Monday, 18 February 2013

Dear doctors, if you're going to be fussbuckets can you at least get the facts right


The media is all afroth with the latest press release from "The Doctors" about us getting a little chubby. This is accompanied by images of podgy middles being manhandled and reams of self-righteous judging of other folks' lifestyles.

In a report spelling out the problem in stark terms, the academy says doctors are "united in seeing the epidemic of obesity as the greatest public health crisis facing the UK.

I mind greatly about doctors wanting new taxes, controls and so forth - nannying fussbucketry is not just wrong it's immoral. But I mind even more about the facts - and these doctors can't even be bothered to get these right.

Firstly there's the epidemic - well there isn't one. This is an epidemic:

A widespread occurrence of an infectious disease in a community at a particular time.

These are doctors for heaven's sake, surely they care just a little about the precision in using medical terms? Or am I crediting the fussbuckets with giving a damn? Obesity isn't infectious - I'm not going to catch it from the fat person round the corner however hard I try. I'm going to get fat if I eat too much food and exercise too little - nothing catching at all.

Then there's the line that obesity is "getting worse". This too is wrong - here's the Joseph Rowntree Foundation (not a regular enemy of nannying fussbuckets) on the subject:

Over time, there is little sign of the inexorable rise in obesity that underlies some of the concern about the issue. Rates for children did rise and peak in 2004 but have since fallen and are now no different to what they were in the late 1990s.

So we're fatter than we were in the 1980s but not actually getting even fatter.

So those doctors have misused (quite deliberately) the term 'epidemic' and lied about obesity getting worse. They also ignore the pesky research showing that being a bit chubby isn't a problem - it might even be good for us:

Results showed that overweight people were six per cent less likely to die during the average study period. Mildly obese people had a five per cent lower rate of premature death.

The research showed that men and women hold an equal advantage when it comes to being overweight, and that the conclusion was not affected by age, smoking status, or region. 

Has anyone considered that what we call "normal weight" is, in truth slightly underweight?

Even if we accept the (plainly wrong) we're all getting fatter argument, the nannying fussbuckets are after the wrong targets - fizzy drinks and burgers:

Over the last 10 years, the consumption of soft drinks containing added sugar has fallen by 9%, while the incidence of obesity has been increasing. And 61% of soft drinks now contain no added sugar. 

Doesn't look like full fat coke's to blame - the burgers then?

 ...there was no significant association between increasing takeaway and fast food consumption and obesity as measured by BMI corrected for age and gender. This is not a new finding. For example, French and colleagues found no significant relationship between frequent consumption of fast food and being overweight in their analysis of a cohort of 11-18-year-old boys and girls. Similarly, Simmons et al found no correlation between increasing takeaway consumption and obesity measured by either BMI or waist circumference.

Blast - it's not the burgers either.

This is the problem - there is a problem but the doctors are too fussed about nannying us to ask why and what might be done. Here's our friends at JRF again:

There is also a difference for adults with a clear social gradient for women (with 31% of the poorest being obese compared with 19% of the richest) but pretty much equal rates for men across all incomes (between 24-29%).

Spotted that - I'm sure you have on your high street. Let's call it the Jack Sprat Principle. But why? Why are working class women so much more likely to be obese - trying to understand this might be a whole load more valuable than banning advertising or taxing fizzy drinks.

This is the problem with public health - too terrified to target risky groups, our fussbuckets find it simpler to propose whole population solutions to problems that, in truth, affect only a minority of that population.

However, the biggest lie today is the idea that the solution lies in ever more draconian controls, more taxes and taxpayers money poured into unpleasant and aggressive "public health" campaigns. And all because - we're told without evidence or foundation - that slightly less than 3% of NHS resources goes to deal with the health problems contingent on obesity.



SadButMadLad said...

And when you look at one of the documents mentioned in the BBC article ( you see that older people are more "obese" than younger people. Can I say that is perfectly normal and doesn't mean anything about us getting fatter because we're eating more. It's just natural.

And don't get me started on BMI in which the arbitrary definition of "obese" has been changed over the years so that more and more are classified as "obese" even though they haven't gained weight.

Ivan D said...

This isn't news. It is the same autocratic arrogant medics uttering the same vitriol in the name of a slightly different umbrella organization claiming to represent a majority of doctors. These people remind me of Arthur Scargill. They claim to represent their people without bothering to obtain any real mandate whatsoever. They also occupy a similar space in the political spectrum to Scargill in that they detest industries that make a profit. From their positions of pampered privilege they pour scorn on those of us who contribute to their pay packets by bypassing the democratic process presumably on the grounds that passing a medical degree elevates them above us mere mortals. We should perhaps thank the BBC for exposing these people by reporting their rehashed rantings as "news"

Jackson said...

They deliberately misuse language so that they can label you a nitpicker when you call them on it.

Also, it is increasingly seen to be a virtue that one is nobly corrupt. They can pretend that whilst it hurts them to lie that they truly ruly want to help the ignorant and feeble.