Monday, 12 August 2013

"Your children will die!" More obesity scaremongering.


There is a problem with obesity but dealing with it is not helped by either conflating obesity with overweight or with nonsensical speculations about longevity:

Parents could soon begin to outlive their children because of an epidemic of obesity afflicting the younger generation. Many youngsters are now so grossly overweight they face premature death caused by a heart attack or stroke.

Apparently all this comes from Professor Andrew Prentice, a leading nutritionist, who suggests that:

'Fast foods are likely to be implicated because they contain a lot of fat. The response to the abundance of high-energy, aggressively marketed foods and the sedentariness induced by TV is a pandemic of obesity.'

The classic New Puritan mix - blame something popular with lower socio-economic classes, blame advertising and blame TV (or the Internet). And all just hokum.

There is no 'pandemic of obesity', this generation of children are not fatter than the last generation of children (although they are fatter than the generation before) :

As this graph (from ONS) shows the peak for teenage obesity was back in 2004. It also shows that obesity is much more of a problem for girls than for boys.

Since there is no demonstrated link between overweight and shortened mortality, we should concern ourselves with the actual obesity rather than ridiculous (and unscientific) estimates of life expectancy. Here's the evidence that shows this 'nutritionist' to be wrong:

This systematic review provides high-quality evidence that obesity grades 2 and 3 are associated with higher death rates from any cause compared to normal weight individuals (around 30% increased risk). However, it also shows that lower grades of obesity (grade 1) do not increase the risk of death relative to normal-weight individuals and, in fact, overweight people had a small but significant reduction in their risk of death in the region of 6%.

In English that means that only the very obese are seriously risking their lives by being fat - the rest of us would probably be happier is we could stay a little thinner but we're not going to live any less long than thin folk.

There is no 'pandemic' of obesity, it isn't caused by fizzy drinks and TV. Nor is our increase in weight anything to do with "aggressively marketed fat-laden fast food'. Our daily energy intake has fallen every year since 1958 (with the exception of a small blip in the 1990s), yet we are taller and fatter than our forebears.

We're fatter because we sit about more (or maybe because we eat too much fruit).


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