Tuesday, November 27, 2007

New "Prevent childhood obesity" initiative forgets some things

Today we got the news that Laura Bush (our First Lady) saluted the announcement of a new initiative to prevent "childhood obesity" and promote "healthy weight".

Although I generally like the Bush administration, what I do NOT like is that they are even MORE in bed with the pharmaceuticals and the diet industry than are the Democrats. I guess they really believe in this stuff because the President with a healthy cholesterol level of 170 is , believe it or not, exposing himself to muscle weakness risks and cancer risks by taking one of the statin drugs.

There are two problems with the childhood obesity "epidemic". Judging on 2 large survey studies (you know how accurate epidemiological survey studies are.... NOT), the CDC came up with the following:

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, data from two National Health and Nutrition Examination Surveys (NHANES) (1976-1980 and 2003-2004) show that prevalence of childhood overweight is increasing. For children aged 2-5 years, the prevalence increased from 5.0 percent to 13.9 percent; for those aged 6-11 years, prevalence increased from 6.5 percent to 18.8 percent; and for those aged 12-19 years, prevalence increased from 5.0 percent to 17.4 percent.
Well that's all well and good but even the worse stats such as those for those kids aged 12-19 years old put "obese" kids at a MINORITY. 19 percent obese means that 81 percent of the kids ARE NOT obese.

The other problem is, of course, that the BMI scale, an outdated inaccurate scale which was invented in the 1850's which does NOT take into consideration, muscle, gender or bone mass, puts many who are NOT obese into the "obese" area...

Finally when we think of "obese" we think of those very large kids like "the Maury Show" features from time to time (you know the ones they put in diapers and give donuts to before they show them on TV and berate the parents for "childhood abuse"?). But "obese" is medically defined as any BMI over 30.

For example, some very slim but muscular Hollywood stars and many Olympic athletes are also classified as "obese" (including the governor of California).

So no one is really sure whether those "classified" as "obese" by weight are really obese or just very muscular and/or big boned.

In any case, by any measurement, the majority of kids ARE NOT OBESE. Has anyone asked the question, why start a weight based initiative when MOST of the kids are not obese?

What this is ESSENTIALLY doing is making ALL kids including the non obese ones, utterly paranoid about BECOMING obese. Disturbing reports from the UK and Australia, both of which have stressed weight based initiatives against "childhood obesity" stated that a raising percentage of kids 12 and up are dieting, vomiting, starting smoking and doing other unhealthy things to avoid the "dreaded" obesity because the bottom line is that any kid who has a "normal" BMI will be accepted as living a healthy lifestyle REGARDLESS of how that "normal" BMI was attained.

One of the kids on a "National Body Challenge show" who was very slim asked their nutritionist why HE had to eat the "healthy food" because he wasn't fat. I have met several people who feel that they don't have to eat healthy because they are not fat therefore they assume they are healthy. Also several people who smoke who feel they are healthy because they are not fat regardless of the fact that smoking is directly associated with 400,000 deaths a year and 95 percent of chronic lung disease.

When I was a kid, they were hung up on the one number classification of IQ. Despite the many drawbacks of IQ tests and the numerous talents they do NOT test (IQ scales were never meant to be a one number fits all), children were judged and branded by their IQ number and many children were emotionally scarred for life because of this judgment. Now the one number gauge of worth is BMI.

So have these initiatives inspired kids to exercise or eat more veggies and eschew fast foods, potato chips, French fries and the like? NO WAY! Kids are MORE sedentary today than ever, they fill up on junk food and fast food and avoid good food.

So if we THINK we are giving kids the message they ought to live eat more healthy and exercise more, we are badly mistaken. The message we are giving kids is as long as they are slim, they can be as sedentary as they want and stuff junk food all day and all is ok.

Meanwhile, we are seeing outbreaks of childhood diseases which were only a memory in my day, like whooping cough, among vaccinated kids, and even things like cancer and sudden heart attack are on the rise in our kids. Maybe, just maybe, a factor in this might be that they are undernourished for fear of "obesity" (which 81 percent or more never had to worry about anyway)?

One wonders if society will ever learn to use their brains. Or are THOSE brains getting starved out also?

Saturday, November 24, 2007

BBC investigation shows obesity crisis to be overblown!

We used to believe scientists and what they told us. We used to
believe official reports. Now it turns out that, more often than not,
they are telling us nonsense. We just want the truth. Sensationalist
scaremongering used to be confined to the tabloids. Now it's done by
every quango and official body in an effort to justify their existence.
Tim H, UK (comment about the "obesity epidemic" media blitz)

A new BBC program states that the "obesity epidemic" risks may be way overblown, and points out that childhood obesity statistics were not based on real data but on projected and computed data (the largest children regardless of size would be called "extremely obese").

The investigators also state that "most teachers they talk to" have NOT seen this vast amount of obesity in the schools! (neither have I seen "all these obese kids" - most kids I see in school today are painfully slim with the same percentage (or less) of obese children we saw in the fifties in each class - 1 to 3 kids)

Further, continues the investigation, the estimations of the "cost of obesity" in Britain (from a well publicized report) were computed on an error which the author of the report admits but said it made "little difference" (and the error was never corrected). Turns out the error DOUBLES the figures (incorrectly) in places.

The Foresight report put the cost to the UK by 2050 at over
45bn(pnds) a year, almost half the NHS budget.

But Radio 4's The Investigation found the estimate was based
on a misreading of figures from a parliamentary report.
The report's author admitted to the programme that he had
made an error but claimed that it made little difference.
The calculations were based on a Commons Health Select
Committee Report which estimated that in 2001, obese
people cost the NHS 1bn (pnds) a year.
But the calculations for the Foresight report failed to
notice that figure doubled to 2bn (pnds) when allowing for the
costs of both obese and overweight people.


Another British govt report found that:

The increase in obesity will have surprisingly little impact
on period life expectancy of the population

Finally, although a British study attempts to "show" that obesity raises the risk for cancer, the real statistics show that there are no more deaths from cancer in the obese than in slim people.

(If this "obesity epidemic" is threatening us with diabetes, why is it that in the last several decades though the INCIDENCE of obesity has doubled, the NUMBER of cases of diabetes has remained relatively the same with only a few more reported cases now than several decades ago?)

You can download the investigation podcast here:




Friday, November 02, 2007

Obesity and Cancer - Food and Cancer

Actually if you read the news articles about the Report claiming to "prove without a doubt" that obesity is a serious risk factor for cancer, which I understand has been making the headline news for many days, you might get the impression that it talks about obesity alone. But the report which is available at View/Download report actually only has one chapter on obesity although mini rants on obesity and cancer are woven into the report in several other places. And what I found while perusing the actual report is that the news claims about it, far exceed the real thing - the report talks about probabilities mostly and does not provide any new information (although they take hundreds of pages for their non informative report).

According the excellent analysis article on the Junk Food Science blog, these scientists somehow avoided including the largest and one of the most respected studies done on cancer risks called the "Women's Health Initiative". It seems, the blog continues, that they left out quite a few important studies, all of which did not agree with their desired premise i.e. that obesity causes cancer.

They do admit that they are guessing why fatness might raise the risk for cancer (and they also admit that fatness LOWERS the risk for pre menopausal breast cancer). Here is the excerpt:

There are several general mechanisms through which body
fatness and abdominal fatness could plausibly influence cancer risk. For example, increasing body fatness raises the
inflammatory response, increases circulating oestrogens, and
decreases insulin sensitivity. The physiological effects of obesity are described in more detail in Chapter 8. The effects of body fatness-related hormonal changes and inflammation on cancer processes are detailed in box 2.4
In searching for box 2.4, referenced throughout the paper, I found that their big theory is that fat is chronically inflamed due to the fact that fat tissue stores macrophages. But this is a connection which has not been proven to be bad and in fact, fat people tend to have LESS cancer and when they DO get cancer, they survive chemo better than slim people. (Gaesser, BIG FAT LIES, CA, 2002 for one). Also in the pig study, it was strongly suggested that the bodyfat in a pig helped NOT only protect against infectuous disease but ALSO against cancer - the opposite of what this new report is claiming (the pig study was one which did NOT make front page news of course).

Based on studies of pigs, researchers said, that fat helps fend off illness.
Besides keeping a body warmer, fat cells, or adipocytes, produce hormonelike proteins in reaction to invading toxins, behaving much like immune cells that fight disease.
"Adipocytes can be functional and beneficial without creating obesity," said Michael Spurlock, an animal sciences professor at Purdue University in West Lafayette, Ind.
Writing in the American Journal of Physiology, Spurlock and colleagues from the university's veterinary school said fat cells play a role in helping insulin regulate blood sugar levels and can aid the immune system's response to cancerous cells. (American Journal of Physiology, Jan 2004)

Stephen Milloy points out in his article debunking this study that:

scientists don’t really understand carcinogenesis very well. It’s known that the risk of cancer increases with age possibly because of the deterioration of DNA repair mechanisms and a few well-documented risk factors, such as family history of cancer, heavy smoking, and exposure to certain viruses and some exposures to radiation. Outside of those and perhaps a few other risk factors, the occurrence of cancer is largely inexplicable.
There are many of us who might have noticed that the groups which seem to get the most cancer are

1) slim people
2) dieters (i.e. I have known MANY people who lose a great deal of weight and THEN come down with cancer!)
3) smokers
4) for the female cancers - those on birth control medication (placed on the FDA list of cancer causing chemicals in 2004)

This report offers some insights on the whys and wherefores of cancer which may be, according to the American Cancer Society, as much as 85 percent LIFESTYLE related. And because of the erroneous information on obesity and the constant admonitions to "maintain a healthy weight" as determined by BMI, a scale invented in the mid 1800's which does not take bone mass, muscle or even gender into consideration and is, according to the CDC, suggesting weights which are "underweight" and thus not healthy for many people, I fear some of the good things the report has to say might be missed by all in the media's frenzied effort to sell us - yet another - diet.

Most cancer is preventable, the report tells us. Considering that in 1900 they reported 210 cases of cancer in the USA and even when I was a tot in the 1950's, cancer was a relatively rare disease, one does wonder about how much IS preventable. However the suggestions by the researchers seem over simplified and missing quite a few key factors which have been identified as carcinogenic in many other sources. Here's what they say:

Most cancer is preventable. The risk of cancers is
often influenced by inherited factors. Nevertheless,
it is generally agreed that the two main ways to
reduce the risk of cancer are achievable by most
well informed people, if they have the necessary
resources. These are not to smoke tobacco and to
avoid exposure to tobacco smoke; and to consume
healthy diets and be physically active, and to
maintain a healthy weight. Other factors, in
particular infectious agents, and also radiation,
industrial chemicals, and medication, affect the risk
of some cancers.
But making healthy food choices, a balanced diet containing fiber as well as a lot of veggies but low in saturated fat and avoiding transfat completely will likely reduce the risk of cancer as will as little as 20 minutes of walking, 4 or 5 times a week. However, the report's caution to avoid red meat again has no real foundation in science and in fact, red meat may have some micronutrients which are not found in other foods and even in other meats. Obviously if you eat nothing BUT red meat that may not be healthy but avoiding it altogether might be equally unhealthy. Red Meat is a good source of vitamin B12, the lack thereof which can cause neuropathy and more.

Also my bet is that the scientists totally ignored that some 94 worldwide studies suggested a strong link between the artificial sweetener, "aspartame" or "nutrasweet" and cancer especially leukemia and brain cancer!

As for maintaining a healthy weight, science STILL has not determined what IS a healthy weight for most people (but the CDC noted that people with BMIs in the overweight range seem to live longer than those in the "normal" (BMI 22-25) range.

In 2005, the CDC reassessed their data and found that 112,000 people (not 300,000 people) had died from obesity related diseases however, they also added that since people with BMIs in the overweight zone (BMI 25-29) live longer than those in the "normal ranges", one had to subtract 86,000 from the 112,000 and that leaves 26,000 people who die from obesity related disease... less than who die from gunshot accidents!

Report on CDC and healthy weights and obesity deaths

It should also be noted that for 95 percent of the public, maintaining a "healthy weight" (according to BMI) means yo yo dieting or weight cycling which has been STRONGLY suggested in many clinical studies to not only RAISE the risk for most illness but also raise the risk for heart disease as well.

I haven't heard the news stories (I don't listen to the news - because it's so filled with lies) but I would bet that they DON'T AT ALL, emphasize the suggestion in the report to exercise cardio 30 minutes daily, which is a very good idea for all of us regardless of weight.

My bets are that this study was supposed to be the "piƩce de resistance" - the study no one could argue with but since there are already two fine articles debunking the study's claims, perhaps it may fall short of its expectations and merely provide news headlines perhaps scaring a few fat people into Weight Loss Surgery.

Bottom line, this report provides nothing new, and a lot of wrong information about obesity AND cancer yet leaves out some of the most IMPORTANT information about carcinogens in the environment and in the foods we consume. In short it is just the usual rant against obesity cloaked in a different format and published for one reason alone... to sell diets and news papers. ho hum....