But Don’t Take My Word For It

Some choice excerpts from an article about a study done by UCLA sociologists on the “epidemic of obesity [sic].”

“If a pill were discovered that produced major weight loss, we would expect to see more groups organized around the assertion that obesity is a disease,” said Saguy, an assistant professor of sociology. “But existing weight-loss techniques and products are not very effective and many are outright dangerous. Moreover, there is considerable disagreement in the United States over many questions related to weight and health, including if or why higher weights have adverse health consequences, what an ideal weight is or whether a universal ideal weight even exists, why people gain weight, why some weigh more than others, and whether weight loss improves health.

“The term ‘epidemic’ refers to the rapid and episodic onset of infectious diseases and is associated with fear of sudden widespread death,” she said. “Deaths attributed to obesity are calculated using odd ratios, which are often only slightly higher for those in the obese categories. This is a much looser use of the term ‘epidemic’ than, say, the flu epidemic.

“In fact, recent research has found no appreciable difference in mortality rates among fat Americans with a BMI less than 35. Only 6 percent of the American population fall into that category, Saguy points out. Many more medical issues pose a greater threat to more Americans, most notably malnutrition and smoking.

“Media coverage of obesity overtook reporting on hunger and malnutrition in 2002 despite the fact that the World Health Organization deemed hunger to be the leading cause of world death,” she said. “Similarly, cigarette smoking continues to be the leading cause of ‘preventable death’ despite the increasing shift of focus from smoking to obesity.”

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