An ABC news online report today lead with the line “Half of all American adults are destined to develop diabetes or pre-diabetes by 2020 if they don’t slim down….” It goes on to talk about the “diabesity epidemic”
While I applaud the portmanteau, I have to come down against horrible, irresponsible, unprofessional reporting.
Being overweight doesn’t cause diabetes. I know that because the American Diabetes Association says on their website:
Myth: If you are overweight or obese, you will eventually develop type 2 diabetes.
Fact: Being overweight is a risk factor for developing this disease, but other risk factors such as family history, ethnicity and age also play a role. Unfortunately, too many people disregard the other risk factors for diabetes and think that weight is the only risk factor for type 2 diabetes. Most overweight people never develop type 2 diabetes, and many people with type 2 diabetes are at a normal weight or only moderately overweight. [emphasis is mine]
Obesity is not a disease. It’s not a diagnosis. Obesity as we currently define it is simply a ratio of weight and height. By this definition almost the entire NFL is headed toward diabetes. The only thing that you can tell based on a ratio of someone’s weight and height is the ratio of someone’s weight and height. Obesity has no consistent behavior. There are healthy fat people, there are unhealthy thin people.
Their “cure” doesn’t exist. “Slimming down” as suggested by ABC news is problematic at best. Nobody can prove that any method of weight loss works. 95% of people who attempt weight loss fail. We blame them and stop there. That’s like if Viagara only worked 5% of the time and doctors kept prescribing it and them blamed the rest of the guys for just not trying hard enough. In medicine, if a prescription doesn’t work 95% of the time, we work to develop a new solution.
Correlation is not causation. The fact that two things happen at the same time doesn’t mean that they cause each other. It’s quite possible that both things are caused by a third factor, or that they are unrelated. For example studies are starting to show that, in countries where there is no stigma on obesity, there aren’t negative health outcomes of obesity. More studies are needed to determine if the constant shame, stigma and guilt faced by obese people in the other cultures causes the health issues, or if it’s something else, or if causality can actually be linked to weight.
I’m a fan of health. I’m for people getting access to affordable, healthy foods. I’m for people having access to movement options that they enjoy. Why is that not enough? Why can’t we be for health? Why do we have to create a culture of guilt, shame and blame. If weight loss fails 95% of the time then why not be honest that even if it would solve these health problems (and we don’t know if it would) we don’t know how to get it done.
Then we could start spending all of this omigoddeathfatiscomingforus money creating access to foods that are nutritious and delicious, and movement options that people enjoy. We could pull our health out of the wallets of the diet industry, and put the 60 billion dollars that we pay to them every year into something that actually works. Imagine what kind of health we could have if we actually focused on health!