Friday, April 22, 2005

But They All Ate Organic Rice !

Most of you are aware of the sudden backpedaling of the CDC on its OBESITY = DEATH meme. What you might not be aware of is that being UNDERWEIGHT causes more deaths than being OVERWEIGHT. Here's the scoop:

Apart from this huge downward revision in the numbers of people supposedly dying from fat, there are several things in this study which signal the end of any legitimate linkage between obesity and premature death. First, for the merely overweight with BMI's from 25-30 there is no excess mortality. In fact, being overweight was "associated with a slight reduction in mortality relative to the normal weight category." Being overweight not only does not lead to premature death, something that dozens of other studies from around the world have been saying for the last 30 years, but it also carries less risk from premature death than being "normal" weight. In other words the overweight=early death "fact" proclaimed by the public health community is simply not true.

Second, for individuals aged 25-59 the risks of premature death from being underweight are substantially greater than those of being overweight and they are also slightly greater than those of being obese. For those aged 60-69 the risk of dying from being underweight is much higher than from being even significantly obese, that is with a BMI > 35. Again, the total number of premature deaths due to obesity is 25, 814, while the mortality attributable to being underweight is 37, 746. If anything this points to an epidemic of not fat but thin caused death.Third, the increased mortality risks from obesity were concentrated in a small sub-section of the population, the morbidly obese (BMI>35), who comprise only 8% of Americans. Yet the obesity hysteria of the public health establishment consistently tells us that 65% of Americans are overweight and headed to an early death.

Fourth even the 25,814 deaths per year from obesity needs to be taken not just with a grain of salt but with enough to keep Chicago's streets ice-free for an entire winter. That's because the results are in many cases not statistically significant, though the authors don't mention this. For example, in the 25-59 year old group the confidence interval for increased risk for the obese with BMI's up to 35 is 0.84-1.72, meaning that we can't be confident that even for this group there is any increased risk of early death. The same is true for those with BMI's up to 30. Moreover, the RR figure -- the Relative Risk for dying from obesity - is, in the authors' words, "in the range of 1-2." This means that there is at the very best a very weak association -- notice, not a causal connection -- between obesity and death.

This is definitely NOT good news for the intrusive nannies who want to control what other people eat; nor is it good news for the a$$holes who hope to cash in on the current fast food victimhood trend.

Many obsessive dieters and exercisers that I have met over the years have firmly believed that they had discovered the secret of eternal life. They are encouraged in this belief by the gurus of thin and their legions. How sad for them to discover that death still patiently awaits them, even though they are thin and buff.

This all reminds me of several scenes from Woody Allen's 1973 movie, Sleeper:

Dr. Melik: [T]his morning for breakfast, uh, he requested something called wheat germ, organic honey, and tiger's milk.
Doctor: Oh yes. Those are the charmed substances that some years ago were thought to contain life preserving properties.
Dr. Melik: You mean there was no deep fat? No steak, or cream pies, or hot fudge?
Doctor: Those were thought to be unhealthy. Precisely the opposite of what we now know to be true.

and, my favorite:

Dr. Orva: You must understand that everyone you know in the past has been dead nearly two hundred years.
Miles Monroe: But they all ate organic rice!

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