TCS Daily

Food Nannies Hawk the Hawkeye State

By Sandy Szwarc - March 16, 2005 12:00 AM

Like newspapers across the country, the Des Moines Register has published a special series addressing the "obesity crisis." The Register series, which began last Sunday, was entitled "The Losing Battle" -- appropriately named, just not in the way the newspaper believes.

The weight loss industry faces a losing battle selling their diets and bariatric surgeries among residents there. Iowans are known for their old-fashioned common sense and aren't getting on board with the panic over their body weights and the need to lose weight being marketed. The Register, however, has. And their series offers consumers across the nation an eye-opening illustration of obesity doublespeak at work.

Iowans don't know that obesity is a deadly medical condition, the Register tells readers. Writer Anne Carothers-Kay reports that 60% of Iowans are either "overweight" or "obese." This "bad news," she notes, makes Iowa the 15th-most obese state in the nation. According to reporter Jennifer Dukes Lee, this is a "crisis."

But is it?

Just like other media, the Register simply didn't report facts which were inconvenient:

        • evidence shows that as we've been getting heavier for generations, 
            our health and longevity keep improving 
• virtually all weight loss "treatments" fail to work long-term 
        • simply living active lives makes body weights a nonissue

For example --

* On February 28th, the CDC released its 2003 figures which found Americans are healthier and living longer than ever. In just one year, life expectancies for Americans increased by nearly 4 months! This good news parallels the CDC's earlier report, "Health 2002" released in September 2002, which found "Americans' health has changed dramatically for the better over the past 50 years." Rates of the biggest killers -- all of those chronic diseases of aging popularly attributed to obesity such as heart disease, cancers and strokes -- continue to drop significantly.

* Iowa health statistics are even more notable. While the population is among the fattest -- the genetic roots of obesity make their "largely" Northern European heritages evident -- Iowa consistently ranks around the top ten healthiest states in the Nation. According to the "2004 America's Health State Health Rankings" by the United Health Foundation, Iowa currently ranks as the 11th most healthy state.

Which state has ranked number one for nine of the past 15 years and never been out of the top two? Minnesota. It has one of the highest rates of obesity, too, yet also has the lowest rate of deaths from heart disease. Looking at all of the state rankings, health is most reflective of rates of poverty and access to healthcare. Body weights have nothing to do with it.

* Americans have 50 years of proof that the 'diet and exercise' prescription doesn't work. That was again scientifically demonstrated in the latest comprehensive review of the research and evidence on the nation's top ten diets by University of Pennsylvania researchers in the January issue of Annals of Internal Medicine. The researchers concluded that no diet program offered any sound proof of long-term success.

* Nor have the bulk of studies following thousands of people for more than six decades been able to show that losing weight actually helps people live longer. A 2004 CDC study concluded that "losing weight per se was not associated with mortality reduction ... [and] weight gainers did not have an appreciably higher mortality rate."

* Research such as that by Steven Blair and colleagues at the Cooper Institute for Aerobic Research in Dallas, Texas, has also found "that a fit and active way of life reduces mortality risk" in everyone. When physical activity is considered, body weight is irrelevant to long-term health, heart disease, diabetes or premature death from all causes.

Register writer, Ms Kay, reports an Iowa Poll done last July found that 65% of Iowans didn't care about dieting, although 75% were physically active on a regular basis. I'd say that proves Iowans are pretty smart and have a lot of old-fashioned common sense.



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