Corrections to the blogosphere, the consensus, and the world

Monday, March 28, 2011

Lard lad

I participate in a barney over at John Quiggin's blog.
Ooh, goody gumdrops. I get to be a denialist.I've always wondered what it was like.
Possibly not entirely, in that I’m prepared to concede, in very general terms, that if you eat more you’ll get fatter. However…
Whatever the aesthetic appeal of unfatness, in terms of the bigger picture it’s just not that unhealthy.
(1) If you control for social class and activity, greater weight doesn’t have a massive effect on all-cases death rates (see, for example, ‘Obesity: How big a problem? by I. Wikelgren, Science, 1998, Vol. 280 no. 5368 pp. 1364-1367′)
(2) if you look at the epidemiology, it’s very hard to see any input from obesity. Australian life expectancy has been rising at the rate of three months a year virtually uninterruptedly for the past century (see here). Whatever year you date the start of the obesity epidemic to, and whatever the age group you think it’s concentrated in, I defy you to find any signs of it on the graphs. Yes, of course, you could say that the rise is due to other factors such as better health care or more aggressive medicine and that without it we would be improving by six months a year - hell, if we could punch our present rate up by a mere four times we could all live for ever - but that’s a hypothetical.
(3) Whatever effect obesity does have is almost certainly swamped by the effect of where you stand in the social hierarchy (see the Whitehall studies, passim).
OK, now hit me.

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