From the News …

      22 Comments on From the News …

I’m trying to finish up some programming work and don’t have time for a full post, but in cleaning out my bookmarks, I did find some news items I saved that deserve comment:

Mrs. Obama to Lead the Charge Against Obesity

According to a Reuters story a couple of weeks back, the First Lady will be heading up a new campaign against obesity.  Yes, of course, because all those other government-led campaigns against obesity did such a great job.  Here’s my favorite line:

Obama, who created a White House garden with local school children, said the solution to the obesity epidemic cannot come from government alone.

The solution can’t come from government alone?! Why would anybody believe the solution to obesity will come from government at all?  Based on what, their outstanding track record?  We didn’t have an obesity epidemic (such as it is) until they started telling us how to eat.

Here’s another choice quote:

Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius said at the launch that the Obama administration was investing $650 million in economic stimulus money in wellness and prevention programs aimed at obesity and stopping smoking.

Ummm … the media is careful with their camera work because they adore the guy, but in case you weren’t aware, President Obama is a smoker.  He tried to quit and couldn’t — despite being a Harvard-educated lawyer who knows smoking is bad for his health.  I’m trying to imagine the thinking here … “Sure, I can’t give up cigarettes, but if we spend $650 million to tell other people what’s good for them, they’ll change their behavior.”

Here’s a better solution:  get rid of corn subsidies.  That would actually save money instead of piling up more debt.

Jillian Michaels Sued

Jillian Michaels, a star on NBC’s popular reality show, “The Biggest Loser,” is being sued by Christie Christensen, who claims she didn’t lose weight with the supplements endorsed by the celebrity trainer, according to the Associated Press

I have mixed feelings about this one.  Jillian Michaels annoys me because she’s one of those “eat less, exercise more” gurus.  She horsewhips people who are already starving themselves into exercising for hours a day on the show … so of course they lose weight temporarily, but they can’t keep it off because they haven’t adjusted the amount of fat their bodies need to maintain their energy balance.  According to Gary Taubes, who’s tracked down the “The Biggest Loser” contestants, most have regained nearly all the weight.

On other hand, I can’t stand trial lawyers who run around suing everyone, and I really and truly can’t stand people who believe buying a weight-loss product that didn’t work warrants $5 million in damages.  For what, pain and suffering?  Mental anguish?  If we’re going to go down that road, Weight Watchers and Jenny Craig better start preparing their legal defenses right away.  The proper response is to ask for a refund, period.

Normal Weight, but “Obese”

From the DUH! files … an article on the ABC site notes that people can be “normal” weight, but still fat.  No kidding?  Pretty soon they may even realize people can be “overweight” without being fat or unhealthy.

Monika Sumpter did what many women dream of — she set a goal to lose weight and dropped 50 pounds. Despite losing all of that weight, her ratio of fat to muscle was around 25 percent, 5 percent from where she started and dangerously close to what some researchers say is an unhealthy situation.

So she lost 50 pounds and barely changed her fat-to-muscle ratio.  That means Ms. Sumpter lost quite a bit of muscle.  I’ll bet you dollars to donuts (and you can keep the donuts) she was on a high-carb, low-fat diet that didn’t provide enough protein — the kind Weight Watchers pushes.

If you read the article, you’ll see that she eventually took up resistance training and is now 20 pounds heavier than she was after the diet, but down to 14 percent body fat.  That means she has a higher BMI, but is quite a bit leaner.  So of course, embedded in the article is this link:

Are you a healthy weight? Click here to measure your body mass index.

As Mike Eades likes to say, Jesus wept.

Dumb Statistic About High School Football Linemen

Football linemen are more likely to die by age 50 than baseball players.  This article suggests it’s because of their size … they have larger waist-to-hip ratios than baseball players and are, of course, much bigger in general.

The article says the football players are more likely to have metabolic issues, but doesn’t say why.  Diet?  Maybe, maybe not.  Perhaps the combination of hormones and genetics that produce a 320-pound, six-foot, six-inch body also produce metabolic issues.  Insulin is, after all, a growth hormone.

But the violence of football may also be a factor in the shorter average lifespan.  I can’t recall where I read about it, but someone measured the impact of two pro linemen hitting each other.  To reproduce the same impact, the average man would have to stand 30 feet from a garage door, then run into it as fast as he can.  These guys take those hits dozens of times per game … not to mention practice sessions.

But what annoyed me about the article was this:

Recent studies suggest that this phenomenon may impact the next generation of players as well. A recent report in the Journal of the American Medical Association  that examined the incidence of overweight players and obesity among 3,683 high school football linemen found that 45 percent were classified as overweight and 9 percent would be classified with severe obesity.

“As younger athletes in high school and college are encouraged to get larger for competitive reasons, these conditions may manifest themselves in younger and younger populations,” explains Dr. John Helzberg, FACG, Co-director of the Division of Gastroenterology, Saint Luke’s Hospital of Kansas City, Clinical Professor of Medicine, University of Missouri- Kansas City School of Medicine, who co-authored the study.

Coaches aren’t encouraging high-school football players to get fatter.  They’re encouraging them to get heavier — by working out and putting on muscle.  That doesn’t harm your health; it improves you health.  (Even ABC figured that out.)  What would be truly unhealthy would be facing off against a defensive tackle who outweighs you by 40 pounds. 

That’s why the claim that 45 percent of high-school linemen are “overweight” is just stupid.  Remember, we’re talking Body Mass Index measurements here.  If you’re a six-foot male, you go into the “overweight” category as soon as you top 185 pounds.  A football lineman who doesn’t weigh at least that much goes into a different category:  it’s called guy about to get his @$$ kicked.

Okay, back to my software project …

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22 thoughts on “From the News …

  1. chainey

    Long before I had any dietary knowledge or opinions I noticed that sportsmen didn’t seem to be very long-lived. Regardless of whether the sport was a high-injury one or not.

    Obits for famous sportsmen seemed to have them dropping like flies in their 50s and 60s while their trainers were often interviewed in their 80s and even 90s.

    Purely subjective of course. Still, I can’t help wondering. Maybe risk-taking is inherent in athletes but takes destructive form when they hang up the boots. Maybe they just lack purpose since their glory days are over by the time they’re in their 30s while people in business (for instance) are just starting to reap rewards at that age and have 20-30 years of achievement to look forward to.

    Anyway, it would be interesting if anyone has actually studied it scientifically.

    There are probably a lot of factors involved. It takes a hard-driving personality to make it into the pros, no matter how much natural talent is there.

  2. Josh Goguen

    I did a post on the “Normal Weight Obesity” but I liked yours better. Seems smarter.

    With the exception of the Jillian Michaels story, these are all in some way related to the way we measure someone being overweight. I wonder if this hysteria with “overweight” was an intended consequence of the choice to calculate BMI the way it is or if it was just a happy accident for the weight loss industry.

    I think they know it’s bogus, but it serves their purposes.

  3. Peter

    Hmmmm, it would be very interesting to see what might happen to Obama’s weight should he ever get the nicotine gorilla off of his back…


    He looks like the naturally skinny type. I don’t know if that would change.

  4. Ellen

    It will, of course, be no surprise if the First Lady’s campaign against obesity involves a diet very close to what the USDA’s Food Pyramid advises. Nice post, Tom, hope the software project is going well.

    It’s going well, there’s just a lot to it.

  5. Tina

    My husband and I just took medical exams for life insurance. Right off the bat because my husband is 6′ and 232lbs he was rated to a more expensive policy. He is a weight lifter and most of his excess weight is muscle in his chest, back and arms. Instead of just measuring height and weight why couldn’t they take a photo for the underwriters? BMI doesn’t tell you anything.

    It’s just silly. Your husband will probably outlive the skinny people.

  6. Chris

    An intelligent parent would guide their children toward a sport like—what?—tennis, golf, poker—anything but football. The NFL veterans are walking wounded. Opening scene of North Dallas Forty is all you need to see to realize that becoming a pro football player is a bad move health wise. Jillian Michaels is what I call a “gym teacher gone wild” and the Biggest Loser is great TV but very bad science. It’s huge rating perpetuates the calorie balance myth that Gary Taubes so eloquently debunked and you translated into understandable animation in Fat Head.

    In high school, I was disappointed I wasn’t big and fast enough to play on the team. Now I’m glad I wasn’t. I’ve got a bad knee just from playing in the back yard.

  7. Cathryn

    Last night I covered with my students some of the stupid statistics that get tossed around like lettuce: “Statistics show that teen pregnancies drop off after age 25.”

    One of my students announced (over hamburger and french fries) that she was trying to lose weight. It started a discussion about which “DIEt” was the best one…I informed them that processed foods, low carbs were the things to cut out and if they wanted something–to make it themselves. If I want pasta–I have to make the noodles. If I want bread, I have to make my loaf of bread. Since I’m allergic to most of the food preservatives they put into pre-packaged, processed foods, this will aid in my lifestyle changes. So if my husband decides he wants french fries with his dinner, I gotta go peel the potatos, julienne them and fry them for him. 😀

    As Dr. Oliver explained recently, there’s an association between eating ice cream and murder rates. I guess ice cream makes you want to kill people … or, it could just be that the rate of ice-cream eating and murder both go up in the summer.

  8. 1956okie

    Loved today’s news coverage of Bill Clinton’s hospital stay and having to get two stents. ABC news went on and on saying Clinton had been doing “all the right things,” like eating only fish and grilled vegetables and exercising religiously for an hour or more every day. Yet he had 90% blockage in his heart. Hmmmm….Of course they blamed it on his genetic makeup. Because he’s doing the right things!! Eating no fat!! Exercising!! HAS to be something else. Could NEVER be his diet causing all that “artery-clogging” gunk. Sheesh.

    I read about that and just shook my head. Some doctors are also saying it’s because he stopped taking statins. My dad was on statins for 20-some years and still ended up needing stents.

  9. Dan

    When I read about Obama’s crusade against childhood obesity, I thought of Hillary’s healthcare program from the Clinton administration. What a flop that was. Since this crusade will involve more of the failed dietary advice, food pyramid, etc, ad naseum, it’s doomed for the same fate. We’d all be better off if Obama would just save that $650 M and stop telling us how to eat. This crusade will only make the nanny state more nanny-ish and decrease our freedom.

    As for the linemen, I think BMI is just technobabble for the old height-weight tables and just as useless. If they retire and stop working out, they will turn to flab. I’m sure the high impact thing has something to do with it as well.

    Yup. And I think people who grow to their size might just be different from birth, with advantages and disadvantages.

  10. djinn

    Two thoughts immediately occur:
    Will Rogers once remarked something like (I don’t have the quote; you probably do) It’s easy to be funny when you’ve got the whole government working for you……….. (I’m beginning to appreciate the connection between humor and tragedy; sob)
    Bob Sanders, all-pro safety and defensive player of the year in the national football league, is listed at 5′ 8″ and 205 pounds; pretty good for a man who is obese. Just think how good he’d be if he lost some muscle!

    Outside of the receivers and cornerbacks, pretty much the whole NFL would be considered obese.

  11. shel

    “the solution to the obesity epidemic cannot come *from government alone*”

    …so glib, so assumed, so statist. this quote says more about the Obamas than any book could.

    what’s happening to your country?

    …and to where can a Canadian run, in the end? yours is the last free nation.

    They definitely come from the camp that assumes every problem requires a government solution. I’m sorry to say several nations have moved above us in the index of economic freedom. Even Canada.

  12. Nicole

    This is really silly: “Despite losing all of that weight, her ratio of fat to muscle was around 25 percent, 5 percent from where she started and dangerously close to what some researchers say is an unhealthy situation.”

    25% is normal for a woman, and 22% is ideal…so what’s the problem?

    They may have been talking about a ratio of fat/muscle only, as opposed to fat/total body weight. They didn’t define the term well.

  13. Robbie Trinidad

    Not to defend Obama’s smoking, but I too keep doings things that I know are bad for me but can’t stop doing,… like falling in love with the wrong women. 😛

    Sorry, upcoming Valentine’s Day must be getting to me. 🙂

    I had a very loooong history of falling in love with the wrong women. (There’s a reason I didn’t get married until age 42.) But I’m pretty sure a federal program titled “stop falling in love with the wrong women” wouldn’t have helped.

  14. Katy

    “I’m pretty sure a federal program titled “stop falling in love with the wrong women” wouldn’t have helped.”

    SSSHHHHHH!!! Don’t give them any ideas!!

    Exactly right; best watch what I say.

  15. Kim

    Tom: Is this the Gary Taubes interview you were referring to? I wish there was more detail on The Biggest Loser contestants, but it’s all I can find.

    I love GT’s comments about animal obesity and the excessive carbohydrates in most pet food. We switched our kitties to a mix of chicken thighs (with bone), liver and tuna fish about three months ago. They’ve both lost weight and have never looked healthier. 🙂

    I’m not sure if that’s the same one I read originally, but it works as well as any.

  16. Katy

    Did you see this from the Business section of the NYT?

    One Bowl = 2 Servings. F.D.A. May Fix That

    On the one hand, the FDA wants to make the serving sizes more in keeping with what people actually eat, sort of like a Truth in Advertising statement, which I’d generally support. But then, Barbara O. Schneeman, director of the F.D.A. office that oversees nutrition [states,] “Ultimately, the purpose of nutrition labeling is to help consumers make healthier choices, make improvements in their diet, and we want to make sure we achieve that goal.” Further down, “…the agency may set rules to prevent companies from highlighting the good things about their products, like a lack of trans fats, while ignoring the bad, like a surfeit of unhealthy saturated fats.”

    Silly me, I thought the point of nutrition labels was to tell me what was in the food, not to editorialize. I just want the facts. If I want to eat something for dinner that has a full day’s supply of calories, sodium, fat, etc., that’s my choice. “Healthy” vs. “Unhealthy” is a subjective judgment!

    They’ve been editorializing ever since they put suggestions on the labels for how much to eat of each macronutrient … unnfortunately.

  17. Big Jay

    At 6’2″, I would be 14% body fat at 280. The BMI is a joke. As a football player in college, I was single digit body fat at 240. I also pay extra premiums on my life insurance as a result.

    Those rules for premiums were probably made up by people who won’t live as long as you.

  18. KD

    Just to add a little tidbit to the BMI discussion, my biggest relief since going low-carb for good and losing weight hasn’t necessarily been the smaller clothing sizes… but the knowledge that now I’m a politically correct BMI and I won’t be discriminated against by employers or insurance for thinking I’d be a lazy health risk. Isn’t that sad reflection on our times that that I think that’s the best thing about having lost weight? (Then again, I also haven’t started my strength training, so my BMI might creep over back into overweight when I build more muscle.)

    If you put on a decent amount of muscle, I promise you’ll be overweight according to the BMI scale — which puts George Clooney, Matt Damon and Brad Pitt into the “overweight” category, Tom Cruise and Mel Gibson into the “obese” category.

  19. Paul B.

    I think waist measurement is a much better measure to use than BMI but let’s face it, BMI is accurate enough for 90-95% of the population. Yes, it would mean Arnold Scwarzenegger (before he let himself go) or Brady Quinn would be obese but how many guys do you see walking down the street who are built like they are?

    Re: the issue of linemen gaining weight, I agree it depends on what kind of weight is gained. I’ve seen LOTS of football players, esp. high school and college linemen, with enormous guts, man-boobs, etc.

    The high-school football players I’ve seen around here just look big and strong. But I think it’s possible that the hormones that produce a 300-pounder — i.e., NCAA Division I or NFL size — also produce a strong tendency to be fat around the middle.

    I’m not convinced BMI works for 90% of the population. George Clooney and Matt Damon aren’t especially muscular — Clooney strikes me as more on the lean side than anything — and I see plenty of guys walking around with builds like theirs. They’re both overweight according to BMI.

  20. Amy

    Did you see Katie Couric’s recent interview of Dr. David Kessler and Eric Schlosser called “Americans and Food?” Although I saw some hope in some of their comments, especially Kessler’s encouragement to eat real food, their suggested solutions to the obesity “problem” were disappointing. Why can’t parents turn their TV off (or tune it to a PBS station) if they don’t want their children to see commercials for junk foods? Why do we need the government to ban food ads aimed at children? Also, does Kessler really think people just need to be convinced that junk food is bad? People already know junk food is bad!

    What, you didn’t hear John Banzhaf explain it? People can forget things like that if they’re not among the best and the brightest.

    My kids see the same commercials as other kids. Funny how they don’t eat junk in spite of all those ads.

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