Junkfood Science: Government health officials’ newest initiative: combat obesity <i>and</i> climate change in just 30 minutes!

November 11, 2007

Government health officials’ newest initiative: combat obesity and climate change in just 30 minutes!

According to Dr. Howard Frumkin, director of the CDC's National Center for Environmental Health, the CDC is considering a public promotional campaign to fight two deadly public health crises — global warming and obesity — at the same time. Their simple solution, they say, will cut calories and carbon dioxide in one. What is their proposal?

Associate Press reports today:

Fighting Fat and Climate Change

Get out of your car and walk or bike half an hour a day instead of driving. And while you're at it, eat less red meat. That's how Americans can simultaneously save the planet and their health, say doctors and climate scientists....

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention is considering public promotion of the “co-benefits" of fighting global warming and obesity-related illnesses through everyday exercise, like walking to school or work, said Dr. Howard Frumkin, director of the CDC's National Center for Environmental Health.... The American Public Health Association, which will highlight the health problems of global warming in April, is seeking to connect obesity and climate change solutions, said executive director Dr. Georges Benjamin....

The average person walking half an hour a day would lose about 13 pounds a year. And if everyone did that instead of driving the same distance, the nation would burn a total of 10.5 trillion calories, according to [Paul Higgins], formerly with the University of California at Berkeley. At the same time, that would cut carbon dioxide emissions by about the same amount New Mexico produces, he said.

Regular readers won’t need further explanation as to the unsoundness of the weight loss claims in their proposal. While enjoying physical activity can have lots of benefits, weight loss isn’t one of them. No official medical guideline has supported with sound research that safe levels of exercise alone are effective for weight loss. Most who enjoy regular walks or some other form of physical activity every day for years and decades do not seen any appreciable changes in weight — let alone 13 pounds a year!

By their math, an adult who takes a daily walk beginning at age 18 would lose 546 pounds by age 60!

Do they really believe consumers are this obtuse?

Meanwhile, fat athletic types have not wasted away yet.

Speaking of exercise and weight loss, did you hear about the latest study published in Obesity, the journal of the North American Association for the Study of Obesity? Led by Anne McTiernan at the Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research Center in Seattle, Washington, they conducted a one-year randomized, controlled clinical trial on 202 “sedentary/unfit” men and women who underwent at least one hour a day of moderate to vigorous intense aerobic exercise, 6 days a week. Only 7 participants dropped out. How much weight had the exercisers lost by the end of the year, after working out harder and twice as long as recommended for health benefits? The women had lost 1.4 kg and the men 1.8 kg. BMIs had changed a mere 0.5.

This isn’t the first time fat people have been blamed for contributing to global warming and killing the polar bears. According to this AP news story, we can look for more such proposals from the CDC in its war on obesity. What the AP writer neglected to report was that Professor Howard Frumkin is the lead investigator for the Neighborhood Parks and Active Living project, funded by the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation. It’s another of RWJF’s Active Living programs previously reviewed. This $600,000 initiative is to promote physical activity in parks.

©2007 Sandy Szwarc

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