Cancer, that is.
Spurlock quotes someone from the "Vanerbilt University Online Wellness Center," who writes:
"According to studies conducted by the American Cancer Society . . .more than 20 percent of all cancer deaths in women and 14 percent in men ar linked directly to being overweight. Another 33 percent of cancer deaths are linked to poor diet and physical inactivity . . . that's a lot of people dying needlessly." (p. 15)That study from the American Cancer Society made huge news. Most media outlets did just as Spurlock has done -- found someone who had read the executive summary, and quoted him. Few reporters read the actual study (or if they did, they ignored its findings). It's odd how rarely Spurlock cites an actual study. Instead, he usually cites a newspaper's account of the study, or something he found online, such as the Vanderbilt Online Wellness Center.
If he had looked at the actual data , he'd have found some pretty striking contradictions. For example, the study found that among people the government classifies as of "healthy weight," there were 4.5 cancer deaths per 1,000 people. But get this: Among people the government classifies as "overweight," there were only 4.4! If you're worried about cancer, it's actually healthier to be overweight than of "healthy" weight. Paul Campos and others have also pointed out that the study's data shows that women who are extremely obese actually have a lower risk of cancer than men who are underweight. As the Center for Consumer Freedom has put it, if risk from fat is our barometer, Roseanne Barr is at lower risk of cancer than David Spade. The study also concedes that being overweight actually helps prevent brain cancer, leukemia, lung cancer, and melanoma.
Here's what the study did: Among the extremely obese, deaths from cancer increase prett significantly. Incidence is higher, but deaths are also higher -- probably because cancer is more difficult to detect and treat in the very obese. In any case, in drawing its conclusion (the conclusion carried by most of the media), the study merely lumped the very high rates among the very obese in with the rates of the obese and overweight. It then compared the aggregate rates of those with the aggregate rates of those of "healthy" weight and the underweight. The former was higher. Therefore, we were told, being overweight puts us at greater risk of cancer. But the vast majority of Americans aren't obese, or very obese. They're merely overweight by government standards. And they aren't at greater risk for cancer, they're actually slightly at less risk.
This is how the public healty hysteria industry works.
There were data collection problems, too. The study was based on surveys. Researchers asked people how much they weighed at the time, and asked them to remember how much they weighed a year ago. The study was based on their answers, not on actual medical records. When the New England Journal of Medicine published the study, it actually published an accompanying editorial expressing reservations about the study's conclusions. Most media outlets went with the study's summary, ignoring its data tables and the accompanying editorial.
Moving on, Spurlock writes:
Specifically, diet and obesity have been linked to increased risk for breast, colon, endometrial, esophageal, and kidney cancer., (p. 15)Linked by whom? Deaths from every one of those types of cancer is down over the last fifteen years, the very period over which we've been allegedly getting obese. In fact, of the ten types of cancer nutrition activists tell us are most strongly linked to obesity, deaths from nine of them are down (breast, kidney, gall bladder, stomach, ovarian, cervical, prostate, colon, and pancreatic). Only esophogeal cancer has gone up. See a few handy charts and graphs I made here.
In fact, deaths and incidence of cancer in general have dropped every year for the last fifteen years. And this, while we've all been getting fatter. Pretty strong correlative evidence that obesity isn't going to drive up our cancer rates.
My favorite part of Spurlock's passage on cancer comes here:
Diets high in animal fat seem to promote cancer and inhibit recovery from things like breast and colon cancer.Again, Spurlock longs for a culture more like those areas of the world untouched by capitalism. Have a look at this table. There are three columns. One is the name of the country. One is per capita GDP, a good indicator of a given country's "industrialization." And one is life expectancy, a good indicator of a country's overall well-being. I'm sure you can guess where the correlation lies. Big GDP equals long life expectancy. Small GDP equals early death.
Where do people eat high-fiber, plant-based diets? The nonindustrial world, that's where. Where do people eat too much meat and fat? Guess.
Fast food and all, the people of the industrial world live about 25 to 30 years longer than the people of the non-industrialized world. There's no comparison. Progress and industry have bettered and lengthened our lives.