About that “Study”

On May 18, 2008, I wrote (in my private journal) this about the “study” that has surfaced again, you know, the one about how fat people are the cause of all the worlds ills.  I decided since they recycling the study, I’ll just recycle this post to a bigger audience. 


I’ve tried to find the study on the School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine site, and can’t find it at all. But I’m not alone. Others have tried to find it too, and can’t find it. Even googling Dr. Phil Edwards, Ian Roberts, the Lancet (the medical journal they were supposed to have published the report in) AND obesity in the same search criteria.

So I googled the name of one of the authors of the finding. The things that come up in google are either 1) fat bloggers up in arms about this so-called report, and 2) so-called news outlets just repeating the same thing, that it’s the fat people who are responsible for global warming and food shortages.

However, after 45 minutes of searching, I finally found:

According to ABC News, it was a LETTER to the Lancet (as opposed to a published study), written by Dr. Phil Edwards as a co-author, and who is a senior statistician at the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Health.

Link here: http://abcnews.go.com/Health/Diet/story?id=4865889&page=1

It’s taken me some serious digging for this, to show the reality of this situation. It’s a statistician who’s making these “implications”. It wasn’t even a STUDY, but a LETTER in the Lancet.

And it was PURELY CALCULATIONS, not even a study based on actual data. Edwards maintains the rationale for his calculations is solid. Out of the roughly 6 billion people alive today, about one billion live in developed countries like the United States and the United Kingdom. It is in such countries that obesity rates are the highest. Edwards and his colleagues created a hypothetical model of these 1 billion people using the U.K. population as a template.

The researchers then divided the total amount of greenhouse gases generated by the world’s population — about 42 billion tons — equally among the world’s population. By this method, each billion-person segment would be responsible for about 7 billion tons of greenhouse gases every year. Edwards estimated that one-fifth of these greenhouse gases are generated through food production — in total, about 1.4 billion tons.

Tons of news outlets reporting something that wasn’t even a STUDY, but just something that numbers people came up with basically out of the blue.

And yet, almost Every. Single. News. Service out there is saying that these are experts, and that they are blaming the obesity epidemic for global warming, the economy failing, and food shortages.

THIS, ladies and gentlemen, is how hysteria is produced. Not very many people are going to sit for 45 minutes searching and searching and searching to find out the truth of the reporting.

And people wonder why I’m afraid of what the world is becoming? How this stupidity is being pushed? The sheeple of the world won’t look farther than their noses.

It’s a LETTER, not a study, for pete’s sake. But then, the true story of a couple of statisticians who wrote a letter blaming fat people for all the world’s ills just isn’t as newsworthy, is it? Even if it’s TRUE!

(I won’t talk about how the ABC news report epically fails by adding in the opinion:

“Certainly at an individual level, it stretches the imagination to think that this knowledge would be the tipping point for an obese person to finally make the commitment to lose weight.” , director of the Southern California Evidence-Based Practice Center for the RAND Corporation. “Even if it is true, which it probably is, I doubt this would have any beneficial effect.Shekelle”Obese people don’t need to be told that they may contribute a disproportionate share to the global warming problem,” said Dr. Paul

Cuz, gee, that’s certainly not going to have me try yet another frustrating diet — frustrating when I CAN’T lose the weight, not don’t want to lose the weight. I mean, with me being so selfish and all that. No, really, I have no care whatsoever about the earth, and leaving it to my step-daughter and her children and their children and their children. Gah!)

Edit to add: In one article (http://news.sky.com/skynews/article/0,,91251-1316270,00.html?f=rss), they did tell how they came up with the 18% more consumption level.


in the healthy range of 24.5 consumed a total of 2,500 calories per person per day.BMIThey estimated that populations with an averageof 29 required 2,960 calories per person per day – an extra 18% of food energy.BMIBut an obese population with an average

Well, lets see, if I eat AS MUCH AS 2500 calories a day, I get sick from too much food. And I know athletes and body builders and TEENAGERS (my own kidlet as one example) who eats far more than 2500 calories a day. Their ‘research’ is down right wrong. That’s what you get for letting a statistician do a researchers job.

The cynic in me is wondering just what diet plan/company funded the so-called research.


7 Responses

  1. The social stigma attached to obesity is one of the few forces slowing the epidemic – even though obesity is not a personal failing but a problem of society. ” Ian Roberts

  2. Seriously? They think more people aren’t fat because of stigma? Do they really not know that anti-fat stigma makes a lot of people fatter than they would otherwise be, by putting them on diets at ridiculously early ages and screwing up their metabolism and hunger and insulin responses in the process?

    Mind you, most of us would probably be fat anyway, but that stuff just makes us even fatter.

    And do they really think most (or even a significant percentage of) thin or average-sized people would put on 50 or 100 pounds if they thought fat was okay? Is that even physically possible if you don’t have the genes for it? I don’t even know if I could gain 100 pounds if I tried, and I have more fat-favorable genes (and medications!) than most people.

  3. Admittedly I don’t know if this is the case for the Lancet, and I agree that this particular set of calculations are not worth the paper they were printed on, but I did want to point out that for many scientific journals, “letters” is just a term meaning short papers, and these are peer-reviewed to the same standards that any of their other papers are. Some journals are even only for letters. So without knowing if this is the case here, it’s not fair to criticise the newspapers for reporting on something that is “only a letter”. It’s not in the same league as a newspaper letter to the editor from a random person off the street.

    It IS fair to criticise them for a gazillion other reasons, though, many of which you point out with great clarity above!

  4. you know…i look at my family, and the women in it…

    and those of us guilty of “eating healthy” and not overindulging in sweets, and not consuming excess sugar…are all *overweight*. maybe not morbidly obese, but we’re averaging a size 16, 18. no matter our height.

    those women in the family who are rabid about their food habits (like the aunt who chews each bite 50 times, and wont eat sitting down)? are a size 12 or so. we’re just not thin.

    me, i do have delicate bone structure. but that comes from the other side of the family. i’ve been this weight for several YEARS now. i’m not budging.

    i’m just me. and content to be so.

  5. I’m still waiting for environmental doomsayers and researchers like this to get on the “Hey, stop eating so much meat!” bandwagon, seeing as how diesel fumes emanating from the production of animals for slaughter hurts our environment more than all the cars traveling our roadways.

  6. Uhhhh….I have a BMI around 28 or 29 and eat 2000 calories a day at most. It’s usually more like 1800 and that’s plenty of food. I’ve noticed my “normal weight” roommate eating far more than I do recently. Hmm.

  7. Here’s a thought– according to my “calculations” as per what we’re told by the media every day– us fat people are:

    a) going to die MUCH sooner (if not immediately)

    b) incapable of finding anyone who will hop into bed with us, therefore not having any children who will consume resources for 80 more years

    c) genetically opposed to exercising (exercising increases respiration, resulting in MORE CO2)

    Since we’ll be dying so soon, won’t be generating any polluting offspring and won’t be puffing out all those greenhouse gases, I’d say fat people are better for the planet in the long and short term.

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