Wednesday, August 27, 2008

More bad science from MPs

This time, it comes from the Tory party. Apparently, they believe that there is no excuse for obesity.

Apparently, our Shadow Health Secretary is due to say, "Tell people that biology and the environment causes obesity and they are offered the one thing we have to avoid: an excuse."

This is all well and good, except for one small thing: we don't know what causes obesity. It is entirely possible that genetic, hormonal or even viral factors cause it. Indeed, it is exceedingly likely that one or all of these is a factor.

The novel "Fat" actually goes into this at great length. It points out that virtually no-one actually chooses to become obese. It points out that at any given time, huge numbers of people (mostly women) are on some diet or other. It also points out that the overwhelming evidence is that diets are actually counter-productive except as a short-term step - most people put the weight back on, plus bit, pretty quickly.

And it points out that most food guidance on this matter is predicated on a simple sum: if calories in < calories out, weight will be lost. Yet this great and simple sum fails to account for the complexities of the situation: if it were that simple then it wouldn't matter if we ate six tiny meals or one huge one in the day, since the calories in would be the same... but this is patently nonsense since the frequency with which we eat (and also what we eat) also affects the 'calories out' part of the equation.

And then there are the idiotic recommendations in other areas. About a year ago, I saw a so-called expert on TV extolling some new finding, effectively saying that anyone who dares ever eat red meat, drink so much as a drop of alcohol, or even dare look at ice cream, then that person would definately get cancer and immediately drop dead.

This wonderful expert then went on to say that not only should we seek to drop our weights until we get to the recommended BMI (despite them being crap - statistically, most of our Olympic medallists are obese according to their BMIs), but that we should in fact seek to be as far under the recommended BMI as we can manage. Fortunately, no-one paid any attention, since being underweight is really, really bad for you. But I wouldn't expect an expert in nutrition to know that.

Another problem with Andrew Lansley's great vision for a fit and healthy Britain is this: when people are feeling happy and confident, they will naturally find it easier to drop weight and keep it off. They will feel more motivated to exercise, less driven to comfort eating, and will generally do better. Stigmatising fat people, as he suggests, will just make them more fat, especially since many of them have probably already tried a bunch of diets, and failed to lose weight each time.

At this point, I considered adding a scheme for dealing with the obesity problem, but I actually did that some ages ago. Therefore, I won't bother (it wasn't exactly revolutionary, anyway). Perhaps I should instead run for office?


Captain Ric said...

What about (something that sounds like) bad science from scientists?

Steph/ven said...

Impressive. I actually feel dumber for having read that.