The blog On the Whole has linked to and commented on an AP story in which doctors from the U.S. and the U.K. dispute the whole obesity fearmongering epidemic. Since this story will most likely get very little, if any, national media, some of the points made bear repeating here:
“The obesity epidemic has absolutely been exaggerated,” said Dr. Vincent Marks, emeritus professor of clinical biochemistry at the University of Surrey.
Marks [and others] claim that the data about the dangers of obesity are mixed and there is little proof that being fat causes problems including high blood pressure, heart disease and cancer.
….”There’s no good causal connection,” said Eric Oliver, author of Fat Politics and a political science professor at the University of Chicago.
Blaming obesity for diabetes and heart attacks, Oliver says, is like blaming lung cancer on bad breath rather than on smoking.
But that’s not what the research and the experts say, I can hear the naysayers grumbling now. Perhaps we ought to consider the motives of those who stand to profit financially from demonizing fatness.
Some obesity skeptics question the motives of experts who make dire predictions about obesity.
With millions of dollars for obesity researchers, an industry of anti-fat drugs, and a boom in the number of doctors offering surgeries like stomach-stapling, the more fat people there are, the more profits there will be in selling them solutions.
…The blurred lines between pharmaceutical money and obesity groups have also caused concern in Britain. In 2006, one of the country’s top obesity doctors quit the organization he founded to combat obesity, the National Obesity Forum, complaining that its goals had been skewed by drug money.
The World Health Organization defines anyone with a body mass index above 25 as overweight, and anyone above 30 obese – standards the U.S. and many other nations also use. The organization insists it formed its standards on the basis of an independent expert committee convened by the organization. But how “independent” is the “expert committee” they relied on?
Yet the 1997 Geneva consultation was held jointly with the International Obesity Task Force, an advocacy group whose self-described mission is “to inform the world about the urgency of the (obesity) problem.”
According to the task force’s most recent available annual report, more than 70 percent of their funding came from Abbott Laboratories and F. Hoffman La-Roche, companies which make top-selling anti-fat pills.
The task force remains one of Europe’s most influential obesity advocacy groups and continues to work closely with WHO.
….”There’s not a lot of money in trying to debunk obesity, but a huge amount in making sure it stays a big problem,” said Patrick Basham, a professor of health care policy at Johns Hopkins University.
Scratch any study purporting to show the health risks of obesity, and chances are, you’ll find a drug or diet company as its financial backers. Do you really think obesity researchers and medical experts are going to produce data that blatantly bucks the financial interests of those who pay their salaries?
Sure, an abundance of food and a sedentary lifestyle contributes to the greatly exaggerated so-called obesity “epidemic,” but fatness can’t be entirely chalked up to a simple case of poor “lifestyle” choices nor is fatness caused by a lack of willpower. The diet industry is now a $55-billion-dollar a year business – if dieting actually worked, these companies would be out of business. Yet people, led falsely to believe that their weight poses significant health risks and is aesthetically displeasing, continue to buy into that fantasy of being thin and when the diet inevitably fails, as it does for 95 percent of dieters, they try diet after desperate diet, all the while believing themselves to be flawed and undisciplined, when in reality, it is the diet that is the failure.
Big Pharma arrivistes, diet company profiteers and their parvenu pawns guised in doctor’s smocks continue to profit off the fat of the land, at the expense of people worldwide, who are encouraged to develop and sustain unhealthy relationships – both physically and mentally – with food, weight and body image.
We need to place people before profits. For shame, for shame.