Archive for August, 2013

You may recall the scene in Fat Head where Dr. Mary Dan Eades explained that our brains are made of fat, so when you reduce the natural fats in your diet, you’re removing the raw materials your brain needs to feel happy.  Observational studies have shown that people with low cholesterol levels are more prone to violence, and in at least one intervention study I know of, adding essential fatty acids to the diets of prisoners resulted in fewer assaults.

The bottom line:  real fats in the diet mean less overall crankiness.  As if we needed more proof, look at the weapon a shelter resident in Seattle chose for a recent assault:

In an incident that contains all the illegality of regular assault but with 70 percent less saturated fat, a wheelchair-bound man was bludgeoned with a tub of I Can’t Believe It’s Not Butter! last Wednesday in South Lake Union.

According to the Seattle Police Department’s report, the victim, who lives in a shelter in the 1800 block of Eastlake Avenue, was confronted by another resident, who accused the victim of having his television turned up too loud.

Now, I ask you:  would a brain-happy butter-eater beat someone senseless for turning up the TV volume?  I don’t think so.  A butter-eater would more likely send a curt note.

The suspect repeatedly hit the victim over the head with a 16-ounce tub of I Can’t Believe It’s Not Butter!, according to the report. Officers arrived to find the victim covered in the imitation butter.

I don’t freak out at the sight of my own blood.  In grade school, a classmate accidentally stabbed me in the shoulder with a stylus, and I calmly walked to boys’ bathroom to see if I could stop the geyser of blood before it soaked completely through my shirt.  (There were rumors the next day that I’d been shot and was dead.)  But that was just blood.  If I ever found myself covered in imitation butter, I’m reasonably sure I’d faint.

According to the report, the suspect told officers he poured the fake butter on the victim but denied hitting him with the tub.

Clearly a lie.  No enraged person is going to exact revenge by gently pouring margarine on his tormentor. Besides, to pour imitation butter on someone, you’d have to heat it first.  A more believable lie would be that he spooned the I Can’t Believe It’s Not Butter! onto his victim.

I presume the police officer replied to the lie by saying, “I can’t believe it’s not battery.  You’re under arrest.”

Some of our politicians have been in a tizzy about cheap guns leading to violence.  For the sake of consistency, I think they should start addressing the cheap imitation-butter issue as well.  After all, I’ve never heard of anyone beating a person with a brick of Kerrygold butter.

Congress should start by ordering the NIH to conduct a study and determine how many assaults are committed by margarine-eaters versus butter-eaters.  If it turns out (as I suspect it would) that margarine-eaters are more prone to whacking people over the head, then Congress must take action to prevent more senseless violence.

Wait a minute … I don’t want to act like a typical politician and demand action without carefully considering all the evidence.  First we’d have to determine if we’re looking at causality or a mere correlation.  It could simply be that naturally cranky people are more likely to buy imitation butter.   Perhaps they go to the grocery store, consider buying real butter, then say to themselves, “Nawww, life sucks no matter what you do.  No point in enjoying food. Hey, is that guy over there giving me a disrespectful look?”

Okay then, before Congress jumps the gun, the NIH should follow up with a controlled study.  Prisons are a great place to find large populations of head-whackers, so I’d suggest conducting the study in a few prison cafeterias.  Put tubs of I Can’t Believe It’s Not Butter! on half the tables and bricks of Kerrygold butter on the other half.  Keep records on which prisoners ate which spread and track their behavior over time.

If it turns out (as I suspect it would) that the margarine-eating prisoners were involved in more random acts of head-whackery, then the NIH researchers could write up a nice paper and propose some hypotheses to explain the results, such as:

1. Consuming chemically extracted seed oils disturbs brain chemistry, which in turn leads to cranky moods and violent behavior.

2. A lack of essential fatty acids from butter and other natural fats disturbs brain chemistry, which in turn leads to cranky moods and violent behavior.

3. Margarine sucks and eating it makes people mad.

Whatever the explanation, if a controlled study produces the results I’d expect, Congress will have no choice:  for society’s sake, they’ll have to outlaw 16-oz. tubs of margarine.  After all, nobody really needs that much fake butter.

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The last time we stayed with Chareva’s parents, my mother-in-law asked me to take a look at my father-in-law’s latest lipid panel and help her make sense of it. So I did.

Let’s not worry about the total cholesterol or total LDL. Those figures are close to meaningless. The best indicators of possible heart disease we can find in a standard lipid panel are the triglycerides and HDL. Triglycerides are a type of blood fat, but fasting triglycerides are mostly a reflection of how many refined carbohydrates you eat. His are pretty good for a diabetic. The HDL looks pretty decent too, but it could be higher. Eating more natural fats will do that. Let’s look at the ratio of triglycerides divided by HDL. That’s a better predictor of heart disease than total cholesterol or LDL, because it will give us an idea if his LDL is the large, fluffy variety or the small, dense variety …

Afterwards, she said it would be helpful if I could write up some kind of guidelines to help her interpret those numbers in the future. I never got around to writing those guidelines, but now I don’t have to. I’ll just send her a copy of Jimmy Moore’s latest book, Cholesterol Clarity: What the HDL Is Wrong With My Numbers?

The Clarity part of the title is appropriate because (let’s face it) there’s a lot of confusion out there about cholesterol. Most people have a vague (and incorrect) notion that too much fat and cholesterol in the diet will cause heart disease by raising cholesterol levels in our bloodstreams. Some have heard that LDL is the “bad” cholesterol and HDL is the “good” cholesterol, but that’s where their knowledge stops. Pretty much everyone believes the lower your cholesterol, the healthier you are. I even once read an online comment from a vegan who was upset that her cholesterol was “normal” because she believed that by avoiding animal products completely, her cholesterol level ought to be close to zero.

It’s that kind of confusion about cholesterol and health that Cholesterol Clarity (which Jimmy wrote with Dr. Eric Westman) aims to dispel in language the non-medical crowd can easily understand. As the introduction explains:

If you like straight talk that cuts through the muckity muck, you’ve come to the right place. The title of this book is Cholesterol Clarity for a reason: The intention is to make the truth about cholesterol absolutely clear. This book is not for medical geeks. It’s not filled with complex terminology and jargon that makes the layperson’s eyes glaze over. There are, for sure, a few technical terms you need to know, but we’ve provided a convenient glossary of terms in the back of the book that will explain everything for you in a language you can understand. In addition to examining the current recommendations for cholesterol levels and why they may not be valid, we will provide a practical guide to all the major cholesterol numbers, their ideal ranges (which are likely much different from what you have been told), and what specific actions in your diet and lifestyle you can take to address any troubling areas in your cholesterol profile.

After the introduction, Jimmy anticipates a question readers who don’t know him may have – why should I listen to a guy who isn’t a doctor? – and answers it by introducing the panel of experts he consulted when writing the book. You’re no doubt familiar with many of the names: Dr. Malcolm Kendrick, Dr. William Davis, Dr. Duave Graveline, Dr. John Briffa, Dr. Uffe Ravnskov and Dr. Chris Masterjohn, to name just a handful of the 29 people listed – people who actually understand what cholesterol does and doesn’t do to us. They are all quoted liberally throughout the book. (And as usual, some of Dr. Kendrick’s comments will make you chuckle.)

Jimmy, of course, has a vested interesting in understanding cholesterol and heart disease. His brother Kevin died of heart disease at age 41. Jimmy’s doctors have pestered him for years about his high cholesterol, and yet he scored a zero on a calcium test, which measures the plaque in coronary arteries. Back before he knew better, he even took statins and suffered through the side effects.

The easiest way to describe what the book covers is to list the chapters, so here they are:

What Is Cholesterol and Why Do You Need It?
Forget Cholesterol—It’s the Inflammation
What Do Major Health Groups Say about Cholesterol?
Doctors Are Questioning the Anticholesterol Message
Statin Drugs: Magic Pill or Marketed Poison?
What Does Heart Healthy Really Mean?
Why Low Fat Ain’t All That
Carbs and Vegetable Oils: The Twin Villains
What’s This LDL Particle Thing?
Forgotten and Ignored: Triglycerides and HDL
The Experts Weigh In on Key Heart-Health Markers
Why Are So Many Doctors Clueless about Cholesterol?
What Do You Mean My Cholesterol Is Too Low?
Nine Reasons Why Cholesterol Levels Can Go Up
I’m Still Worried about My High Cholesterol!
But Aren’t the Cholesterol Guidelines Based on Solid Science?
The Low-Fat, Vegetarian Myth
How Your Doctor (Mis)Interprets Your Cholesterol Test Results
What Your Basic Cholesterol Test Results Mean
Eight Advanced Health Markers You Should Consider
Test Your Ability to Read Cholesterol Test Results
Now That You’ve Been Enlightened, What Happens Next?

At the end of each chapter, there’s a bullet-point summary.

The chapter titled What Is Cholesterol and Why Do You Need It? would be comforting to the vegan who was upset that her cholesterol level wasn’t near zero. Here are a couple of quotes:

Cholesterol is a waxy, fatlike substance produced primarily in the liver. It is absolutely essential to the life of humans and animals; without it, our cells could not repair themselves, we could not maintain proper hormone levels, we could not properly absorb vitamin D from the sun, we could not regulate our salt and water balance, and we could not digest fats.

Did you know that cholesterol has some amazing antioxidant properties that can actually help guard you against heart disease? Ironic, isn’t it? There are many reasons why your cholesterol levels might go up: It could be your body’s response to inflammation (a critical concept we’ll discuss in chapter 2), or it could be a sign that part of your body is malfunctioning—maybe, for example, your thyroid function is low. We’ll get into these and the other possible reasons for elevated cholesterol levels later on in the book. For now, all you need to know is that cholesterol is a major line of defense when your immune system comes under attack. So lowering cholesterol levels artificially with drugs could make you more susceptible to germs or bacteria wreaking havoc on your health.

That chapter also includes an explanation of where the Lipid Hypothesis came from and why it was never based on solid science. The next several chapters cover the standard-issue “expert” beliefs about heart disease, the likely true causes of heart disease (inflammation being chief among them), and why artificially beating down our cholesterol levels with statins is usually a bad idea.

After exonerating cholesterol and pointing the finger at inflammation, the book explains why diets that restrict saturated fat and cholesterol aren’t the key to avoiding heart disease. As we Fat Heads know, those diets can, if anything, make the situation worse. Swap fats for processed carbs, and you spike your blood-sugar levels. Swap saturated fats for processed vegetable oils, and you increase your intake of inflammation-producing omega 6 fats.

Yes, vegetable oils can lower LDL, but as clinical research quoted in the book demonstrates, that doesn’t translate to a lower risk of heart disease. In at least one major study, men who lowered their LDL levels by sucking down polyunsaturated vegetable oil ended up with a higher rate of heart attacks. Why? Because what matters most is the type of LDL your body is producing, as the book explains in chapter 9:

There are two major classifications of LDL particles that can be measured: Pattern A is the large, fluffy, and generally harmless kind that is described as “good” LDL (yes, there is such a thing); Pattern B is the small, dense, potentially dangerous kind that is described as “bad.” Pattern B LDL can easily penetrate the arterial wall, compromising your heart health. This is what you are trying to avoid at all costs, so knowing the breakdown of your LDL particles is critical to determining overall heart health.

A standard lipid panel doesn’t distinguish between Pattern A and Pattern B. In fact, on a standard lipid panel, the LDL is calculated, not measured. If your doctor isn’t interested in knowing what type of LDL you’re producing, you can find out for yourself. The book lists some web sites where you can order tests that measure LDL directly and determine the particle size, not just the count.

The next several chapters explain the markers that actually matter (triglycerides, HDL, etc.) and how to interpret them if you’re looking over the results of a cholesterol test. These are the chapters that answer the questions my mother-in-law was asking me when we were going over my father-in-law’s lipid panel: Which numbers should I be looking at? What do they mean? Is this number too high, too low, or about right?

Some cholesterol skeptics insist that lipid panels are completely useless and nobody should bother even looking at them. I don’t agree, and I’m happy to say Jimmy doesn’t either. If your triglycerides are through the roof, if your HDL is in the cellar, those are indications that something could be very, very wrong with your diet or your metabolism. As the book explains in one of the later chapters, a dramatic change in your lipids can also signal an underlying health problem that’s affecting your cholesterol, such as hypothyroidism, infection, stress or hormonal imbalances.

The point of the book isn’t that lipid numbers don’t matter – they do. But as Dr. Dwight Lundell is quoted as saying, it’s important for people to educate themselves about what those numbers mean. If your HDL is 75 and your triglycerides are 62 (excellent numbers) but your total cholesterol is 220, all you’re likely to get from the average doctor is a lecture about your cholesterol being too high and a recommendation for a low-fat diet or a statin.  If you don’t know any better, you’ll end up following advice that will make your lipid panel (and your health) worse, not better.  That’s why educating yourself matters.

Cholesterol Clarity is an excellent, easy-to-read resource for those who want to educate themselves.

And yes, I’m going to send a copy to my mother-in-law.

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Awhile back, the BBC ran a documentary series called The Men Who Made Us Fat. Now the same producers are examining the weight-loss industry in a series titled The Men Who Made Us Thin.  Here’s the first episode.  Tell me what you think of it.

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I recently wrote a post about how mosquitoes and other biting bugs seem to prefer me over Chareva.  Here’s more proof.

The bites in the photo below were my own fault.  I went out to play disc golf and forgot to put insect repellent on my legs — which weren’t bare, by the way.  The chiggers managed to get to me despite long pants and socks.  Chareva works out in the garden almost every day, but she doesn’t get bites like these.

Now this next one really pisses me off:  All I did was go to bed and go to sleep.  That ought to be a hazard-less activity.  But I woke up bitten all over by what I presume was a spider.  All the red welts you see below are bites.  I counted 14 of them in all.  (Most aren’t in the photo because they’re in areas that don’t make for family-friendly photography.)  I have bites in both armpits, on my back and on my stomach.  I was in an all-day seminar for work today and had to pretend to pay attention when all I wanted to do was scratch my own skin off.

Guess how many spider bites Chareva has today?  That’s right, NONE.  Derned critters just leave her alone for some reason.

If anyone has a suggestion for making myself less delicious to spiders, I’m all ears.

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If I were a betting man, I’d bet a thousand dollars I’m going to get a lecture from my doctor when I see him for a follow-up visit in a couple of weeks.  I already gave myself a little lecture, too.  I’ll explain why in a moment, but first a little background:

We moved to Tennessee four years ago, but I didn’t bother to look for a G.P. until recently.  I’m rarely sick and don’t like going to doctors, so I didn’t see the need.  On the other hand, I’ll turn 55 in a few months.  By the time my dad was 70, he had colon cancer, severely blocked coronary arteries, and Alzheimer’s.  My health habits are way better than his and I don’t expect to develop any of those diseases, but I don’t want to be stupidly overconfident.  I was already enrolled in the Vanderbilt health network because of the knee surgery last year, so I scheduled an appointment for a checkup with a doctor at the Vanderbilt clinic that’s closest to our house.

Given all my dad’s health issues, the doctor of course ordered a slew of bloodwork.  My appointment at the lab was scheduled for last Wednesday – a few days after my goddaughter’s wedding.  At the wedding reception, I ate the carbage that was on the buffet and drank several beers.  Special occasion and all that.  The next morning, I extended the special occasion by eating two chicken-fried steaks with biscuits and gravy.  It was the most junk-filled two days I’ve had in many moons.  I had forgotten I had a lab test coming up in a few days, but I probably would have eaten the junk anyway.  Like I said, special occasion and all that.

Today I logged onto the Vanderbilt site to check my lab results.  Here are the numbers that will no doubt prompt a lecture from my doctor:

Total cholesterol:  245
LDL (calculated): 165

Here are the numbers that prompted a lecture from me to myself, even though the lab report declared them within the normal range:

Fasting glucose:  110
Triglycerides: 123
HDL: 55

I’ve had three lipid panels (not including last week’s) since going low-carb nearly five years ago.  Each time, my total cholesterol was between 200 and 210, HDL was over 60 and triglycerides were below 75.  I check my fasting glucose at home a couple of times per week, and it’s pretty much always between 80 and 90.  Even after meals, my glucose is rarely above 105.

So there are two possibilities here.  The first is that my lipids have been getting worse without me knowing it, since it’s been a couple of years since my last lipid panel.  The second is that the party-hearty weekend skewed the lab results.  Since my fasting glucose was 20 points higher than usual, I suspect it’s the latter.

On the 2012 low-carb cruise, someone asked Dr. William “Wheat Belly” Davis about having a cheat day on weekends.  He replied that if you cheat with wheat or other refined carbohydrates, it’s a bad idea.  Just one day of eating wheat can screw up your lipids for the next 3-5 days, he explained, so one cheat day per week can mean you’re spending the majority of the week producing more triglycerides and small LDL.  I don’t know if beer produces similar effects, but I can’t think of anything good that comes from drinking beer.

Anyway, I suspect I’ll be getting an earful from the doctor when we go over my labs.  Depending on what he does or doesn’t know about nutrition, I may even have to endure recommendations for a low-fat diet and a statin.  Naturally, I’ll ignore those recommendations.

The earful I gave myself went something like this:

Hey, Dummy:  don’t cheat with wheat.  Period.

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Interesting items from my inbox …

Kids like vegetables?

This was almost a good news story.  Turns out kids will eat vegetables served with a dip:

Many parents have a difficult time persuading their preschool-aged children to try vegetables, let alone eat them regularly. Food and nutrition researchers have found that by offering a dip flavored with spices, children were more likely to try vegetables — including those they had previously rejected.

You mean a dip made with Kerry Gold butter or sour cream?

“Less than 10 percent of 4- to 8-year-olds consume the USDA (U.S. Department of Agriculture) recommended daily servings of vegetables,” said Jennifer S. Savage, associate director of the Center for Childhood Obesity Research at Penn State. “Even more striking is that over one-third of children consume no servings of vegetables on a typical day. We wanted to figure out a way to increase vegetable consumption.”

I’ve already figured out how to increase vegetable consumption among kids:  serve the vegetables with Kerry Gold butter or sour cream.

According to ChooseMyPlate, a USDA initiative, children between the ages of three and five should be eating one and a half to two cups of vegetables every day. Vegetables provide fiber and necessary nutrients. They can also replace less healthy food choices and combat obesity because they are less calorie-dense.

It’s not because vegetables are less calorie-dense.  It’s because when you give your body what it needs, it stops yelling at you to eat more in hopes that your tongue will stumble across an actual nutrient.

Savage and colleagues found that children were three times more likely to refuse eating a vegetable alone than they were to eat the same vegetable when paired with a reduced-fat flavored dip. And the children were twice as likely to reject a vegetable with no dip than they were if given the same vegetable with plain dip.

ARRRGHHH!!!  Reduced-fat dip?!!  For Pete’s sake, a lot of the nutrients in vegetables are fat-soluble.  That means you need to eat them with fat or your tissues won’t absorb them.

The children tasted and rated six different vegetables: carrots, cucumbers, celery, green beans, red peppers and yellow squash. After tasting each vegetable, the children were shown three cartoon faces and asked to pick which one best showed how they felt. Their choices were “yummy,” “just okay” and “yucky.” The researcher also noted if the child refused to try the sample. In the next session the children were introduced to five different Miracle Whip-based reduced-fat dips, one plain and the other four flavored with different combinations of spices. The most well-liked dips were flavored “pizza” and “ranch;” the least-liked dips were “herb” and “garlic.”

Hmmm, let’s visit the Kraft web site and see what’s in reduced-fat Miracle Whip:

WATER, VINEGAR, SOYBEAN OIL, MODIFIED FOOD STARCH, HIGH FRUCTOSE CORN SYRUP, SUGAR, SALT, CONTAINS LESS THAN 2% OF NATURAL FLAVORS, EGGS, CELLULOSE GEL, MUSTARD FLOUR, POTASSIUM SORBATE AS A PRESERVATIVE, XANTHAN GUM, CELLULOSE GUM, SPICE, PAPRIKA, SUCRALOSE AND ACESULFAME POTASSIUM (SWEETENERS), DRIED GARLIC.

Soybean oil, high fructose corn syrup and sugar.  What a great way to get kids to eat their vegetables.

My daughters happily ate roasted cauliflower with dinner last night.  That’s because their mommy drizzled Kerry Gold butter and cumin on the cauliflower before roasting it.

Don’t be a dip.  Put real fat on your kids’ veggies, then watch those veggies disappear.

How to solve the obesity problem

Take a look at what’s happening to an obese man in New Zealand:

New Zealand’s immigration authorities think they have gotten to the core of solving the obesity epidemic and rising health costs– deport fat people. A 50 year-old, 286-pound South African citizen no longer has an “acceptable standard of health” to remain in the country where nearly a third of adults are overweight, according to reports.

Albert Buitenhuis and his wife, Marthie, 47, moved to Christchurch, New Zealand from South Africa six years ago. They are now facing deportation after their work visas were declined because of his weight. New Zealand immigration authorities cited the demands his obesity could place on New Zealand’s health services in terms of cost.

If I’ve said it once, I’ve said it at least twice:  when governments pay for your health care, they feel entitled to dictate to you about your health and lifestyle.  Never mind that they pay for your healthcare with money they took from you in the first place.

When Albert, 5’ 8”, arrived to take a job as a chef, he topped 350 pounds. Yet he has worked, as has his waitress wife, paid taxes and managed to lose more than 60 pounds, according to The Press of New Zealand. His doctor says Buitenhuis, who has a chronic knee condition, is on his way to getting his blood pressure down and his weight under control.

For the first five years, no one seemed to think that Albert could not fit in New Zealand. But, suddenly, the authorities have decided he must leave. His wife, who is not obese, is on his work visa, so she must follow him to the loading dock.

Look, you goofy government ministers, if the guy has lost 60 pounds, he’s probably healthier than a lot of people who are slowly getting fatter but aren’t considered obese yet.  And as the article points out, the same government ministers haven’t deported smokers.

Fat Head is Cracked

Several people told me that Fat Head was mentioned on Cracked.com, but the first email I received had this as the subject line:

You were mentioned in an article about crap-filled documentaries

You can imagine what I was thinking.  I don’t waste my valuable time and mental energy reading or responding to articles that slam Fat Head or me personally, but I clicked the link just to check.  Turns out Fat Head wasn’t the crap-filled documentary; it cited in a critique of a crap-filled documentary:

This is the movie that made you swear you’d never set food in a McDonald’s again (until the next time you drove by one). For 30 days, Morgan Spurlock decided he would only eat food sold by McDonald’s. He had to eat everything on the menu at least once, had to have three meals a day, and would only Supersize when offered. He documented the bizarre and terrifying changes his body went through while eating what according to science is not actual food.

Here’s the thing: No one has been able to replicate Spurlock’s results, and even basic math disputes the claim that his McDiet consisted of 5,000 calories a day.

As Tom Naughton points out in his documentary Fat Head, there’s simply no way Spurlock could have been eating that much food if he was sticking to his own rules. A large Big Mac meal clocks in at “just” 1,450 calories, and it’s by far one of the fattiest items on the menu. This means that even Supersizing lunch and dinner every day and adding dessert falls well short of the 5,000 calories a day Spurlock’s nutritionist claims he was consuming.

For the record, I do believe Spurlock consumed more than 5,000 calories per day – but not by eating just three meals per day at McDonald’s and only super-sizing when they asked him, which was the premise of the film.  I think he doubled up on meals (which is super-sizing without being asked) and slammed down a lot of sodas, shakes and desserts to make sure he’d get fat — thus proving that doubling up on meals and slamming down sugary drinks and desserts is a bad idea, no matter where you eat.  I’m pretty sure most of us already knew that.

In an effort to find out just exactly what the hell, Naughton attempted to contact Spurlock to obtain his food log, but Spurlock (who makes a huge deal in his documentary about McDonald’s never calling him back) never called him back.

I never expected Spurlock to call me back, but some Fat Head fans participating in an online Q & A asked him why he won’t show anyone his food log.  Spurlock replied he no longer has the food log because all the materials for Super Size Me were destroyed.  I think that excuse is as crap-filled as his documentary.

Is obesity underrated as a cause of death?

In Fat Head, Dr. Eric Oliver described how government officials exaggerated obesity as a cause of death.  Now a new study claims obesity as a cause of death is underrated, not overrated.

Obesity kills far more Americans than we think it does, according to a controversial new study that suggests obesity accounts of about 18 percent of all deaths in the United States – three times previous estimates.

The research, published in the American Journal of Public Health, suggests the latest government estimates soft-pedal the dangers of obesity. And the controversy over the findings show how difficult it is to calculate the costs of being overweight.

The findings are controversial for good reason, as we’ll see in a minute.

The federal government has been in hot water over the issue before. In 2004 the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention slashed its estimates of obesity-related deaths by a third, from 365,000 a year to 112,000 a year, amid a battle over how it made its calculations. And a few recent studies have shown that for people over 65, having a little extra pudge may be protective.

Uh … are my math skills slipping?  If the CDC was claiming obesity caused 365,000 deaths per year and then slashed that estimate by a third, I get 365,000 – (365,000/3) = 243,333.  Seems to me they slashed the estimate by more than two-thirds.  Anyway …

Other experts immediately questioned the way Masters made his calculations. He used data from several national health surveys that ask people, among other things, how much they weigh and how tall they are – which in turn are used to calculate body mass index (BMI) and show whether someone is overweight or obese. The data covers 20 years, from 1986 to 2006.

Then he looked at death records for the same people. “Previous research has likely underestimated obesity’s impact on US mortality,” Masters and colleagues wrote.

Sounds to me like a repeat of what Dr. Oliver described in Fat Head: if you were obese and you died from a snakebite, they said your death was caused by obesity, not the snakebite.

“They didn’t account for smoking other risk factors like alcohol consumption,” says Kenneth Thorpe, a former Health and Human Services department official who is now an expert on health policy at Emory University in Atlanta. “The study doesn’t account for health insurance status, and we know that contributes to mortality rates.”

People who are obese are more likely to smoke than people who are not, Thorpe says, and they eat more unhealthful foods.

In other words, it’s not having a BMI of over 30 that kills you.  But the lousy habits that make you obese can also ruin your health, which is why there’s an association between obesity and disease.  Get rid of the lousy habits, and you can be healthy even if you’re still technically obese.

Someone should explain that to the government goofs in New Zealand.

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