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The Forum > Article Comments > Obesity - a market success: economic growth versus girth growth > Comments

Obesity - a market success: economic growth versus girth growth : Comments

By Rob Moodie, published 31/3/2005

Rob Moodie argues it may well be our economic success that underlies the first predictions of decreased life expectancy in 1,000 years.

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In the first sentence, Moodie refers to a study predicting a decline in life expectancy and all else follows from that. Unfortunately for the rest of the essay, the study is deeply flawed although it has been refered to uncritically in a number of places. Indeed calling it a study gives it a prestige that it doesn't deserve. Rather it is a series of guesses and unsubstantiated assumptions. According to Dr. James Vaupel, director of the Max Planck Institute for Demographic Research "[the author's] perspective is that of an advocate making a case rather than a scientist evaluating the body of conflicting evidence." Get a full critique of the 'study' at

The solution that these advocates always offer is government intervention - tax us into eating the right thing as decreed by our betters. Moodie doesn't quite offer this solution but he's not far from it.

Obesity is a marginal medical problem. At the extremes, the very overweight have health risks. But the vast majority of those over the ideal BMI are marginally overweight and there is no evidence that this has any health consequences. Quite the contrary.
Posted by mhaze, Friday, 1 April 2005 7:54:17 AM
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I'd say being overweight is much better than starving - just ask the many millions living in the third world. I bet they'd take a quick drive to the mall in a commodore over walking five miles to fetch some polluted water.

My parents and my friend's parents know what it is like not being "overwieght". living on rural properties in the 50s and 60s when having meat for dinner was a luxury (it was usually rabbit if they could catch one).

Mhaze is right about the majority of overweight people still being healthy. Very obese people are at risk of heart disease but cars, computers and calories are not to blame entirely. Being thin is marketed more heavily than your trio of fat factors - the only time you see "fat" people on ads is during Jenny Craig commercials. ditto for beauty magazines and women's rags.

And it is not up to government to stop people getting overweight - what are they going to do - limit the number of hours driving, watching tv, or carbo count everyone's meals.

We are all going to die of something - I would prefer to go out because of a heart attack than starve to death.

And as for exercise - I do enough by playing with my kids and coaching footy teams.
It makes me laugh that some people spend their two hours exercising everyday which over 40 years equals about three whole years. This is probably the amount of extra life they gain from their exercise - so they live longer just to go through the pain of running. no thanks.

Posted by the usual suspect, Friday, 1 April 2005 7:55:56 PM
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Rob Moodie is in danger of undermining his argument by allowing himself to be taken in by his own opening paragraph. He says this is the first decline in 1000 years. In which country? If he's talking about Australia, the indigenous population had a decline in life expectancy before now - one that passed almost without comment at the time it was first manifesting itself. If he's talking about the UK (I assume he is by his surname - sorry; I have nothing else to go on), there was a decline in the Industrial Revolution with over-crowding and malnutrition in the working class slums. Life expectancy is itself a simplistic measure of well-being. ".. the bones ... excavated ... around 1000 tell a tale of strong and healthy folk [living] on a simple wholesome diet that grew sturdy limbs - and very health teeth" (Robert Lacy: "The Year 1000").

On the other hand, mhaze is wrong to underestimate the seriousness of the problem. There is a tendency to make light of fat people and they themselves often assume they can restore their 'normal weight' readily. There is a good correlation between obesity and diabetes and it's hard to make light of diabetics whose disease has led to gangene, amputations, blindness and kidney failure. Or their carers. Economic success has little to do with it. Obesity is more prevalent in the lower income groups than in the higher. Blaming computers is simplistic - reading books and playing cards are also sedentary passtimes.

The solution is certainly not economic, let alone a new tax (taxing cigarettes has had more unintended than intended consequences). The solution lies in an informed undertanding of human evolution over the three million years that the species Homo evolved to survive in its natural environment and to recreate activity patterns, dietary practices that match most closely what our Paleolithic bodies demand. They did it without taxes, without gyms AND they ate 'energy-dense diets'. Go figure.
Posted by Myrmecia, Monday, 4 April 2005 8:51:54 PM
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