Saturday, June 09, 2007

Sandy Szwarc does it again

This morning I read the following sentence in Sandy Szwarc's most recent post in her Junkfood Science blog:

"Far more young people are dying from anorexia than . . . from being fat."

Tears sprang to my eyes. That is exactly right.

The emphasis on "overweight children and teens" clouds the issue for the public and for health professionals. So long as doctors and the rest of us are so terrified of being fat, and of having our children be fat, lethal eating disorders like anorexia and bulimia will be underdiagnosed, mistreated, and poorly researched.

Thank you, Sandy, for putting it so plainly.

6 comments:

The Rotund said...

I absolutely teared up when I read that article.

Vegan Doc said...

It's sad to see young girls and boys die of anorexia. It's also sad to see these fat kids who will become my patients in their 30's, with their hypertension, elevated cholesterol, and premature coronary disease. Sadly, many of them will also die young.

I think there needs to be a healthy balance here. Encouraging a healthy lifestyle and a normal healthy body mass does not mean that we are encouraging anorexia or bulimia.

Harriet Brown said...

Actually, vegan doc, if you've been following the news and research, you are no doubt familiar with the so-called "obesity paradox": Fat people apparently don't develop heart disease in greater numbers than thin people. Not only that, fat people actually have better survival rates post-heart attack and stroke. These findings were so surprising to researchers that they labeled them "the obesity paradox," and are no doubt trying to prove how they're inaccurate.

Bottom line: Heart disease seems to happen to fat people and thin people. And cardiac risk factors like high cholesterol are not good predictors of who will develop heart disease and how long they will live with it.

We need a lot more study on this, but at the moment it seems that fat is not so bad. And if you read the mortality study done by Katherine Flegal at CDC a few years back, you are no doubt also aware of the fact that fat people live longer than thin people across the board. Funny, isn't it? Our culture is so determined to demonize fat that it's hard for us to see it in any other way. It's hard for us to acknowledge that fat might be neutral, like having brown eyes (another cardiac risk factor, to show you how irrelevant they can be), or possibly even positive. There is evidence to suggest that older people definitely live longer when they're fatter--when they have more nutritional reserves.

John said...

"And if you read the mortality study done by Katherine Flegal at CDC a few years back, you are no doubt also aware of the fact that fat people live longer than thin people across the board."

I thought the distinction was not so much between thin and fat, but between physically fit individuals (regardless of weight) and sedentary individuals. I have read that it is better to be "fat" and unfit than thin and unfit. However, it is better to be phsyically fit and let your weight fall whereever it may.

Harriet said...

Well said, John.

Juliane said...

I think that we should be eating healthy and exercising, but not starving ourselves, "dieting," excluding foods, or focusing at all on what our body shape is.

While it is true that being sedentary makes you twice as likely to die of all causes, being fat itself is not known to cause anything. Not hypertension, not heart disease, and not death.

Anorexia, bulimia, etc, are tons more deadly than being fat would ever be.