespread negative stereotypes that overweight and obese persons are lazy, unmotivated, lacking in self-discipline, less competent, noncompliant, and sloppy. These stereotypes are prevalent and are rarely challenged in Western society, leaving overweight and obese persons vulnerable to social injustice, unfair treatment, and impaired quality of life as a result of substantial disadvantages and stigma.”

Puhl & Heuer, Obesity (2009)

Some good books:

The Obesity Epidemic: Science, Morality and Ideology by Gard & Wright

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