Rachel just passed on on this spectacularly wrongheaded article on how fatties are dummies, from a blog that bills itself as “The Healthy Living Blog” but reads more like “The Weight-Obsessed Collection of Recycled Content That I Don’t Recommend Reading”:
The study was carried out on 2,223 healthy French people – both men and women – with ages ranging between 32 and 62. The subjects had to take cognitive tests in 1996 for the first time and then again, in 2001 after a 5 year period. Findings of the study provided strong evidence that individuals with high BMIs score lower at cognitive tests than those with normal body weights. For instance, results of a test based on word memory recall proved that normal-weight people were able to recall 9 out of 16 words, while overweight individuals could only recall 7 out of 16 words.
Now, after a few hours of wracking my gravylike brains, I came up with a couple of factors that might explain this correlation, such as the tendency of people in lower socioeconomic classes to be both fatter and less educated, or the increased likelihood that fat people are starving themselves at any given time and suffering from the attendant reduced cognitive functioning. But wait, some of the factors I so painstakingly came up with, they’d actually controlled for! They claim to have adjusted for “age, sex, educational level, blood pressure, diabetes, and other psychosocial covariables.” So gorsh, how could I possibly critique this article? Guess I must be just as dumb as I am fat.
But wait: the plot, like my skull and my waistline, is about to thicken.
Rachel wrote, “Personally, I gave the student address at my college graduation, delivering a six-minute speech completely from memory (even the university prez was impressed!) to more than 13,000 people and not to mention, I graduated with high honors. I have trouble believing that I just somehow fall outside the bell curve.” I’m sure most people here could rattle off a similar list of accomplishments — hell, there’s nobody blogging at SP who doesn’t have a Master’s — but we don’t even have to resort to anecdotal evidence, compelling as these testimonials to our brilliance might be. Because when digging for the French study in the Neurology archives, I found a much more recent study carried out in Chicago. I’ll quote the most relevant part of the abstract:
Results: There was a significant curvilinear association between BMI and cognitive function scores at baseline… However, the associations were much smaller and no longer significant among participants with no cognitive decline at baseline as measured by a Mini-Mental State Examination score of greater than 24.
Conclusions: The findings suggest that greater body mass index in old age is not predictive of cognitive decline in a cognitively unimpaired community population.
Yes, the factor the French forgot to control for: existing cognitive decline. (Quick — come up with ten reasons why fat people with preexisting cognitive issues would fare worse than thin ones! Don’t worry, I’ll wait. I know you’re not too bright.)
Our friend at the Healthy Living Blog, the one illustrating a post about overweight subjects with an extremely fat naked man? She would have you believe that fat people are just dumber, and that fat will make you dumb, and that being less fat can make you less dumb. The researchers in Chicago? Through a miracle of science, they’ve noticed that actually the thing that impairs your cognitive functioning is impaired cognitive functioning. (Even the French researchers weren’t willing to say that losing weight would make you smarter; “No significant association was found between changes in BMI and cognitive function.” Once again, if you’re fat, you’re fucked; even if permanent weight loss solutions existed, they wouldn’t save you! Maybe you can grow two inches.)
Not that it’ll matter, if this gets picked up widely in the media. It didn’t matter that the “fat is contagious” study was desperately flawed. It didn’t matter that a causal relationship between fat and disease has never been proven, or that it often seems to work in reverse. There are plenty of people out there who are just howling for bad science to sate their ravenous hunger for bigotry, who have no interest in data or logic or sober experimentation if the alternative is an orgy of self-important, uninformed hatred.
But yeah… we’re the dumb ones.