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Tuesday, August 30, 2011

Hurricane Health

Did you notice that there was a hurricane up the eastern seaboard recently? Unless your head was in the sand you surely heard endless news reports on the minute by minute movement of Irene.  Although some sadly lost their lives and major damage was done in a number of areas the hype may have been greater than the storm itself.

Since hurricane Katrina newscasters in true Hollywood fashion have seemed desperate to cover Katrina II the sequel. So they spent the last few days covering hurricane Irene searching for the devastation and looting. In a twenty four hour a day news cycle the coverage has to be filled with something so as is usually the case the bad news leads. So the fear gets repeated and the facts are left out.

This manner of reporting is also how issues of health are often told. The bad news and the fearful things make great splashes across the headlines while the not so interesting truth is resigned to a below the fold position next to the obituaries. Moreover the worst case scenarios and exceptions are often heralded as the rule of the day. To illustrate this consider the so called obesity epidemic.

The Centers for Disease Control and their compatriots in the fear mongering media made great fanfare of the findings in a 2005 study that they said showed 400,000 Americans die each year from and obesity related maladies. No doubt news headlines were filled with mantras like “fat kills” and “the bigger you are the sooner you will die”. The truth that these findings were dubious however did not make the same flash on the nightly news when or if they were later reported.

In a much less publicized PDF file explanation buried deep on their website the CDC later admitted the fallacy of the 2005 study saying “we will no longer use the previous estimate of deaths from poor nutrition and physical inactivity”. Instead they will stand behind a complex computer model that estimates obesity related deaths at somewhere around 112, 000 per year.

So the truth is that relatively few people die from causes directly related to obesity. How is this true, because computer modeling and estimating risk based on assumptions amounts to little more than voodoo science? Another truth that is glaringly obvious is that true science has been replaced with a tendency to manipulate data to fit previously held assumptions. This should never pass for science, especially tax payer funded science.   

In truth are there some whose life and health are negatively affected by their weight? Yes, but is that even close to a majority? Does it even come close to an epidemic? No and many including Thom Naughton whose documentary Fat Head, Dr. Glen Gaesser and his book Big Fat Lies as well as yours truly are beginning to show that weight and health may not be as inextricably related as once thought.

So the truth is that the truth is not always the headline. The truth requires a little digging to find and a little courage to believe.

And that’s the way it is…    

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