The Myth-Busters’ Myths

I had a problem with Ruopeng An and Roland Sturm’s article at the RAND Blog on myths about American obesity:

There are lots of theories about what’s causing the epidemic of obesity in America. Already, two in three Americans are overweight or obese. If current trends continue, some people believe a majority of Americans will be obese in another decade or so.

A few years ago we teamed up to crunch the data looking for possible policy solutions. We used national studies and government databases to search for ways to combat the epidemic. To do that we needed to look for evidence of what was driving Americans’ weight gain. Was it neighborhood “food deserts” where it was hard to find healthy food? Is healthy food just too expensive? Are Americans exercising too little? Drinking too much sugary soda?

Along the way, we found out that the data don’t support many of the popular theories about what’s causing obesity to increase so dramatically. And we reached one indisputable conclusion: We’re all getting fatter.

The problem I had was with their conclusion:

The hard truth is simple: If we want to stop getting fatter, we have to start eating less.

The authors obviously continue to believe in the simple thermodynamics theory of weight gain, despite the evidence against it.

In my own case I consume about 1,800 calories a day and exercise more than 150 minutes a week. I’m definitely not sylph-like but I’m not sloppy fat, either. According to the tables I’m overweight. Some of that is undoubtedly because I’m built on a different scale than most people. My shoulders are broader, my chest is deeper, I’m more muscular, and my legs are shorter.

I believe that weight gain is multi-factorial including not just not getting enough exercise and eating too much but also age, genetics, and overuse of antibiotics resulting in an imbalance in the gut flora just to name three other factors. I wish more scientists relied on science on this subject.

4 comments… add one
  • Guarneri

    “My shoulders are broader, my chest is deeper, I’m more muscular, and my legs are shorter.”

    The Bears sure could use a good safety.

  • That’s been said before. A PT once noted that I was stronger than anyone she’d worked with who wasn’t a professional athlete.

    I’m too short for pro ball. And at least 40 years too old.

  • Andy

    There was a very interesting segment on NPR yesterday about the human microbiome and recent research which suggests it is critically important in a host of health-related areas, to include obesity.

  • Gray Shambler

    I think our ancestors were much like us except nearly always on the edge of starvation, so, rarely fat, and now it’s just so easy to overeat,
    I read another article that suggests we have developed a new idea of normal weight, a new normal body image.
    Fat people are everywhere, you don’t get a second glance anymore unless you weigh 400 lbs.

Leave a Comment