21 November 2011

Book Review "Sunday"

Yet again the book review is being posted on the "wrong" day but hey, at least I am reading and blogging.

This week's recommended reading is The Obesity Myth by Paul Campos.   This book breaks down quite nicely why BMI is a useless tool and why the number on the scale is not the best indicator of health.  Now, none of this is considered "news" any more, but this book makes some very good points in very interesting ways.
  • First, if just weighing less made you healthy then liposuction would be a life saving medical intervention.  I mean if your weight is the whole medical story then just suck the fat out and voila: perfect health.  No?  Oh so that is not how it works...hmmmm.
  • The corollary is that you can't make big people little any more than you can make little people big.   People who tend to fall outside the "normal" BMI may not benefit from being "forced" into the acceptable range.  (Real life example:  My bestie Alicen and I are the same height, yet the odds of either of us being healthy at 135 pounds is pretty much zero.  That would be heavy for her frame and way too thin for mine.  Ballet dancer vs. linebacker.  Genetics baby.)
  • Correlation is not causation, one way or the other.  You know this is my shtick, but Campos does  a wonderful job of explaining that losing weight tends to make you healthier since methods aimed at losing weight include the real causative agents of good health:  good diet and lots of activity.  Of course, good diet and exercise don't have to make you weigh less to make you healthy, a fact the medical community kind of glosses over.
  • The exact studies (Campos points to four major ones) that are used to "prove" the obesity-ill-health connection don't actually prove that fact.  Without heavy editing and selective use of the data and results, one does not see the obesity-disease link.  One sees the expected good diet and exercise links, but not a direct causative relationship between one's weight and one's health.
  • Campos is a lawyer, not a health care specialist.  At first this seemed odd, but really, this only proves the point that much better.  If someone who is pretty sharp (law is not easy), but not in the health care field can look at the research, divine the statistics and realize that the obesity epidemic is not factually based then we need to take a good look at why that myth is being propagated. 
  • The obesity epidemic may be more about politics and the last bastions of the "isms"  than about medical fact.
The take home message here is that the best indicator of long term health is activity/fitness level.  This is not to say that weight loss isn't good.  If the number on the scale is what gets you off the couch and chowing down some veggies, then that is great.  Just understand that making those healthy choices will make you healthy.  Not thin.  Not the owner of an unrealistic body.  Just plain old healthy.