Profiting off the fat of the land

5th March 2008

Profiting off the fat of the land

PIggy Bank

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.

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This entry was posted on Wednesday, March 5th, 2008 at 10:43 am and is filed under Fat Acceptance, Health, Nutrition & Fitness. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0 feed. Both comments and pings are currently closed.

There are currently 15 responses to “Profiting off the fat of the land”

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  1. 1 On March 5th, 2008, Devi said:

    I saw that article on Yahoo News and, not surprisingly, it was accompanied by an image of a morbidly obese man on a scooter. Even the articles proclaiming the problem may not be as big of a threat as we’re led to believe can’t get away from the stereotypical photographs.

    One can’t help but wonder how much fear there would be if news outlets started using photos depicting a wider range of people who fall into the overweight and obese categories.

  2. 2 On March 5th, 2008, Karen said:

    Wait, wait, wait. You mean “follow the money” works here too? OH NOEZ!!! It cannot beeeeeeeeeee!!!! Its TEH FATZ!!!!! TEH FATZ is eeeeeviiiiiiil. It’s not about money, its about health!!!!!

    So, how’s my troll impression?

  3. 3 On March 5th, 2008, Charlotte said:

    This may or may not be related to the post, but the other day I was watching TV and I saw a commerical for lap band surgery (why do they need to make commercials for surgeries, anyway?) and it basically came across as “Lap-Band surgery is the ultimate key to happiness!” It made me really mad.

  4. 4 On March 5th, 2008, devil said:

    I don’t put a lot of faith in what doctors (collectively) say. Most of them, in my experience, are just white collar drug pushers.

    I was reading some article where a doctor said, “I have many young fat patients but few old fat patients. Fat people die [from being fat] before they get old.” Oh, REALLY? I live in an older community and the folks here come in all shapes and sizes.

    If smokers were as picked on, as a group, as the overweight, there would be rioting in the streets. Seriously, it would be a bloodbath.

  5. 5 On March 5th, 2008, Aria said:

    Smokers are JUST as picked on! There are more commercials against them and just as many ugly looks to be gotten. And they’re taxed! If all else fails, tax the poor smokers. At least you’re not taxed per extra BMI adjusted pound yet.

    Also? If people stop paying for the diets, the diets won’t sell. Sort of like ‘size-enhancing’ pills, man I wish those would go away. Stop buying the snake-oil and there won’t be any more snake-oil salesmen.

  6. 6 On March 5th, 2008, Meowser said:

    Hey Devil, that’s probably because smokers are carrying burning objects in their hands, so nobody wants to mess with them. :-P

    I have transcribed and edited thousands of medical reports during my career, from all over the country. I get reports from fat people over 80 all the time. It’s NOT a rarity. (By contrast, FWIW, I get very few reports from current smokers over 80, though ex-smokers that age are very common.)

    Another thing to consider is that people’s weight tends to decrease through no effort of their own after age 65. People 65+ who aren’t fat already almost never gain serious weight unless they are on something like prednisone, and even there that’s mainly edema (water weight), not fat. Wasting illnesses that cost a lot of pounds (fat AND muscle mass) are very, very common in the elderly. That’s how a lot of them wind up in nursing homes. So if you see a thin 90-year-old person, best not to assume they’ve always been thin, because that may not be the case at all.

  7. 7 On March 5th, 2008, Reas Kroicowl said:

    This is off topic, but “parvenu”? I swear, you come up with the best words! I’m ashamed to say I had to look that one up.

    My dad got the lap band surgery in December. He’s lost about 35 pounds and is complaining regularly that it’s “not enough”. He’s also eating “more” than he’s supposed to at each meal. According to his doc, he should only be able to eat one cup of food at any sitting. So his solution is to get the thing tightened. The ultimate irony? His surgeon is what our society would consider “morbidly obese.” He had surgery about a decade ago, numerous health issues ensued and he then had it reversed. There’s now a whole wing at our local hospital for these kinds of surgeries. Sigh.

  8. 8 On March 5th, 2008, Meghan said:

    This doesn’t surprise me at all, and I’m so glad that it’s getting more attention. I was really interested to read your blog, the other blog, and the article – as well as that Fantasy of Thinness post. It’s gotten to the point where even if you’re high-normal or normal weight, you HAVE to want to be thin in order to function as a normal human being in this society, and anything else is just evilbadwrongunhealthy. I’ve always found the anti-obesity rhetoric a little funny because I’m clinically obese (I am currently at about a BMI of 31, but I’ve been as high as 35) and have perfect blood sugar, cholesterol, blood pressure, etc. – and I come from a family of fat high BP high cholesterol type II diabetics. Theoretically, if everything everyone keeps saying is true, I should be keeling over right now. But none of my health problems, with the exception of my eating disorder, are weight related.

  9. 9 On March 6th, 2008, Gina said:


    I saw that commercial, too, and was utterly disgusted. I work in the industry, and, as you all know, it’s all about the bottom line.

    Of course they want us fatties scared of our own bodies: they need to make the profits.

    The lap band commercial, to me, is unethical. Surgery shouldn’t be advertized like a drug.

    (Also, if I remember right, the commercial doesn’t list side effects/complications. Bad device company.)

  10. 10 On March 6th, 2008, Devi said:


    I saw that too and was more than a little disturbed. Does anyone know if they run television ads for cosmetic surgery or botox?

  11. 11 On March 6th, 2008, Rachel said:

    (Also, if I remember right, the commercial doesn’t list side effects/complications. Bad device company.)

    So, if you advertise a drug, you have to list the negative side effects, but if you advertise for a surgery, you don’t have to? Does anyone know more about the legalities surrounding that?

  12. 12 On March 6th, 2008, Bree said:

    Devi: I have seen commercials for Botox. They’re not run as much as the lap band and diet ads though, but it’s basically the same premise: use Botox and you will be one of the attractive people again.

  13. 13 On March 30th, 2008, Portia said:

    Perhaps the reason people look fat these days is because they’re taking those serotonin reuptake inhibitors that affect an enzyme that increases appetite 4 fold. Check it out. I’m one of them

  14. 14 On July 22nd, 2009, The history of BMI and why we still use it » said:

    [...] on the “independent” board making the recommendations for the new lower cutoffs had ties to the commercial weight-loss industry and stood to profit financially should more people be considered overweight and [...]

  15. 15 On September 28th, 2009, Can’t lose weight? Maybe it’s because you like yourself too much » said:

    [...] is why they were fat.  In other words, because the FC people were not as susceptible to the often commercially-funded and greatly-exaggerated OMG FAT KILLS hysteria and fear-mongering, they liked themselves more and [...]

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