Dr. Andy

Reflections on medicine and biology among other things

Friday, May 27, 2005

Revenge of the thin

The anti-obesity establishment strikes back:
The new federal study suggesting that people tend to live longer if they are slightly overweight was challenged yesterday by scientists from the Harvard School of Public Health and the American Cancer Society as well as a heart disease researcher.

In a seminar and news conference yesterday at the public health school, in Boston, the critics said other studies, including their own, had found that the death risk from excess pounds increased continuously from normal weight to overweight to obesity.
It is a bit unusual for the response to come in a press conference, as opposed to, say, a letter to the journal where the original study was published. As I've blogged about at length, his study is very different from the received wisdom on weight and longevity, but it was a very good study.

The leaders of the insurgency are not backing down:
Another reason for the differing conclusions, Dr. Flegal and Dr. Williamson said, may be that the Harvard and cancer society researchers excluded large numbers of subjects from their analysis for one reason or another; one analysis of the nurses' study excluded nearly 90 percent of the deaths, Dr. Flegal said.

Or, she added, the federal researchers, who used actual measured weights and heights, not self-reported ones, may have had more accurate numbers to work with.

In these kinds of arguments, people too often forget that we should be searching for the correct answer, not defending what we think should be true.

My sense is that dramatic improvements in caring for diabetes and heart disease have made obesity much less of a predictor of mortality than it was in the past, and therefore, the new study is closest to the actual truth. This won't be the last we hear of this.

2 Comments:

At 9:58 AM, Anonymous Damon said...

Andy,

If we could get everyone to approach every problem in the world according to these great words that you just wrote, I think we'd be living in a much better world:

"In these kinds of arguments, people too often forget that we should be searching for the correct answer, not defending what we think should be true."

 
At 6:25 AM, Anonymous ollie said...

Yeah, it would be great if we could get the current administationt to think in this way! :-)

 

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