Wednesday, March 17, 2010

Debunking the obesity epidemic nonsense

I've never seen a full-figure picture of Paul Campos, so I don't know if he's a chubbo. The U. of Colo. law professor used to write columns that the Register sometimes ran and his headshot didn't make him look especially fat. Whether he is or not, he is to be commended for taking on the obesity fixation that our noble bien pensants are so taken by. He wrote a book, "The Obesity Myth," that makes a pretty strong case that when studies correct for factors such as physical activity weight alone has no particular meaningful correlation with health and morbidity. Both skinny and fat people who d0n't eat well or exercise are going to have a higher rate of troublesome diseases.

So even though it's old news by now, I wanted to commend him for taking on Michelle Obama's exercise in nannyism, her supposedly noble campaign against childhood obesity. When I was in school we used to call it "picking on the fat kids," and nobody pretended it was anything but mean-spirited. (If one wanted to be mean-spirited in return, one might note that Michelle, with her large behind about which she probably can't do anything, might not be the best spokesperson for svelteness.) Campos notes that the marker for obesity was picked arbitrarily, with no attempt even to justify it on the basis of demonstrated effects on health. He also notes that the trends have been that "by every objective measure, including life expectancy and rates of chronic disease and disability, like American adults, American children are bigger and healthier than they were a generation ago."The notion that today's children will have shorter life spans than their parents is sheer speculation, utterly innocent of any supporting demographic or epidemiological evidence.

In short, Michelle Obama is nannying on a totally phony cause. Perhaps you could say it is at least harmless, but there's evidence that social stigmatization is harmful to children and teenagers and there's a real danger that the obsessiveness with food she wants to urge on parents could lead to eating disorders.