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Mar. 7th, 2004

Tom Cruise is obese and Jackie Chan is overweight, according to new standards.
The claim that excess weight kills 300,000 Americans each year is bizarre in its assumption that overweight people are officially immune to all other causes of death. As insane as it sounds, if Cruise were to kick the bucket for any reason, he would count toward the mythical 300,000 total.
But wait, there's more!
Still, this flawed number finds its way into nearly every public discussion about obesity -- as does the spurious claim that obesity costs Americans more than $100 billion every year. That figure is derived from a single 1998 study published by the journal Obesity Research. This study had serious limitations. The authors acknowledged that their methods allowed for the "double-counting of costs" that "would inflate the cost estimate." They also admitted that "height and weight are not included in many of the primary data sources" that they relied upon.

Worse yet, these bean-counters used the wrong definition of obesity. Traditionally, a BMI of 30 or more makes you obese, but the authors decided to arbitrarily set their threshold at 29. A small error? Not at all. They wound up wrongly including the health costs of more than 10 million Americans.

Comments

( 10 comments — Leave a comment )
xiphias
Mar. 7th, 2004 12:49 pm (UTC)
Cool! So: any smoker who dies is counted in the total number of "smoking kills X people per year." And any overweight person who dies is counted in the toal number of "obesity kills X people per year."

This means that any smoker cannot die from any other cause besides smoking, and any overweight person cannot die from any other cause besdies obesity.

Which means that overweight smokers are immortal!
janetmiles
Mar. 7th, 2004 01:42 pm (UTC)
I remember when I was reading soc.support.fat-acceptance that a woman reported her brother having been killed in a drive-by shooting. Apparently his death certificate read "morbid obesity complicated by gunshot wounds".
xiphias
Mar. 7th, 2004 01:44 pm (UTC)
Well, lead is heavy.
sarah_ovenall
Mar. 7th, 2004 12:56 pm (UTC)
The thing that ticks me off about the BMI charts is that there's no way to account for body fat vs. muscle mass. According to the BMI, Jackie Chan is overweight and I'm not. But his body fat % is probably half of mine or less.

The BMI is great if you think the number on the scale is the only thing that matters (the few people with eating disorders I've known were obsessed with their BMI). But if your concern is overall health and fitness, it's not that meaningful.
rmjwell
Mar. 7th, 2004 02:30 pm (UTC)
Tom counts if you add in his ego.

As to the statistical asshattery... why am I suddenly reminded of doctors who used to appear in ads for cigarettes back in the 40s and 50s?
krasota
Mar. 7th, 2004 03:52 pm (UTC)
Wasn't BMI once calculated using arm fat, legs, etc, and calipers? Now it's a completely ridiculous chart which just looks at height vs weight. My husband is 165lbs and 5 ' 8" or 9". The "calculators" show that he's at 25.8. He's very slender. He's currently holding out his skinny arms and saying "LOOK! YOU CAN'T EVEN GRASP ANYTHING!"

He's heavier than he was in his high school health class, when they measured body fat using the calipers, but he's not overweight. His metabolism is so high, we have trouble keeping the weight on. And he's got muscle in there, too. According to current calculators, he was at the low end of normal back then--he weighed 124. His pelvic bones used to give me BRUISES because he was so bony. He had stretch marks because he was so skinny and his skin had to stretch over his bones. I've had to feed him for years just to make him not blow away in the wind or break.

Those charts say that my body fat is higher, which we knew. It's all concentrated in two ginormous globules of mammary and doom. And my belly. I'd like to lose a bit of the belly roll, but then my boobs would fall to my knees.
ailbhe
Mar. 8th, 2004 04:23 am (UTC)
I love bruising pelvises.
eve_l_incarnata
Apr. 18th, 2004 09:05 pm (UTC)
I know I'm chiming in late, but I really appreciated this post, and the link.
firecat
Apr. 18th, 2004 09:55 pm (UTC)
I'm glad to know that!
fatmuttony
Apr. 18th, 2004 10:14 pm (UTC)
Lovely link, and what timing!

I was just about to re-order my life based on my BMI, before eve_l_incarnata pointed me to this post. Even without consulting my BMI, I know that I am overweight; I guess I should get the funky fat vs muscle percentage test done on me.
( 10 comments — Leave a comment )

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