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Kevin B. O'Reilly

http://www.cato.org/people/images/hires/balko-hires.jpg

I guess Atkins isn't working for your fat ass!

Brock Tice

I'm no fan of Morgan Spurlock, but as a biomedical engineer I can tell you that the more you weigh, discounting those that exercise quite frequently, the more health problems you will have.

You don't have to look around too much these days to see people that are obviously overweight due to fat, not muscle. I'm still a few points over a 'safe' BMI of 25, but I'm getting my numbers closer. I used to be a lot heavier.

Learning (in my studies as a biomedical engineer) about all of the health problems associated with overweight scared me into doing something. I also now exercise several times a week.

Is Spurlock exaggertaing and possibly nuts? Sure. However, don't discount the problems with overweight and obesity because of one crackpot.

Van

Spurlock certainly exagerates, but I think you're being overly dismissive of BMI and what it tries to do. As you mentioned, morbid obesity seems to be the only level that has very obvious direct links between weight and disease. It seems that being "overweight" or "obese" in itselt does not directly cause a huge jump in disease. What does cause disease, and what are very strongly correlated to "overweight" or "obese" BMI levels (because let's face it, a very small percentage of the US populace is anywhere near NBA player or Tom Cruise fitness levels)are poor eating habits and lack of exercise. And while perhaps the BMI rhetoric has become overblown, there's a good chance some of this hysteria is having a positive effect on American habits. Would, for example, McDonald's have introduced salads to their menu without the growing obesity controversy of the last few years? Possibly, but unlikely. I really have no idea whether there has been a positive effect on exercise habits, but I certainly can't imagine a negative one. I guess my point is, some positive effects have come out of BMI, and off-hand I can't think of any negative ones.

And finally, the quote, "It's also important to note that in spite of that, we're healthier than we've ever been in the history of the country." Exactly, in spite of weight gains--ie, we would be even healthier without the weight gains. Drugs and medical science are great, but so is simple behavioral prevention. And a lot cheaper too.

Radley Balko

Sorry, but that's just not true. People who are underweight actually die early at the same rate as people who are morbidly obese.

And the latest research from the CDC shows that there are no significant health risks associated with a BMI of 25 to 35. In fact, there are heath *benefits* to modest overweight (25 to 30). People in this range are least likely to die before average life expectancy.

This uggests that the "ideal" weight is quite a bit higher than what the government says it is.

monty

That isn't a picture of Tom Cruise. It's a look alike.

http://www.splitting-images.com/tom_cruise.html

josh

"You don't have to look around too much these days to see people that are obviously overweight due to fat, not muscle."

I totally disagree with this statement. If we've put on an average of 8 to ten pounds in the past 25 years, and the fitness boom has certainly come within the past 25 years, I don't think you can speculate how much of that weight gain is due to fat and how much is due to muscle. I wish I had data on the number of people who lift weights today as compared to 25 years ago. Anyway, of course there are fat people today, but neither you nor I can speculate without data that there are more fat people today (per capita) than there have been in the past.

joh

so fat people on little trolleys with a oxygen mask that I saw 3 times in american supermarkets during my visit, but never once in europe in my entire life, are normal healthy people, your government just gives them the wrong label???

25 years ago, the wholly different standard of living made getting fat a lot harder than now, hence the fitness boom.

You guys got kids that can't get out of bed without help, dude!

Brian Hawkins

Any serious health professional or scientist that studies obesity will acknowlege the limits of the BMI. The reason so many studies are based on it is because the data collection is super easy: you just have to record a subject's height and weight off of their medical charts.

Measuring something more appropriate and accurate--such as skin impedence for body composition--takes considerably more time and effort. Especially if you're doing a proper prospective study with 20,000+ people.

From a researcher's perspective, I can appreciate the "quick and dirty approach"...it can be valuable for asking big questions that help you zero in on smaller, more definite ones. So epidemiological data based on BMI isn't a bad *starting point* for addressing questions of the form "Does obesity lead to increased risk of...?" But eventually, you have to confirm your data through more rigorous means.

The problem now is that far too much policy and far too much hysteria is being based on data that is--at best--preliminary.

Van

No, I'm pretty sure you can speculate what is fat and what is muscle. All you have to do is look at the people around you. Presuming the subject in question is not wearing a ski parka, the differences between two men of identical height, one 200 lb of mostly muscle the other 200 lb of mostly fat should become readily apparent after even a cursory glance.

As a side note, I recently finished a trip through Europe, and while over there a friend asked me the biggest single difference between Americans and Europeans. At the time I couldn't think of anything, mostly because I felt there were few unversial (continental?) aspects that held from country to country. However, once I flew into Dallas/Fort Worth Airport and started wandering around the terminal on my layover, it struck me: Americans are fatter. I wasn't looking for it, or even thinking about the question, the observation just flew out at me.

G Eugene

Two reasons for the US population getting fatter:

1) 40 years ago everyone smoked like a chimney. Smoking 3 packs a day will curb your appetite. Probably the reason Euro's are thinner.

2) The baby boomers are aging, and as people age they get fat. We were put on this Earth to gain weight. It's in our DNA. Those that didn't put on weight perished in the many famines that afflicted the planet until recently.

Adam M

The FDA changing it's guidelines is seemingly not a case of people becoming "overweight" or dangerously obese overnight so much as a slow-moving government bureaucracy languidly chewing over the research and finally issuing an updated guideline for what constitutes a healthy body mass after several years of research further clarified the issue.

That stated, Morgan Spurlock and the brand of "dogma + one reference" pseudoscience he represents must be stopped before he reaches his 17th minute.

Kevin B. O'Reilly

For some reason, the [/sarcasm] tag I added to my post above didn't show up. Anyway, no offense intended Radley -- just a bad joke.

R. Kirby

You write as if CDC's adjustment of the definition of obesity were completely arbitrary. A bureaucratic slight of hand.
What if it represented new research that identified health problems at lower BMI's?

Radley Balko

R. Kirby -- Did you read the Seattle Times piece? The BMI was lowered after pressure from pharmaceutical companies who had diet drugs in the pipeline.

R. Kirby

So the article points on in detail the industry ties of the NIH expert group on obesity.
But little was said about the data they looked at, or if their conclusions were warrented.
The presence of industry ties certainly makes one think twice about claims. But the adjustment of BMI might still represent sound medical thinking.

francisco velasquez

...You are kidding yourself if you don't think obesity is serious health risk in this country. You obviously have it out for Spurlock for some strange reason, but just automatically argueing the oposite of anything put forth is stupid.

Sarah

BMI is a measurement for people in a sedentary lifestyle, defined as less than three instances of cardiovascular intensive exercise per week. Many people take a kick boxing class twice a week and think of themselves as active, but their muscles have more atrophy period than toning period.

Criticizing BMI as being a bad measure for athletes is like saying a career aptitude test designed for adults would not be effective on children--you're right, but what's your point?

Also, think about what you're implying about the larger body of data. If the data on obesity were collected by more accurate means like a fat caliper or a full body scan, all outliers would enter into the equation, your athletes with abnormally high muscle mass for the population would be included, and people with small frames, underdeveloped muscles and a lot of fat would be included too. Is it not just as likely that the accuracy of the test on the individual basis won't change the obvious general trend?

Bmi Kalkulator

Obesity is a major health risk, but measuring it using BMI is just plain stupid. A friend of my weights in at about 110kg.. 7% bodyfat.. According to bmi he's overweight.. poor fella :)

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