Sunday, November 26, 2006

Fat Assumptions

Dieting may be more dangerous than being overweight. A study challenges many of our assumptions about dieting and obesity. Excerpt:

One of the principal targets of the obesity crusaders has been the school vending machine. However, the banning of these machines and their stocks of snacks and sweets is very much at odds with the most recent science on children, junk food, and obesity. In 2004, a World Health Organisation study of 8,904 British pupils found that overweight children ate sweets less frequently than normal-weight children did. Children who ate larger amounts of junk food actually had less chance of being overweight.

One large-scale American study spent three years tracking almost 15,000 boys and girls aged between nine and 14 to investigate the links between body mass index and the consumption of fruit and vegetables. It found no correlation, and concluded that "the recommendation for consumption of fruit and vegetables may be well founded, but should not be based on a beneficial effect on weight regulation".

The parallel claim of an adult obesity epidemic is equally unsubstantiated. There has been significant weight gain among the very heaviest segment of the adult population. However, this has not been true of most of the individuals who are labelled overweight and obese, whose weights have only slightly increased. In America, it is true that there was a rapid increase in the number of overweight people in the early years of this decade: but only because the classification of what was "overweight" was reduced from those with a body mass index of 27 to those of 25. Overnight, previously normal weight people discovered they were overweight.

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