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big fat con

2004-05-11 15:21:32.551026+00 by Dan Lyke 2 comments

In light of that thread on weight management, here's The big fat con story:

The case against fat proceeds on the assumption that if a fat person becomes thin, that person will acquire the health characteristics of people who were thin in the first place. Although this assumption may seem like simple common sense, it is, like many commonsensical assumptions, quite dubious. If a person who is physiologically inclined to be fat loses weight, this does not transform that person into someone who is physiologically inclined to be thin. To understand the implications of this distinction, consider that bald men die sooner, on average, than hirsute men, probably because bald men have higher levels of testosterone, which appear to lower life expectancy. Given this, surely no one would conclude that giving a bald man hair implants would improve his prospects for long life.

The article points out that much of the increase in "obesity" and Type 2 Diabetes can be chalked up to the lowering of the ranges which qualify a person for each of those, not necessarily that more people actually have blood sugar issues.

It also flirts with, but doesn't fully say, that exercise rather than dieting is what's likely to have the positive health effects, and points out the cultural differences in notions of how heavy it's appropriate to be.

It's this last one that I find most interesting:

When asked to define "beauty", the white girls described their feminine ideal as a woman 5ft 7in tall, weighing between seven and seven and a half stone (ie, someone thinner than the average model). By contrast, the black girls described a woman whose body included such features as visible hips and functional thighs.

Perhaps in looking to explain the preoccupation with weight and size we should glance toward the industries that beneit most from selling insecurities.

Not that I'm planning on putting back on what I've lost any time soon; I have more energy now and I'm getting more exercise. Just a reminder that our notions of health are as politicized and driven by issues of the consumer culture as anything else.

[ related topics: Health Sociology Consumerism and advertising Race Physiology ]

comments in ascending chronological order (reverse):

#Comment Re: made: 2004-05-13 15:32:15.279561+00 by: Dan Lyke

And Dan Savage answers criticism about his comments concerning heavy people in low-rise jeans.

#Comment Re: made: 2004-05-14 16:38:49.396206+00 by: Johnny

This sounds like more preposterous fat-justification. Comparing hair transplants to weight loss is moronic. Being fat and eating fat is causally related to a host of metabolic diseases. The link between testosterone and life expectancy (if it is real) is just a correlation, and like many correlations is an epiphenomenon, not a causal relationships. Caloric restriction in laboratory animals is the single most important factor in increasing longevity and general health, and not just by blips. Rats with caloric intake reduced by about 10% from what they would eat freely can live up to 25% longer, and have a markedly reduced incidence of tumors. There is little reason to believe that this wouldn't apply to people. And no responsible doctor would base a disease diagnosis on a single blood test that is out of range; these days, major diseases like diabetes have complex, fairly well-established diagnostic criteria to fulfill before considering that a patient is affected and needs treatment. This said, it is true that the BMI index is really out of whack. According to BMI I am considered overweight and borderline obese, and I'm always getting compliments from people (who have no vision problems) about how slim I am - I'm 6', 200 lbs, and wear 34" waistline pants. The BMI is calculated on weight, but doesn't take into account whether your weight is muscle or fat, so someone who is well-built can have an overweight BMI. Unfortunately the BMI appears to be used more and more as a gold standard, which is likely to mess up a lot of research results, especially pertaining to the less than obese, overweight groups.