At Big Fat Blog, from time to time, political arguments erupt in the comments, and then shut down quickly, over which US political party is the most size accepting. The arguments are quashed, generally, by the Libertarians who point out that both the left and the right view fat as a moral issue. The right sees obesity as a failing of personal responsibility, whereas the left sees it as metaphor and consequence of society’s greed and overconsumption. The Libertarians then make an unsubtle marketing plea, since they see themselves as the original torch bearers (and remain more consistent and stalwart than the upstart tea partiers) of “keep government out of our lives.”
Well, I am on an email list for an online, left-leaning news analysis publication called Truthout, and, truth be told, I don’t click through very often. But, for obvious reasons, this article, Are Chemicals Making us Fat?, caught my eye. Could it be that the left is coming ‘round?
It’s a rather simplistic article, written as though this conversation is brand-spanking new “Researchers have called these chemicals endocrine disruptors. . . But a new, more relevant term for these chemicals has emerged. They are now also called obesogens.”
Has emerged? Bruce Blumberg of the University of California at Irvine takes credit for coining the term obesogen, and his research using that word seems to date back to the mid-2000s, but the conversation regarding endocrine disruptors and obesity has been going on for decades. (Our conversation at this blog, which I extended not once, not twice, but three times, is one of the most fun conversations on the topic.)
I am uncomfortable with the Truthout article for a number of reasons. I don’t like how it conflates and confuses obesity and diabetes, as though they are conjoined twins. This is a common practice now, and a panic-laden term “diabesity” has “emerged” to express this concept. Generally, if blame is assigned, the arrow indicates that obesity causes diabetes, (though that assumption is regularly challenged). In fact, if you type into Google the phrase “diabetes causes obesity” the default search at the top of the pop-up list is “obesity causes diabetes,” as though Google feels obligated to correct you.
The Truthout article also crosses my comfort threshold with this alarming and unfootnoted statement “For the first time in 200 years, children now have a shorter life expectancy than their parents, primarily due to obesity and diabetes.” No doubt this is the Olshansky et. al. article being overstated and misused once again. This sentiment has now entered the “common wisdom,” if you count panic as an act of wisdom
The article goes on to make a number of other unfootnoted statements of fact in order to pave the way for its conclusion. I suppose this is to be expected in a commentary piece, but is it also to be forgiven? I know I don’t forgive Fox News for its unsupported statements of “fact” which then draw its commentators to conclusions that I find unsupportable.
In the Truthout essay, the author, Dr. Brian Moench, reaches the following conclusion:
Our regulatory agencies and even the courts are still playing by a rule book written by the tobacco industry, which states that we must always wait for unequivocal proof of damage before we can regulate. Of course, there is never unequivocal proof, more study is always needed. But that is not an excuse to not act on the evidence that we already have.
Take a look in the mirror and at your glucometer. If you don’t like what you see, you may want to reconsider whether you support the anti-regulation/personal accountability fever sweeping over the country with the new Congress. Whether you can ever be thin again or get over your diabetes may be more a matter of what happens in Congress than what happens on your treadmill.
Hmmmmm. I have all kinds of thoughts and mixed feelings about this. The floor is open.