Junkfood Science: <i>Recommended reading</i>: Enough is enough

February 26, 2007

Recommended reading: Enough is enough

Michael Gard is a senior lecturer in physical and health education at Charles Sturt University’s Bathurst campus. He co-authored The Obesity Epidemic: Science, Morality and Ideology with Jan Wright. His Op-Ed in today’s Australia National Forum about the war on childhood obesity offers the scientific views and common sense rarely included in national debates.

An open letter to the anti-fat brigade: enough is enough

Have you ever noticed how often nutritionists change their mind? One day high fibre diets help prevent bowel cancer, the next day they increase cancer risk. Then the roulette wheel spins again. Voila! Dietary fat is back in the good books after once being blamed for everything from heart disease to snoring. Ditto dairy foods, bread, pasta, alcohol, water, green food, yellow food, you name it.

If the word “science” is stretched to breaking point with nutrition, the study of exercise and health blows it to pieces....On all of these questions scientists are no closer to agreement than they were 100 years ago....The fact that elite athletes and supermodels are neither healthier nor live longer than other people has been an ongoing source of disappointment to the anti-fat brigade. Their research also tells them that starting an exercise program will either make a minuscule difference to your body weight or none at all. But don’t expect them to admit this in public.

Faced with the persistent refusal of Western populations to heed their dubious advice, nutritionists, exercise scientists and now, it seems, the medical profession have invented the “obesity epidemic”....And as with most moral-panics, it is our children who seem destined to bear the brunt of adult anxieties. This is sad and unnecessary.

He then explains how the measures and definitions for obesity have been changed by interest groups to enable more children to be classified as “obese” and create skyrocketing obesity “rates,” just as had been done in the 1990s.

The statistics currently being thrown around regarding childhood overweight and obesity are patently alarmist. Studies tracking childhood obesity levels over time around the world are quite rare and generally equivocal....And all of this will have been done despite there being no study in the history of science showing that childhood obesity causes you to die young....

Next time you take your kids to school, watch the other children as they arrive. If the scientists are correct, between two and three out of every five children should be so overweight as to endanger their health. This is self-evident nonsense.

Applying his expertise and research into physical activity and its involvement in obesity over the past century, he summarizes the science.

But it doesn’t end there. We are also being told that children are doing less exercise than in years gone by, probably because of increased television, video and computer games usage. The evidence that children are doing less exercise is non-existent. In fact, some researchers concede that children are more, not less, physically active these days.....

The idea that technology causes childhood obesity by reducing physical activity is as dead as a dodo. Part of the problem is that the current “obesity epidemic” is a pseudo-problem with no obvious cause. There is no scientific evidence that we are less active than in the past and there is plenty of evidence that, if anything, we are eating more of the food that nutritionists say we should.

What’s worse (or better, depending on your point of view), some health research suggests that fatter might be healthier than skinnier, particularly for the over 55s....Although much of this runs counter to a lot of what we hear about obesity, the evidence is compelling....There are two other inconvenient “facts” which the anti-fat brigade are keeping quiet about....

Read the complete article here.

Bookmark and Share