Wednesday, June 13, 2007

Fat kills. Except when it doesn't.

Deaths from coronary artery disease in the U.S. went down by half between 1980 and 2000, and researchers at the University of Liverpool attribute this to positive lifestyle changes and better treatments.

Now for the bad news: Those same researchers go on to say, on no cited evidence, that the number of deaths would have been reduced even further had it not been for the rise in obesity and diabetes.

How do they know this? Well, they don't, actually. One researcher is quoted as saying, "The increase in obesity and diabetes are a wakeup call. They reflect the increasing consumption of large helpings of junk food."

Hmmm. So deaths from heart disease have decreased during the same time that rate of obesity have increased, yet obesity is still to blame. That's what I call having it both ways.

An epidemiologist could look at the same information and come to the opposite conclusion: That obesity has a protective effect when it comes to death from heart disease.

Seems like more of the same fat-is-evil ranting to me, liberally laced with assumptions and a heaping helping of bias. Mmm, mmm.


Fiona Marcella said...

Part of the reason for the rise in diabetes could be that people aren't dying of heart disease (or indeed of diphtheria or cholera) "early enough" and are living long enough for their endocrine systems to wear out. Part of it is definitely better and earlier diagnosis. I do believe that obesity IS a problem for a subset of the population, but cries of "obesity epidemic" are dangerous rubbish which will lead to an epidemic of eating disorders and since most people don't have the genetic predisposition to anorexia this will mainly be binge-eating leading to more obesity not less.

Anonymous said...

In the face of this, you have to love this article:

Obesity Paradox Seen in Range of Heart Ills

Yup, "obese" people with heart disease do better, and also maybe after heart bypass. It must be a "paradox" because we all know fat is a death sentence.

Anonymous said...

Hmm, that link isn't working. Let's try this again:

Obesity Paradox

Harriet said...

fat fu,

I LOVE this! If it weren't so upsetting it would be hilarious. It reflects perfectly the messed-up relationship our culture has fat. You'll notice that when findings appear to point in the other direction, there is no hesitation in attributing causality to fat. If there's the slightest chance that fat might be implicated in a negative way, everyone's all over that.

This is so great that I'm going to put up a new post on it, to make sure the most people see it. Unbelievable.

Avian Mooch, or a Really Angry Cow said...

Is this like cancer, where the survival rate has gone up but the occurrence is still the same, or can it actually be believed if the incidence is going down? Because if the amount of coronary heart disease has remained the same, or gone up, then it's most likely that the technology used for treatments have improved, or the treatments themselves. Again, not necessarily having anything to do with heart disease.

There are thousands of obese vegans out there. I'M obese, and a vegan. We aren't exactly dropping over dead of heart attacks, you know. So I rather doubt that this has anything at all to do with obesity, but in eating habits.

We have a saying where I come from. It goes, "CORRELATION != CAUSATION."

It is, however, a good excuses to let your morals on what humans -- women in particular -- should look like even though the science doesn't back you up.

Avian Mooch, or a Really Angry Cow said...

Erm, the last phrase of the sentence in the first paragraph should read: Again, not necessarily having anything to do with obesity. Sorry.

Harriet said...

I like that correlation-causation warning. I don't think we really know what the causation is. But people sure do jump to conclusions.

Fiona Marcella said...

Thanks to the science of the good people at Liverpool University I have found the cause of anorexia.

Yesterday I went to a local supermarket and queued in isle 3. It was obvious that the lady in front of me was anorexic. I happen to know that the checkout lady has a daughter who is currently in hospital with AN, and then our queue was joined by another mother whose daughter is quite sick. No one else anywhere else in the supermarket appeared to be suffering. So, using scientific quantification I can confidently say that Isle 3 at Waitrose Supermarket is the cause of AN.

Harriet said...

I love it, Marcella!