Open for Discussion: Getting Cancer Is Your Fault, Especially if You’re Fat

So, a billion people have sent this in: “The largest ever study of the links between lifestyle and cancer has made 10 stark recommendations to reduce the risk of developing the disease.”

Those recommendations are, of course, to eat fruits and veggies, exercise, and oh yeah, don’t be fat.

I’m confused. Didn’t we just see another Largest Study of Its Kind that showed, um, the opposite of that?

Sandy Szwarc:

There were no statistically significant differences for any of the cancers. Eating “healthy” versus eating whatever they chose made no tenable difference in any of the cancers.

Naturally, one is headline news all over the goddamned place, and the other barely got any notice. Guess which is which!

Also, y’all go ahead and discuss. I’m too sick of this shit to even comment right now.

210 thoughts on “Open for Discussion: Getting Cancer Is Your Fault, Especially if You’re Fat

  1. What do you want to bet whatever “evidence” this is somewhere between statistically insignificant and contradictory.

    Jesus christ, getting your weight within three ounces of an arbitrarily determined level for your height is not going to protect you for cancer. Exposing yourself to massive amounts of proven carcinogens might be a bad thing, but we don’t even know if antioxidants are all that good for us.

    I do have a 100% guaranteed cancer prevention technique: die of something else first. Works for heart disease, too.

  2. I do have a 100% guaranteed cancer prevention technique: die of something else first. Works for heart disease, too.

    Heh, no kidding!

    In other news, a recent study from the Kate Harding Institute for Getting a Fucking Grip has concluded that it is perfectly normal to get sick and even die!

  3. So I know that the race/obesity comparison is a minefield, but check it: one time at work, my boss offered to buy anyone lunch if they could find a major-cause-of-death disease that whites got more often than blacks. Nobody got that lunch, not that we really thought they would; pretty much the only diseases at all that we could find that whites were diagnosed with more often were arthritis and depression. Of course, everyone at work said “good god the health care system is fucked,” not “wow, being black is a major risk factor for everything,” because the latter is stupid. I’d wager that the ads I’ve seen around, talking about how blacks in my city get x disease some huge percent more often than whites, have the same thesis. You’re not supposed to read them and think “wow, I should try not being black, it’s healthier.” You’re supposed to think “wow, there sure are enormous racial disparities in quality of care.”

    But it never crosses anyone’s mind that the vaunted correlations between fat and disease could have something to do with health care quality.

    Which is, uh, why we should get back to working on that other blog. :)

  4. Oh, my god, people die! And here I was weighing every vegetable to the gram and checking them off a list to make sure I had the proper green-orange-eggplant ratio in order to insure immortality.

    Yeah, it sounds funny, but for awhile, junk science like this and my own ocd habits had me roughly doing this. Guess what? Still wasn’t getting “as slim as possible without being underweight.” Just bloated.

    Hell, I am going to die. I am probably going to die of cancer, as everyone in my family does at one point or another. (and, nope. none fat, or smokers, or heavy drinkers, or particularly sedentary. just dead, like all of us eventually.)

  5. Fillyjonk, way to make a way better observation than me while I was busy typing.

    Not only the race and poverty, but the fact that for a lot of overweight people, doctor’s visits consist of being told to lose weight because that is the problem. Not, you know, cancer or some other illness causing people to be fatigued. I’ve read way too many stories here and other places about obese people not going to the doctor because of the way they were treated there.

  6. The idea that bad diet=fat=cancer can’t just be “convincing”, it should be factual or don’t report it at all.

    I read an article about the prevelance of breast cancer between American women and native Japanese woman. Basically, the Japanese women had no risk or did not get breast cancer until at least one generation had lived in the USofA.

    So, perhaps there is something in the water or food supply that may increase chances in people that may not have a history otherwise. Implying that because you’re fat, you must eat shitty and therefore you will get cancer is just not helpful.

  7. When did the medical experts’ job description change from “caring” to “blaming?”

    Assuming these were sound bits of advice, I could understand the value in telling the public about them. Preventative medicine is both live saving and cost effective. But, this is always dressed up in such a way that it reads “Do this and live forever! Don’t, and you deserve whatever nasty foul ailment befalls you. Oh, and if you get a nasty foul ailment anyway, well, you probably cheated so you still deserve it.”

    There’s absolutely no good reason I can think of to frame this information in a way that suggests that ANYONE is deserving of cancer. It just contributes to an already fucked up culture of blame where showing sympathy is considered a weakness and all that matters is the bottom line.

  8. It’s not the water, Buffy, or at least not the American water; I was just looking at a study that showed similar mortality rates for prostate cancer in every OECD country except Japan, where it was like 70% lower. I think the Japanese diet is super salutary, for starters. (Unfortunately, emulating it in the US is super expensive.)

  9. When did the medical experts’ job description change from “caring” to “blaming?”

    Oh, nicely put.

  10. I think the Japanese diet is super healthy, for starters.

    Isn’t that a matter of some debate, though? And doesn’t the study Sandy talks about in the link above suggest that diet doesn’t mean much?

  11. I think the Japanese diet is super healthy, for starters. (Unfortunately, emulating it in the US is super expensive.)

    Funny thing is, it goes against some of the advice out there. High in refined carbs (white rice), more fish than is recommended under current guidelines, plenty of soy (which I’ve been told not to overdo because it can affect estrogen levels).

    Moral of the story: there is no moral, because we have no idea what is going on once these thousands and thousands of components we prepare in hundreds of ways start interacting in our systems, which are all different both on ethnic and individual levels.

    Also, bad stuff happens. Sometimes people who have never smoked get lung cancer. Sometimes people get into accidents driving stone sober at the speed limit. Blaming people for things they can’t control doesn’t prevent things from happening, it only gives us a false sense of safety. A very false sense.

  12. The ONLY vaguely questioning thing I found yesterday while googling/yahooing about this study was this:

    http://www.huffingtonpost.com/trevor-butterworth/did-diet-politics-corrupt_b_70626.html

    Not one soul in the MSM ever questions anything at all anymore, particulary when it comes to anything related to fat. Everything is simply taken as irrefutable proof and slapped on the evening news/the front pages of the papers. It’s a horror show. I have two nephews (9 and 11 years old) and my parents and I have had many conversations about how fucked up things are going to be for them because of this hand-wringing, fear-mongering bullshit that is saturating every aspect of our lives and culture.

  13. When Muller discovered the link between cancer and X-rays, he published several pretty definintive papers. Where are these kind of papers for these causes of cancer? Is anyone familiar with the literature here? I’m interested to know if there have been actual definitive links between any of these things, or if this is just recomendations based off of mortality data.

  14. And doesn’t the study Sandy talks about in the link above suggest that diet doesn’t mean much?

    Clearly, at least as far as prostate cancer, differences in diet between America and Europe, for instance, didn’t make a lick of difference. Those are the kinds of differences most “healthy diet” proponents are talking about — less HFCS, supposedly smaller portion sizes, etc. All the “small changes” we’re supposed to make, all the things that the non-American Western diet gets praised for (French Women Don’t Get Fat, anybody?), made no difference at all on this particular standard. But the difference between a Japanese and Western diet is more profound — it goes beyond a difference in ingredients. (Although I’m also willing to bet that eating raw fish is pretty damn good for you, if you can process fish.)

    Interestingly, Japanese people also went to the doctor WAY more often than any other country studied. That wouldn’t contribute to the lower mortality rate from prostate cancer, though, since they also had a lower incidence rate (for usually nonfatal cancers, the incidence rate is generally higher if you get checked out often, because cancers you might never otherwise notice get caught in screening).

    Also, it should be mentioned that I didn’t spend nearly as much time looking at the other diseases, since it’s prostate cancer I was researching. But my editor and I definitely decided that, despite an extremely high rate of smoking (lower lately), the Japanese seem to have a pretty low disease incidence. A lot of it’s going to be genetics; some is going to be philosophy about health. Mind you, I don’t know much about the Japanese philosophy about health besides that they seem to go to the doctor a lot for non-acute conditions (and have longer hospital stays for acute ones). But I know that the American health philosophy — blame and publicly shame people for being a “burden” by failing to do things generally deemed but not proven to be healthy, and fail to acknowledge the effect of socioeconomic class — doesn’t fucking work. In an ideal world, we’d be looking for a different one.

  15. plenty of soy (which I’ve been told not to overdo because it can affect estrogen levels).

    Right, good point. Isn’t soy on the list of things that will TOTALLY GIVE YOU BREAST CANCER!!!!11ELEVEN!?

    Maybe that’s only in countries where the meat industry is partly responsible for science news, though.

  16. But I know that the American health philosophy — blame and publicly shame people for being a “burden” by failing to do things generally deemed but not proven to be healthy, and fail to acknowledge the effect of socioeconomic class — doesn’t fucking work. In an ideal world, we’d be looking for a different one.

    Amen to that.

  17. Yep, Kate, it is, because it contains a good deal of phytoestrogens. I heard this from my nutritionist personally (and possibly my mother’s oncologist – she’s no longer sick, but still sees him, though I forget) and I tend to trust her since she’s the one who’s made the biggest difference in getting me to accept intuitive eating and not morally judging myself by food.

    Certainly not convinced enough to give up soy entirely, but given that I’ve been known to have meals of soy flour pasta, soy meatballs, and soy cheese or eat soy products at every meal, I figure maybe a little variety is a good idea.

    I’m not sure if it’s the meat industry being responsible, since the article Jane linked to critiqued the new study for not including a large study that showed no affect of red meat on cancer rates (a pretty good critique for a meta-analysis, I’d say). It’s more whatever’s the going philosophy at the moment is the one that gets support, until we realize that eating all carbs or all meat or all soy isn’t a good idea after all.

    Maybe I’m just super special, but I find if I’m not thinking about how long it’s been since I last ate or how many calories are in this or how many ounces that apple was, I crave protein what my body needs when my body needs it.

    (but I’m still going to die. probably of cancer. unless I offend someone with morbid humor so badly that they kill me first.)

  18. What I couldn’t help but notice about the story is that they don’t give you information about the cancer risk baseline or changes over time. Take the Really Alarming OMG part (as copied from the Huffington Post as copied from the LA Times):

    “Once an individual reaches the 18-ounce weekly limit for red meat, every additional 1.7 ounces consumed a day increases cancer risk by 15%, the report said. Every 1.7 ounces of processed meat consumed a day increases cancer risk by 21%, it added.”

    Well, what kinds of cancer? What baseline risk were they using to come up with the 15% figure? Is the processed meat figure 21% in addition to the 15% figure or in lieu of it? Is this over a lifetime or over five years or what? Because if it’s over a lifetime, I’m pretty sure there are some hardcore steak-and-potatoes guys that should be very very dead.

  19. Funny thing is, it goes against some of the advice out there.

    That’s because the advice contradicts itself. Eat lots of grains! Oh wait, don’t. Eat fruit and vegetables! But wait, fruits and carrots have sugar, don’t eat those! Don’t eat fat! No, fat isn’t bad for you. But don’t eat bad fat!

    Now, if the advice was presented in a way saying that people are different, like diabetics should avoid carbs and people who get crazy carb cravings should get pasta recipe books, that would be good, but they never present it that way. It’s always do this or diiiiiEEE! It’s crazy.

  20. I’m not sure if it’s the meat industry being responsible, since the article Jane linked to critiqued the new study for not including a large study that showed no affect of red meat on cancer rates (a pretty good critique for a meta-analysis, I’d say).

    Yeah, I wasn’t even talking about that article — just thinking of possible explanations for the “soy gives you cancer” idea gaining traction in the west. I mean, possible cynical explanations, which are what I always go for. It could just be, you know, true.

  21. What really gets me is that when you take ALL of the “suggestions” together, you get this:

    Lose weight, eat nothing but fruit and vegetables, exercise all the time, don’t eat salt, don’t take vitamins, drink nothing but water, and breastfeed your babies.

    Am I the only one that sees the coincidence between that and one of the deadliest eating disorders known to man (aside from that breastfeeding thing, of course)??

    ANO-FUCKING-REXIA

    Yeah, great. Let’s all go out and become anorexic, and we won’t die of cancer.

    Of course, we’ll starve ourselves to death first, but STILL!!! We won’t get CANCER!!!

  22. I’m sorry, but if soy gives you cancer, then Asian countries should have the highest rate of cancer in the world.

    Maybe it just gives white people cancer. Because we deserve it for allowing gays in our country. Or allowing Muslims in the senate. Or whatever we did this week.

  23. Careful, Calli… you’ll have all the religious freaks* out there telling us cancer’s God’s punishment for all the evils in the world.

    *I’m not saying that all people who believe in God are religious freaks, but there’s a difference between a person with a faith and a religious FREAK.

  24. LoL – well, I was going for a kind of “sinners in the hands of an angry god” type of approach. And I think they already do that. Heart disease is the punishment for teh fat, AIDS for teh gay, and cancer for teh soy eaters.

  25. Careful, Calli… you’ll have all the religious freaks* out there telling us cancer’s God’s punishment for all the evils in the world.

    I’m going to sue you both for 11 million dollars! (And not to hijack, but anyone else get a hearty laugh at that? Finally they get a smidge of comeuppance.)

    nuckingfutz bringing up breastfeeding reminded me: we also had the highest rate of low-birthweight babies according to this study. And pretty high infant mortality, if not the highest.

    But nobody in this country has a nutrition problem no way nohow because we’re all so fat ha ha.

  26. I think it’s pretty proven that soy does contain those chemicals – what remains up in the air is what, if anything, that means.

    The way I see it, most things affect everyone differently. If you ate all soy, or all meat, or all carrots or apples or lettuce or broccoli, you’d get pretty sick. You know, the whole malnutrition thing. As far as anything else, if we stop trying to moralize foods and stop forcing people to obsess over their weights, they’ll figure out what foods make them feel good and what foods make them feel bad.

    But as it is, with everyone being told x food is virtuous and y food is bad, we’re so wrapped up in guilt and self-righteousness that the person who believes the soy-prevents-cancer hype won’t notice if s/he’s physically intolerant of it and the person who swears by atkins won’t realize s/he is the sort of person whose body runs better on a high carb load.

    ANO-FUCKING-REXIA

    Yeah, great. Let’s all go out and become anorexic, and we won’t die of cancer.

    Yep, sure won’t. Which reminds me of another reason countries get higher rates of western diseases as they westernize. Not only is there the increase in pollution (FAR worse than anything we have here) as countries develop rapidly, and the upheaval of whatever systems might have been in place, but suddenly? People are not dying of other things first. Like starvation and infectious disease and parasites and violent death.

    I know I’m getting kind of long-winded, but I really get a lot out of deconstructing these sorts of articles. They’re everywhere and it’s so easy to buy into the bs, especially when article-writers are not good enough to provide links to actual studies so I could see the 80 other things they data mined for and came up with p values north of .3 (or results in the unexpected direction). As is, I can only assume that was the case.

  27. I know I’m getting kind of long-winded, but I really get a lot out of deconstructing these sorts of articles.

    Please, carry on! I do, too, but I just wasn’t up to it today, so I’m thrilled that somebody is!

  28. Good God, this is armchair science at its worst. Did you notice that bit? This groundbreaking synopsis is a met-analysis of 7,000 already published (and no, doubt ALREADY BIASED) studies. So, instead of being isolated stupidity, it’s distilled, condensed stupidity.

    My favorite line stopped me here: “It even recommends that people should not gain any weight after 21.”

    Um, thanks, geniuses. So, halt the flow of one of the natural processes of aging, is what you’re suggesting? Thanks. Really helpful.

  29. “It even recommends that people should not gain any weight after 21.”

    Well, that goes right along with the “make sure not to gain any weight while you’re pregnant” recommendation.

    Or perhaps we’re just supposed to have our babies before we turn 21?

  30. Actually Fillyjonk, that might be exactly it! Then we would all need to start having plastic surgery at younger ages to get our bodies back into socially acceptable shape! Think what that would do for the economy!

    Except, at that age there is a very slim probability of having a decent paying job, much less good insurance, and might have to utilize *gasp* government assistance! And that would really piss off the republicans.

    Anyone ever feel like a girl can’t get a break?

  31. Anyone ever feel like a girl can’t get a break?

    Especially since the option to just not have babies is TOTALLY UNNATURAL.

  32. Uuurgh. This so, so enraged me. Mainly the guy from the research foundation with his “Well I know this [not putting on weight after the age of 21, staying at the bottom end of the ‘healthy’ BMI range] might sound difficult but…” By how many BMI points is that the understatement of the century?

    I have a good friend who’s a cancer registrar. She tracks patients and their progress and looks out for anything odd going on. She’s been doing this for 15 years. I recall asking her about what she did when I started working in the office next door, and she drummed into me two facts which, she says, everyone should get into their heads about the ‘big C’.

    One, “cancer” is over 200 diseases, each with its distinct name, tissue type, staging and so forth. You cannot, and knowledgeable people in the medical arena don’t, talk about “cancer” – or its risk factors, which also differ a lot – en masse without specifying what type. The press, unfortunately, can and does, knowing how much impact the C word has to scare people.

    However, there’s one area in which you CAN generalize – more or less. Which is the other thing my friend emphasized: cancers are generally diseases of age. With a few exceptions (like Wilms’ and retinoblastoma, both childhood cancers), the vast majority of cancers are more likely as you get older. (In fact, in the UK at least, she says virtually ALL men over 80 have prostate cancer, at least the beginnings of it…they just mostly die of other things before it gets big enough to cause any problems!)

    So there’s one piece of health advice they missed out here. Perhaps we should all be trying not to put on any more AGE after 21 either. In fact, Logan’s-Run style culling would be absolutely the best way to bring the cancer figures down. After all, we have a dangerous senility epidemic in the West, don’t you know? Obvious really.

  33. Excellent points, Emerald. Regarding aging, same goes for heart disease. You get old enough, something’s gonna take you out, because 100% of human beings have this incurable condition called mortality. If you live long enough, you get cancer or your heart fails. The good news is, it’s only because you already lived so long.

    I mean, sure, it’s a good idea to quit smoking, wear sunscreen, not stubbornly oppose the HPV vaccine, and what the hell, exercise and eat your veggies. But you’re gonna fucking die eventually. I’m still waiting for the media to pick up on the fact that there’s actually no such thing as “preventable death.” I mean, you’d think a good copy editor would set that one straight, if not a doctor.

  34. I noted several fascinating things about this study.

    It didn’t say “lose weight.” It said “don’t get fat.” I suppose those of us who are already fat are just SOL.

    The study contains a “breathtaking” analysis of the reasons people become fat. The ONLY factor that had what was described as “convincing” impact on weight was physical activity. The relationship between weight and stuff like “energy dense food” “sugary drinks” and “fast food” was described as “probable” — which I read as “we can’t prove it, but “common sense” tells us that they have to have an impact.” Other foods — refined cereals, meat, sweetners, alcohol — had what was described as a “limited, no conclusion” on weight.

    JC on a cracker — they looked at 7000 studies and can’t PROVE CONVINCINGLY that what you eat has a causal impact on weight?

    Also, there’s a chart on page 370 of the study that summarizes the “convincing” and “probable” impacts of various factors on various types of cancer. Of the 16 types of cancer identified:

    – “Body fatness” is associated with a “convincing” increased risk of 6, a “probable” increased risk of 1 and a decreased risk of 1 (premenopausal breast).

    – “Abdominal fatness” is associated with a “convincing” increased risk of 1 type and a “probable” risk of 3

    – Adult weight gain is associated with a “probable” increased risk for 1

    – Adult attained weight (by which I assume they mean a “high” adult weight) is associated with a “convincing” increased risk of 2 types and a “probable” increased risk of 3.

    “Sedentary living” isn’t associated directly with increased risk of any type of cancer, but it is associated with having a higher likelihood of being fat. Of course, they didn’t consider the impact of being fat and physically active (since we all know fatties never exercise).

    I haven’t really looked to see what the criteria for “convincing” versus “probable” increased risk are, or what the magnitude of those risks might be. If, for example, there’s a “convincing” argument that being fat makes your risk for getting eshophegeal cancer go from 1 in 1000 to 2 in 1000 … those are still pretty low odds.

    If you want, you can look at the actual report here

    At the end of the day, I wonder if — looked at by people who spend their days looking at stuff like this — the results of this study aren’t actually closer to the CDC study reported on JFS than initial reports suggest.

    Sorry to carry on about this, but it’s really frustrating to hear crap on “news” reports and then see how little relationship to what’s in the actual study those stories actually have.

  35. I went on for so long that I missed most of the posts about “don’t gain weight after 21”

    Yeah — because there’s 1 type of cancer that you MIGHT be at an increased risk for if you do.

    UGH!!!

  36. Anecdotally, my husband works for a Japanese company and the “peer pressure” there is to stay home when you’re sick, so you don’t make others sick. My understanding is at his work, they get sort of irritated with you if you come into work sick. I have no idea what that means to the Japanese health philosophy but it seems his coworkers do “walk the talk” a little better than the typical American workplace. I mean, there is some tiny amount of lip service given to not coming into work when you are contagious, but everybody knows that only a lazyass would stay home sick and your work is just SO IMPORTANT that you have to come in and cough all over everyone. Or spread PINKEYE (which there is no excuse for because at my place, we have laptops and most meetings are conducted by conference call, so we are allowed to work from home if we need to). I’m looking at you, irritating coworker with a preschool age son.

    Regarding health care switching from “care” to “blame”–I think that is such a good point. We are taking the “personal responsibility” concept to a ridiculous place in modern American society. Not that personal responsibility is not very important, and not that controlling your own destiny isn’t a great thing to have the freedom to do in many areas, but it’s getting a little crazy.

    Personal worker behavior seems to be the focus of modern health and safety programs and although we have what is considered to be a top-notch safety culture at my company and I very much appreciate it in general, at times, in my personal opinion, the modern H&S philosophy veers unpleasantly close to “all accidents can be traced back to something bad the worker did.” I think this is just another manifestation of the idea that personal responsibility is the be-all and end-all, and if you just try hard enough and never ever make a mistake, you can completely control your own destiny, which leads to “you can lose weight if you just do everything perfectly” and “you can prevent yourself from ever getting cancer if you eat perfectly and make sure to weigh 106.2 pounds.” And of course if you don’t do those things, it’s your fault you got sick. I would like to live elsewhere for a while and see if it’s any different, because of course I am a product of American society and steeped in its “self-made man” ideal so it’s hard for me to imagine a different philosophy in health care that doesn’t involve assigning blame for individual behaviors. Maybe I am full of shit in making this connection to health care but I feel like it’s all sort of part of the same thing.

    Is there ANY evidence for this idea that you should weigh near the bottom of the “healthy weight” range in order to reduce your odds of getting sick? It’s just that fucker Walter Willett influencing everyone’s thinking again, isn’t it? And it’s sad that people WANT to believe this and continue to punish themselves so badly that his ideas get press and the study Sandy analyzed doesn’t.

    Also, I am so thankful for Entangled and lauredhel and all of you other super-knowledgeable scientific/medical folks around here. I consider myself qualified to look at a study and understand whether the methodology is reasonable, and whether the conclusions match the results, but when it comes to technical medical stuff and the finer points of statistics, I’m out of my league.

  37. What this report also claims is that eating red meat can increase your risks of cancer up to 40 percent.

    So, where’s our “OMG, the meat-eating epidemic KILLS” doomsayers?

  38. And Jmars too! I get so much out of how you guys break down these studies.

    [snipped by Kate]

    Bottom line is I need to start reading these studies and drawing my own conclusions. I don’t mean to cast aspersions on Sandy here (because she is another one of those super-knowledgeable scientific/medical folks like those I was referring to in my comment) I just share the general concern that I need to not fall into the trap of getting lazy and allowing others to do my thinking for me. I suspect I will come to similar conclusions as Sandy when I do start doing my own due diligence, though. Her analysis always seems sound.

  39. You know, looking at this, its not a bad synopsis of what’s out there. (I like reviews with pretty pictures…).

    Overall, there REALLY doesn’t seem like cause to panic. Increased risk from eating most things? Usually less than 1. Sure, it’s good to know that eating meat will increase your chance of colorectal cancer. But it’s also damned funny to know that drinking milk will lower your risk of colorectal cancer, but jack up your risk of prostate cancer if you’re a man.

    Fact is – this really just exemplifies that you’re fucked if you do and fucked if you don’t. You cannot get through life without ever eating something bad for you (well, maybe you can if you have a lot more money than me).

    Here’s what I really want to know: if I eat a bunch of red meat every day, but balance that out with apples, what happens to my risk then? Is there an interaction? Enquiring minds want to know how to cheat the system.

  40. SCG, I can totally vouch for the “stay home when you’re sick” attitude with Japanese companies. Ten years ago, I used to work for a Japanese company, and they were the same way, even if the branch I worked in was in Illinois. They were all like “we appreciate the effort you’ve made to come into work, but GO HOME! GET SOME REST! Come back when you’re better.”

    They were not at all nasty about it, though. It was the only place I felt I could actually call in sick when I WAS sick. Every other place I’ve ever worked, I felt the pressure of “yeah, right, you’re ‘sick.’

    I wonder if anyone’s ever done a study on how STRESS affects things like this. I’d be willing to bet cash money that it’s a hell of a lot more likely than just being fat!

  41. I apologize if anyone’s mentioned this already, but didn’t the super-fabulous medical journal The Onion cover this general issue years ago? I can’t find the link, but the headline is something like “Despite Medical Advances, Mortality Rate Steady at 100%.”

  42. Re: Sandy, I don’t think she’s perfect any more than the rest of us, but I think she’s intellectually honest and very good at what she does.

    People who call themselves “Worried” (why not just go with “Concern T”?), give their e-mail as “rathernotsay@yahoo.com” and cite Wikipedia regarding a controversial figure do not impress me with their intellectual honesty.

  43. Oh, and to clarify: it wasn’t what affiliations or whatever SS has on that Wikipedia page that bothered me. It’s just that 1) Wikipedia isn’t exactly a fault-less source (it’s made up of what readers put into it, and a lot of it isn’t fact-checked) and 2) it wasn’t WHAT they put in there, it was the WAY it was worded that really bothered me.

    Like I keep trying to explain to my family, the WAY you say something can completely change WHAT you’re saying.

  44. American companies create the “fake sicks days epidemic” by not allowing their employees to take their vacation time or work reasonable hours. People wouldn’t have to fake calling in sick if these were taken care of, and then there would be no need for suspicion.

  45. Dear Guardian: Pfft. I’ve been dying since the day I was born.

    I can’t get past that first “point.” Being in the “normal” BMI range isn’t enough, folks – we all have to be at the low end of that range now. 18.5 or bust!

  46. This should reactivate the weight concern trolls in my life. Thanks for the warning.
    If you are a woman and you don’t look like you’re about to die of starvation, someone will tell you that you are too fat (I have a ‘normal’ BMI, and even had concern trolling over my fat when I was 40 lbs underweight).
    This is not about health, it is about giving people permission to harass women. Fat men are ‘collateral damage’ (which does not make their pain any less real or their harassment any more acceptable).

  47. Kate-

    That was my way of staying anonymous. I didn’t want to be yelled at on my own blog for saying things that people here would potentially find objectionable.

    I’m…sorry…?

  48. “Perhaps we should all be trying not to put on any more AGE after 21 either.

    This. Is. AWESOME.

    uh, my last post was in response to this. a whole slew of comments appeared while i was reading, or something.

  49. That was my way of staying anonymous. I didn’t want to be yelled at on my own blog for saying things that people here would potentially find objectionable.

    So you drop a yellworthy comment on my blog instead? Gee, thanks.

    I’m not interested in discussing Sandy’s alleged biases here. If someone else wants to blog about it, I might find it an interesting discussion to read. But whoever you are, I cannot fucking BELIEVE you would come here and say, “I posted flamebait anonymously on your blog because I didn’t want to get yelled at on mine.”

  50. So you drop a yellworthy comment on my blog instead? Gee, thanks.

    Well, you know, you don’t shit where you eat.

    Just where everyone else eats.

  51. Prediction: Within the next 5 years, the definition of overweight will be lowered again, from 25 to 22. Whic will make, what, 80, 90% of the population overweight or obese? Maybe that will get people to finally realise what a crock BMI is.

  52. You know, when I found out that Sandy Szwarc also wrote for the CEI, it didn’t change the way I read her at all. Because, despite the years of damage from fatbrainitis, I assume everyone has biases and blind spots and therefore don’t rely on any one person or group to give me information. Shocking, I know.

    On a happier note, did anyone else see The Daily Show last night? They had an awesomely funny segment with Meme Roth. She’s anti-cupcake now.

    http://www.thedailyshow.com/video/index.jhtml?videoId=127668&title=halloween-costumes

  53. quoting trollish comment from “Worried.”

    Then go blog about it. Seriously. I’d be interested in hearing what you have to say. Just not on MY BLOG.

    That was flamebait? I didn’t mean it to be.

    No, you just didn’t want to say it under your own name, on your own blog, because you didn’t want to get yelled at for it. Totally not flamebait.

    If this is how logic works in your head, I’m none too worried about you bringing down Sandy.

  54. Actually, just ignore me. I really didn’t mean any harm, I just wanted to state my worries about that particular person’s other positions (not relating to obesity!) that I didn’t agree with. I really didn’t know I was going to get yelled at for it. I’ll leave now.

  55. I got that that’s what you were saying, nuckingfutz, I just didn’t really see bias in the way it was worded. But that is definitely a matter of opinion.

    Worried was probably just trying to stir up shit there anyway, now that I look at Kate’s comment and think about it further, but I don’t disagree with the gist. I am inclined to agree with the “intellectually honest and very good at what she does” assessment.

    Callicebus, I totally agree with you there. But they also don’t want you to take sick days even when you are sick. The implication is that anything you are doing that day at work is far more important than your personal health and well-being (and that of all your coworkers, when you consider they want you to come in and spread the flu around to everyone else). Oh, but of course, if you’re CAREFUL enough to use hand sanitizer every 5 minutes, you won’t infect anyone else. If you do it’s your fault, not the fault of the system that made you feel you couldn’t take your own sick time.

    I get the point of the “PTO” concept (which we have at my work) to some extent–supposedly it can have the positive effect of not requiring you to lie or not lie about being sick. You just take the days when you need them for whatever reason. But I feel it is on balance bad because it makes you feel like every sick day is on par with a “vacation” day in terms of seriousness. Like you could be deatlhy ill, but you’re taking the day “off” and it doesn’t matter why, which of course takes a negative connotation because nobody is ever supposed to take a day off. So people at my work are still very unlikely to call in sick even though PTO supposedly removes the “value judgment” from why you are not at work. I feel it sends the message that dedicated “sick time” is not important because being home sick is as much “cheating” or “being lazy” as taking a vacation.

  56. That was flamebait? I didn’t mean it to be.

    How disingenuous can you get? You were so scared of being yelled at for saying it that you went anonymous, but you can’t imagine how it could possibly upset anyone. Uh-huh.

    Incidentally, here’s my opinion on Sandy: I disagree with her on a lot of things. We don’t share a position on public health plans, for instance. But she’s one of the ONLY people speaking for an interpretation of data that isn’t based on “well everybody KNOWS.” I appreciate the hell out of what she’s doing, even if we have somewhat different attitudes about how much of a conspiracy there really is (I tend to think that hundreds of thousands of people being a little greedy and a little intellectually lazy can add up to some serious misinformation without anyone having to conspire at an organizational level).

    Two things to keep in mind:
    – The fact that someone agrees with you doesn’t mean they’re not biased.
    – The fact that someone is biased doesn’t mean they’re not right.

  57. That was my way of staying anonymous. I didn’t want to be yelled at on my own blog

    I really didn’t know I was going to get yelled at for it

    ?

    I’ll leave now.
    Bye!

  58. At my work we have PTOs and sick days. The PTOs are so that you don’t have to lie and say you’re sick when really you just need to run errands, but if you really are sick, you don’t have to use a PTO. They’re also good about encouraging you to stay home if you’re sick. (They’re able to see more than 3 seconds ahead and realise that the lost time will be offsetted by the time saved by not making your coworkers sick, and that sick people aren’t very productive anyway).

  59. They’re able to see more than 3 seconds ahead and realise that the lost time will be offsetted by the time saved by not making your coworkers sick, and that sick people aren’t very productive anyway

    My god! But these notions are so REVOLUTIONARY! Is the world ready??

    Oh, and FJ, your two things to keep in mind are indeed excellent ones. And yeah, I completely disagree with Sandy about universal health care, too (when I lived in Canada, I had health insurance and therefore actually saw doctors pretty frequently; now I don’t and can’t afford it, so I only go when I’m desperate — ’nuff said), but that’s no reason to dismiss the rest of what she’s saying. Like I said, the key is intellectual honesty. She thinks hard about stuff and clearly lays out her thought processes for readers; that’s all I can really ask for.

  60. “Prediction: Within the next 5 years, the definition of overweight will be lowered again, from 25 to 22. ”

    Becky, I was thinking that…and wondering how my skinny hubby would react to actually being overweight for the very first time in his life, without having even put any weight on. I think he’s still in shock over the idea of bacon as lethal…I can take it or leave it, but he’ll be one very unhappy bunny if he doesn’t get his weekly bacon buttie!

  61. Hehe, my fiance is also a skinny guy with a BMI of 22 who loves bacon! When I found out Walter Willett wanted to move the definition to 22 and showed him where that was on the BMI chart, he thought it was absolutely ridiculous that anybody would classify him as overweight. (He also thinks it’s absurd that I’m classified as obese).

  62. Seems to me this study is all the more reason for me to enjoy my life. I mean, cause if the cancer(s) don’t get me, the diabetes will, or something else will get me cuz of Teh Fats. I mean…old age ain’t gonna kill me, that’s for sure. Cause, like, that ain’t how life works.

    *eye roll*

  63. So you know what this means, kids?

    Starting at age 21, whenever you go to the doctor and s/he asks you to go on any medication that has been around less than 10 years, and thus even anecdotal data doesn’t exist about whether it can make you gain at least 5 Whole Carcinogenic Pounds, don’t take it. If the drug has been around since time immemorial and you know anyone who gained at least 5 Whole Carcinogenic Pounds after taking it, don’t take it.

    That means no psych meds, no birth control pills, no adjustments in an insulin regimen if you’ve been on one since you were a kid, no chemo for any form of leukemia or cancer that is Totally Not Your Fault Since You’re Thin, no seizure meds, no corticosteroids, no sleeping pills, no blood pressure meds,,,nothing. Just stay away from all of it. No matter what. And you won’t get cancer, we promise!

    Oh, and even though you’re expected to work out like a hamster daily, no sports injuries either. Those can put weight on ya like a muvafucka.

  64. “Don’t take vitamins”

    So like, what are those who have an autoimmune/digestive problem or had rectal/bowel/etc. surgery and therefore malabsorption supposed to do?

    And oh, speaking of those kinds of people, many vitamin deficiencies have been linked to increased risk of cancer! So, if those people DON’T take supplements, they wind up with deficiency and therefore develop symptoms according to the nutrition deficiency (like nerve damage, anemia, weakness, weight loss, etc…) and wind up with cancer anyway!

    Damned if you do, damned if you don’t. Ah, but that original digestive problem must be YOUR FAULT. Shame on you for developing something like pernicious anemia (I have yet to hear a risk factor for this one other than genetics) or a bowel disorder or whatever. That’s what you get!

    And while we’re at it, vitamin b12 is perfectly cool in large doses (some supplements have approximately 80,000% DV of b12 and that’s been proven to be safe).

  65. One of the things I really love about Sandy Szwarc’s blog and Garry Taubes’ book is that they’ve taught me to look critically at this sort of thing. As in — and sorry if I’m repeating anyone, I couldn’t make it through all the responses here (sorry!) — 1) it’s a press release 2) it’s a data dredge 3) it’s driven by people who had the exact same platform before the study was ever done. While my friends were freaking out I could say “uh, yeah. Not so much.”

    Incidentally it’s funny in the not-funny way that one of those friends when presented with the results of the WHI study said “doesn’t seem likely”. *headdesk*

    Oh, on a side note: I think the beef with soy is that traditional Asian diets contain a lot less of it, and especially less unfermented product, than processed American diets do. My position on processed foods typically has more to do with not liking the look or taste, so I have no opinion on this assertion.

    And a second side note: I lived in Japan for a while, and I’m always mystified that people try to tie the lower insert-disease-here rates to diet. Have you seen what these people eat? Yes, the traditional diet *might* be particularly healthy but this is also a nation with plenty of junk food, both traditional and Westernized. Portions may be smaller on average (it’s hard for me to judge, I went straight from a food-restricting household to Japan), but I’ve watched my young Japanese friends stuff themselves — really stuff themselves, like “eat 1kg and your meal is free!” stuff themselves — on such “healthy” fare as ramen and curry rice and okonomiyaki and yakisoba. I don’t think you’re allowed to travel from one end of the country to the other without buying the local specialty candies for all your loved ones and coworkers in the process. And let’s not forget the binge drinking — I wouldn’t be surprised if the average American binge drinker consumes more total alcohol per-session than his Japanese counterpart, but I suspect the Japanese binge drinking career lasts to a later age. I do think the Japanese exceed non-urban if not all Americans in incidental exercise due to the wide adoption of public transit, though.

  66. And a second side note: I lived in Japan for a while, and I’m always mystified that people try to tie the lower insert-disease-here rates to diet. Have you seen what these people eat?

    Thank you, Kimu! That’s one of the things I was getting at when I asked if the healthfulness of the Japanese diet wasn’t a matter of some debate. I’ve never visited Japan, much less lived there, but I’ve seen people make the same basic argument before — yeah, what Americans think of as the Japanese diet is probably pretty healthy, but Japanese people don’t necessarily eat that way.

  67. Callicebus said:

    American companies create the “fake sicks days epidemic” by not allowing their employees to take their vacation time or work reasonable hours. People wouldn’t have to fake calling in sick if these were taken care of, and then there would be no need for suspicion.

    Not to mention personal and domestic reasons, issues with bad bosses or colleagues, work-related stress and stress-related illnesses, low employee morale, raise in gas prices which affect commutes, fear of outsourcing or any of the other dozens of possible non-obesity-related reasons which may explain absenteeism rates and lowered productivity.

    Companies are reluctant to tackle the real why’s of absenteeism or low productivity because they will then be forced to address uncomfortable factors of their own making. So, they scapegoat obesity instead.

  68. I’M CONFUSED AGAIN.

    I mean, I’d say that a good attitude towards candy is healthier than candy is unhealthy. And there’s also a big difference between Japanese candy and American candy in terms of wholesomeness.

    This is all making me want a trip to the Asian market.

    And some candy. Good thing I brought some in to share at work!

    I think it’s giving me cancer.

    Inevitably.

  69. So I have a Doctor appointment today with a Doctor I have only seen once since I got my new insurance.

    I’m having some really horrible stomach pain and cramping for the past four days and since I don’t really know this guy too well I’m afraid he’s going to make some snide remark about my weight especially given this new study.

    *dread* I really can’t deal with this shit today. Anyone want to go for me?

  70. Man, everyone’s having stomach pain! Me too, and another friend is going in to get checked for ulcers. It’s probably terrorism!

    Anyway, I can’t go to your doctor for you, but we could probably come up with some snappy responses for if he starts giving you shit, if that would help. (I’d start with “oh, okay, how about I try to BE COMPLETELY UNABLE TO EAT DUE TO MY STOMACH CRAMPING? That work for you?”) Although honestly, I always find that the most satisfying approach is just to summarily fire them.

    (Short side note about my stomach pain: I’ve been eating like a bird or a 14-year-old girl for three or four weeks now because everything makes my stomach hurt, to the point where I started tracking my calories to make sure I was getting enough. Turns out that, according to the internet, I haven’t been getting quite enough calories to fuel my basic processes, let alone regular gym visits. Out of curiosity, I stepped on the scale recently, and after almost a month of this I’ve lost a whopping four pounds. A slower rate than you’re supposed to expect on Weight Watchers, only I’ve been eating barely enough to get by. BUT IF WE COULD ALL JUST RESTRICT OUR CALORIES WE WOULD BE SKINNY.)

  71. Every time DH asks me about some study he’s heard on the news about this or that causing something or other, I have to remind him that they said the exact opposite last week or will next week.

  72. These two articles discuss different things. The Guardian article states that carrying less *body fat* reduces the risk of cancer. The Women’s Health Initiative dietary modification trial studied the effects of *dietary fat* intake on cancer risk.

    One’s intake of dietary fat does not necessarily determine one’s percentage/amount of body fat. Furthermore, the reason an increased percentage of body fat is associated with certain cancers (e.g. breast cancer) is because body fat produces estrogen, which is the hormone that fuels breast cancer.

  73. Fillyjonk: I’m not sure how much of a difference there is in wholesomeness overall. I mean, traditional sweets made by an actual human being are obviously one thing, and there are those fruit gums and whatnot…but it’s hard for me to tell if one chocolate concoction is more wholesome than the next or not. Many of our US vendors also operate in Japan, both with the same items marketed to us here and tailored offerings (and I’m *pissed* that I can’t get the curry squid ink Cheetos here).

    Overall, I personally tend to subscribe to the theory that minimally processed items are healthier for me as an organism (and also for pets, for that matter), and part of this bias did come from my time in Japan, since I was first there (almost 20 years ago now) when consciousness raising about food additives was relatively new and things that were banned in the US were still present in some foods (including some foods exported from the US…not cool). I absolutely do not intend to imply any moral judgment against junk food or people who choose to eat more of it, though.

    I also don’t want to make it sound like Japan is the perfect land of people eating freely of tasty things. Especially among women and girls there’s a lot of dieting and some of it was even more crack-addled than I saw among my American peers.

  74. Actually, Jill, the Guardian article talks about 10 different points, including diet.

    And we’ve already been over the estrogen/breast cancer connection in this thread, with regard to soy.

    Got anything new to tell us?

  75. None Given, good point – it’s sad but almost no scientific or medical studies are unbiased. When major corporations have stakes in the results, which they always do, you can bet that the study has been set up to favor one side or another.

    What makes it worse is that the average Joe (or Jill, haha) rarely gets full access to the actual study. Rather they are spoon-fed interpretations of the study results by the media. You’d really have to sit down and delve in depth into conflicting studies to try and figure out whether the methods might favor one result or another and what the media left out when discussing the results of the study. Not to mention you’d have to decide for yourself if the study itself was flawed, which they sometimes are.

  76. Kate, I don’t know why you’re so nasty to me. I’m sorry I haven’t read over every single article you’ve ever posted, but I have certainly read enough of the recent ones.

    You specifically quoted the part of the Guardian article that says that you should *BE* less fat. And you compared this to the Women’s Health Initiative study that had nothing to do with body fat whatsoever. And you cannot deny that these things are NOT related.

    I realize you have a cause that you feel powerfully about, and while I don’t support it 100%, I feel like more people would take you seriously if you didn’t appear to be so underhanded about how you report the news. It makes you no better than the media you’re trying to discredit when you do this. Just reading your entry without reading the articles would lead someone to believe that the Women’s Health Initiative study indicated that it didn’t matter how much body fat you carried, when it didn’t even look into it at all.

  77. Jill: The WRC/AICR study also looked at diet studies and the press release made prescriptions based on such (e.g. the recommendation to eat < 18oz of red meat per week).

    Incidentally, not all breast cancers are estrogen sensitive.

  78. Those recommendations are, of course, to eat fruits and veggies, exercise, and oh yeah, don’t be fat.

    I’m confused. Didn’t we just see another Largest Study of Its Kind that showed, um, the opposite of that?

    Sandy Szwarc:

    There were no statistically significant differences for any of the cancers. Eating “healthy” versus eating whatever they chose made no tenable difference in any of the cancers.

    Also, she provided the links, so people are certainly free to go verify it for themselves.

  79. I can quote too:

    Those recommendations are, of course, to eat fruits and veggies, exercise, and oh yeah, don’t be fat.

    I’m confused. Didn’t we just see another Largest Study of Its Kind that showed, um, the opposite of that?

    Sandy Szwarc:

    There were no statistically significant differences for any of the cancers. Eating “healthy” versus eating whatever they chose made no tenable difference in any of the cancers.

  80. Jill, I’m sorry, you’re looking really petty now.

    Becky’s emphasis showed that food choice was included in the statement to which “the opposite of that” referred. I.e., the study to which Kate linked came to the opposite conclusions, because it didn’t find that eating fruits and vegetables had a significant effect on health.

    Your emphasis showed that, um, there were other things in the sentence?

    That’s not even GOOD semantic quibbling.

  81. And anybody who bothered to click over to the link would know which part Kate was talking about when she said opposite. Just because you were confused by what she was talking about doesn’t mean she was being “underhanded”.

  82. Also, whether the two studies looked into the exact same question or not is not really important. The point is that they both looked into one or more weight-related variables (body weight, body fat, “good” diet vs. “bad”) and the one that concluded that carefully controlling your diet had no effect on whether you got cancer was not publicized at all. The one that found what people seem to want to hear–that by being fat or having high body fat or eating “bad” food you are killing yourself–did. It’s all interrelated even if the second study hadn’t even looked at diet, because your average media consumer believes that “good” diet=thin=healthy=never getting cancer and “bad” diet=fat=dying tomorrow. So most people who read the media coverage aren’t really going to distinguish exactly *which* morally-charged aspect of nutrition or body weight was examined. Though I myself do appreciate people’s more in-depth analysis.

    I don’t really understand why all weight-related science articles seem to have the same content and message, but it seems to relate to people needing to believe they can decide when they get sick and die, and thinner people needing to believe that they are morally superior to fat people and either their body weight or their supposedly more nutritious diet will save their lives. Anything that doesn’t find this never seems to get reported. That is the real problem to me.

  83. Just reading your entry without reading the articles would lead someone to believe …

    Which is why I linked to the articles so people could read them. Which is, you know, what blogging is about.

    I feel like more people would take you seriously if you didn’t appear to be so underhanded about how you report the news.

    Two things, Jill:

    1) “More people would take you seriously if…” (see also, “You might be driving people away…”) is such a ubiquitous concern troll comment, I can’t take anyone who trots it out seriously. Why do you care how many people take me seriously? If you think I’m shifty and unreasonable, wouldn’t you rather see fewer people take me seriously?

    2) I don’t report the news. I comment on reports of the news. I link to reports in the news. I’m a blogger, not a journalist. Big difference.

  84. I should have said “not really important in my opinion” as what I mean by my comment above is that I’m more interested in how the results are reported than the specific findings of the individual studies. Though as you guys said the second report did look at diet also.

  85. I agree, Jill. It can be hard to find the actual studies themselves.

    But I managed to find this particular one. Oddly enough, they were attached to the spoon-fed interpretation I read. And I still think it’s bull.

    But what do I know. I’m fat.

  86. My point is that actually 2 of the 3 things mentioned (exercise & body fat/weight) had absolutely nothing to do with the Women’s Health Initiative. I’m sorry, but that goes way beyond bending the truth.

    I needed to say something because it truly bothers me that people visit this site, read the posts, and take this stuff as gospel, when it’s just as twisted as any other reporting out there. So, I said my piece, and I’ll take my opinions elsewhere. Sorry to interrupt. Carry on.

  87. I needed to say something because it truly bothers me that people visit this site, read the posts, and take this stuff as gospel

    … because fatties are too stupid to click links…

    when it’s just as twisted as any other reporting out there

    … because Kate, I’m convinced you’re still a reporter, no matter what you JUST SAID.

  88. *stares at Jill’s comment*

    Now that’s just dammed ridiculous. Folks are not advised to take stuff as “gospel”. Seems to me that the act of adding in the links would make folks want to go make an informed decision of their own. Or are you calling the Prosies (heh) brainless?

    I’m a trifle insulted, I am.

  89. Last thing, to respond to fashionablenerd, I’m fat too. I’m certainly not anti-fat. But I’m not getting into it because you all don’t want to hear it and I can accept that.

    And Kate, I don’t think you’re shifty and unreasonable. I have heard a lot of my personal friends talking about your site lately, and I really support probably 60% of what this is all about. But I realize that sometimes when you are trying to change the way society view things you can’t go at it half-assed, and that’s why the views here are probably very extreme.

    I’m sorry if I appear like a troll, I promise you I’m not.

  90. God, I know, we’re SO EXTREME in this thread. I mean, I can’t believe we’re espousing such radical positions as “anyone who lives long enough will eventually die” and “maybe everybody doesn’t have to have a BMI of 18 in order to have a normal lifespan.” If only we could be moderates like Walter Willett.

  91. Boy, oh, boy. See Kate? This *points to Jill* is why I didn’t wanna be snarky all up in your comments section.

    But I will say this: it makes sense to me that a personal (ahem. PERSONAL) blog could be seen as extreme. But hey, Jill, Kate don’t make the news. She don’t even report the news. She just COMMENTS on it.

    And that, I think, makes all the difference.

  92. My point is that actually 2 of the 3 things mentioned (exercise & body fat/weight) had absolutely nothing to do with the Women’s Health Initiative. I’m sorry, but that goes way beyond bending the truth.

    2 of the 3 things I mentioned — AFTER mentioning that they came from a list of 10 — had little to do with the WHI.

    7 of the 10 things on the list I LINKED TO, SO PEOPLE COULD READ IT have to do with ideas about “healthy eating” that are directly challenged by the WHI.

    So that 1 out of 3 things I mentioned? Referred to 7 out of 10 points on the friggin’ list. You want to tell me again that it’s disingenuous to compare the two studies?

  93. This *points to Jill* is why I didn’t wanna be snarky all up in your comments section.

    No no no, that’s a terrible excuse. That’s the reason we NEED snark. And withholding your ration of snark from Shapely Prose, if continued over a long enough period of time, will totally give you cancer.

  94. You want to tell me again that comparing the studies is meaningless?

    And you want to tell us again how we’re the ones who are too gullible/stupid/lazy to click links instead of taking Kate’s word as “gospel”?

  95. I really support probably 60% of what this is all about.

    And I really support probably 100 percent of you kissing my ass.

    I’m sorry, was that too extreme?

  96. I saw the crazy cupcake lady on the Daily Show last night and then woke up to my local radio station blaring this headline: OBESITY responsible for more cancers than they ever imagined!!!

    I really just wanted to roll over and go back to bed. It’s the only way I’m ever going to get a single OMG!! TEH FAT!! YOU’RE DYING!!! free day.

    And as for cancer? Been there, done that, bought the t-shirt and used it to wash my car. Guess I can eat whatever I want. :)

  97. Ah yes, this ability to edit comments is both a blessing and a curse. Want me to go edit mine to reflect your new phrasing? :)

  98. Whether Kate wants to be or not (and I feel like she wants to), she is influential and is not exactly unpopular. I realize she is telling no one to take her thoughts without a grain of salt, but at the same time, my *personal* feeling is that if you know you’ve got the readership and influence, maybe try not to be misleading.

    At any rate, so long & thanks for all the fish!

  99. Jill’s trying to leave, but she can’t figure out how to click a link that will take her away from the site.

  100. This thread it totally giving me cancer.

    Well you’re not supposed to EAT it!

    Unless you mean cancer is caused by things other than diet, in which case… pfft! Crazy talk!

  101. And I really support probably 100 percent of you kissing my ass

    HAH! That has to be up there with the best snark of the day.

    But, um, yeah, the whole misleading thing? Applies to JOURNALISTS.

    Just sayin’

  102. We all gotta die of something.

    I’ve already died once that i can remember. Should have died a few other times; i figure the fact that i’m still alive means that i’m supposed to be here a while longer. That said: we all gotta die of something, sometime. Whether it’s cancer in 20 years or a bus tomorrow – why waste so much time worrying?

    I think worrying causes cancer.

  103. But, um, yeah, the whole misleading thing? Applies to JOURNALISTS.

    Hey, wait a minute! There’s also the part where I’m not actually misleading, as described above!

    I’m not objective or measured in my writing, which are two things that distinguish me from a journalist. But I sure try not to be misleading. And I don’t think I was where Jill accused me of being so.

  104. Jill’s right, you guys, maybe this strategy of misleading readers needs to be rethought. I know it probably hasn’t occurred to you, but maybe try being HONEST in your posts instead of trying to continually pull the wool over people’s eyes.

    (That is so nasty that I feel the need to spell out that I am trying to be sarcastic there.)

    Jeez, that is really insulting, Jill. Disagreement is one thing, but accusing people of deliberately being dishonest, twisting facts, or manipulating readers is too much. I can’t imagine thinking that the posts here are written in anything other than straightforward good faith, even if you disagree with their conclusions or opinions. That’s a poisonous little accusation to drop off as you leave the room.

  105. I think worrying causes cancer.

    Everything causes cancer. Including breathing, walking, thinking….yeah.

    Heh. WE know you’re not being misleading, Kate. But I suppose those who think otherwise have a copy of Webster’s I’m not so familiar with.

  106. Unless you mean cancer is caused by things other than diet, in which case… pfft!

    Well. I can has theory. *nod*nod*

    See, cancer is caused by the things you put in your body. So like, all that food you put in there? Totally caused cancer. Now, different types of cancer are caused by different things.

    I’m reminded of a conversation between two friends (one of whom, rest his soul, was dying of colon cancer):

    her: *lights smoke*… wait, this won’t bother you, will it?
    him: no. actually… can i have one?
    her: um….
    him: oh, c’mon, it’s not like i’m gonna stick it up my ASS.

    So, um, if you don’t wanna get colon cancer, stop smoking things out yer ass.

  107. my younger brother got colon cancer at age 29, and he was slim and trim, athletic… he drank a bit but not excessively, and I’m sure he’d have red meat occasionally too, but not a lot. but he was definitely not fat. I think for the most part no one knows what the hell causes cancers, other than the obvious things like cigarette smoking. ugh.

  108. Out of curiousity, does anyone know if this meta-analysis was done “vote-count” style, or if the original stats were converted to a z-score and controlled for effect size?

    Re: soy. Does anyone know of experimental research that concludes that soy causes cancer? The research I have seen has ecological validity, but is purely correlational. Since we can’t control (unless we do an experiment) for the other factors people are exposed to (um, pesticides with your soy, anyone?), we don’t really know the effects of soy.

  109. Also: my grandfather was around 70 when he died of lymphatic cancer. He was also 6’6″ and 150 pounds.

    My grandma had various bits of skin cancer and lived to be 92. My other grandmother had breast cancer, but died from heart related issues after taking Phen-Fen; she was in her 60s, IIRC.

    The message? Cancer happens, and weight is less relevant than “freaking out about weight and taking potentially dangerous drugs for weight loss”.

  110. I’m the one who initially brought up the soy thing and, no, I don’t know any studies offhand. I believe there’s some that show tangential corellation, but am not sure. We do know pretty definitively that they contain phytoestrogen compounds, which are believed to be good for menopause symptom relief and bad for breast cancer risk.

    Do I think it really matters one way or another? No. Normally it’s the sort of thing that I look at yet another fad science health “finding” and shrug. Or try really hard to shrug and obsess anyway.

    I only really give it any merit personally because I have both a strong family history of breast cancer (two premenopausal cases in my mother, who fortunately is fine now) and a tendency to eat about twenty times the average amount of soy. We’re talking soy bacon, soy burgers, soy chips, edemame, soy yogurt, soy cheese, and big chunks of tofu eaten raw. I once had a meal of soy flour pasta with soy meatballs and soy cheese. So, yeah, cutting down wasn’t so much a matter of deprivation as “holy crap, I might want to eat more than one food once in awhile.”

  111. I know. Making that list made me really hungry.

    Can’t eat… cancer will get me… can’t eat… cancer will get me.

  112. Can’t eat… cancer will get me… can’t eat… cancer will get me.

    BWAH!

    Also, I think this

    I only really give it any merit personally because I have both a strong family history of breast cancer (two premenopausal cases in my mother, who fortunately is fine now) and a tendency to eat about twenty times the average amount of soy.

    is a really important point. Personally, I’ve got almost zero family history of cancer, but I’m up against loads of heart disease and diabetes. If I accept that red meat is terrible for my heart (which I don’t, but let’s pretend I do), then soy’s going to be the better choice for me, while it might really be a lousy choice for Entangled or other people with a family history of breast cancer.

    Half the problem with reporting like this is that it implies each of us is equally vulnerable to every disease in the known universe. If I happen to get breast cancer, I’ll be told it’s because I ate too much tofu, or took the pill for too long, or didn’t do self-exams often enough — and the fact that there was no good reason to assume I had any significant risk for breast cancer will be completely lost. I’m already legitimately at risk for enough shit, thank you very much. How am I supposed to stay on top of warding off every fucking disease out there?

    Oh right, I could starve myself thin. That solves everything.

  113. This thread is cracking me up!

    Also, I know Jill is gone, but can I just say that this: “I’m fat too. I’m certainly not anti-fat.” is one of the stupidest defenses ever. It is more than possible to be simultaneously fat and anti-fat. In fact, I think that describes probably 90% (if not more) of the fat people I knew before I discovered this community.

  114. It is more than possible to be simultaneously fat and anti-fat. In fact, I think that describes probably 90% (if not more) of the fat people I knew before I discovered this community.

    TESTIFY.

  115. The problem with being fat AND being anti-fat is that it also means you’re anti-self.

    And most women won’t admit OUT LOUD that they hate themselves. They might admit it TO themselves, but they’re not about to start broadcasting that they hate themselves because they’re fat.

    *ahem* Not that I know what I’m talking about or anything.

  116. Nuckingfutz, I know lots of women who say things like: “Oh God I can’t believe I ate that, I’m such a pig” or: “My thighs are so disgusting” or other such things. I’d say those women are pretty much broadcasting that they hate themselves because they’re fat. It also sometimes comes out as disgust directed toward people who are fatter than them. Just the other day my fat mom was talking about this fat woman she saw in a miniskirt and how disgusting it was and it just… it made me sad. I think my main goal in fat acceptance is not to turn into my mom =/.

  117. I believe it’s in the fabulous cookbook Nourishing Traditions that fermented soy in small amounts isn’t a problem, but larger amounts in an unfermented state are not good for the body. They also mention that Asians in general do not eat the mega amounts of soy that we (The West) believe they do. However, WestonAPrice.org says soy is the equivalent of, y’know, the devil. YMMV I’ve never been to Asia so I have no idea if that’s true or not.

    Personally, I very rarely eat soy as I have more than my fair share of Estrogen in my body, and don’t really need to be adding any more.

  118. My mother, the pack a day smoker, highlighted this study to me yesterday. She is no longer fat because she basically does not eat food: she smokes cigartettes and drinks black coffee. Hmm, does not explain why my dad, who meticulously managed his weight and did not smoke got cancer. It is all a crap shoot as far as I am concerned.

  119. On the subject of being both fat and anti-fat….Yes, that was me up until, oh, a month or so ago when I found this whole FA community on the internet. You mean I DON”T have to hate my body? I can actually LIKE it?!?

    I am still struggling and I make mistakes, but I try not to walk down the street looking at people and asking myself: am I fatter/skinnier/prettier/better dressed/fill in the blank than her?

    Last night I was home for a visit, and my little brother (used to be super super skinny and tall, gained about 50 pounds in the last 2 years) played with our belly fat and laughed. I call that progress. He is 6’2″ and 190. I actually told him what I weighed, and not in an “i’m so ashamed” sort of way. In a matter of fact way. That is definitely progress.

    Thanks you guys!!!

  120. My mother, the pack a day smoker, highlighted this study to me yesterday. She is no longer fat because she basically does not eat food: she smokes cigartettes and drinks black coffee.

    Holy crap. It’s like my own mom’s still around.

  121. Becky, I wasn’t saying that NO women would broadcast it, just that MOST women wouldn’t. For a long time, i tried to hide how I felt about myself and my body, because I was ashamed to BE ashamed. But eventually it got so bad that I couldn’t stop myself from saying out loud how I truly felt. But I didn’t – and still don’t – know another woman who felt the same way I did – or at least none that said it out loud.

    So Kristin, I know exactly how you feel. I can’t honestly say that I like my body, but I’ve called a cease-fire. Or at least I’m trying to. I figure if I can get that part down pat, then I can move up a stage.

  122. Kate, you’re right, and breast cancer and heart disease are interesting examples because people generally have a decent idea what their family history looks like – those diseases are so common now that people live longer lives. We also have a decent idea of components that may affect that.

    There’s a million other diseases and conditions where we have NO idea. Or, hell, you could get hit by a bus or get drug-resistant staph. There’s a certain point where you need to live your life a little bit, rather than worrying about what micronutrient affects which organ and how to stay at the absolute bottom of the healthy bmi range without ending up underweight.

    The pill is a great example of contradictory evidence, though. While preliminary findings show that it may, possibly, increase breast cancer risk, it’s much more conclusively shown to reduce ovarian cancer risk. There’s a strong link between the two cancers (ie, if you’re prone to one, you’re prone to the other). Ovarian is less common, but WAY more deadly. Hence, when I wanted to go on the pill and my mom was skeptical, she carted me to the oncologist who pretty much ordered me to get on it and stay on it.

    As far as body hatred goes, it’s not just women of one weight or another. I’m of “healthy” weight (I would maintain it’s healthy because I can run far, lift heavy stuff, and am not, you know, sick, but society says otherwise) and spent a good deal of time hating myself for finishing the entire salad or eating an extra handful of cereal. Convinced that there was something fundamentally wrong with me because I had a hunger way too strong to let me get down towards the underweight level.

    It’s kind of pointless to bring that up except to say that this blog has helped me as well.

  123. nuckingfutz.- I am with you on the cease-fire. I am kind of force-feeding myself the mantra “I am lovely”.

    This is off the topic of the study, I know. But once I started withholding negative judgement of fat people (particularly women), I started comparing myself to their “type” of fat…If only I were hourglass shape, then it would be ok. If only I had a thin face, then I would be alright.

    I have to constantly be aware of my thoughts and try to replace them with something nice, like, wow, I have really strong legs. I have great hair.

    I know it probably sounds stupid and really unenlightened. I am looking forward to the day when I have NO judgement at all…about me or anyone else, based on their appearance.

  124. My mom gave me a paper with this article in it today. Sigh.

    I didn’t know what to say to her. My mom thinks she’s “fat and ugly”. She will go to her grave thinking that. She was anorexic as a teen and even though she survived and isn’t anorexic anymore that voice is always in her head.

    Right now she’s “overweight”. Even her doctor told her that #1 she’s healthy and #2 being “overweight” is better once you hit 60 (yes, I know we can argue whether the benefit only starts at 60, but it was still nice he wasn’t telling her to lose weight). She still wants to blame everything on fat.

    She’s also got the fear or mortality thing going on. We had a good laugh today though. She was talking about the family history (full of people who live to their 80’s/90’s/100’s) and she moaned that “everyone died of something”. I said “Well no shit mom, EVERYONE dies of SOMETHING”. And we cracked ourselves up for awhile over that :D

    So I love my mom and I’m glad to have her around. I just wish she’d love herself more.

    Anyway, sorry if that’s a total tangent there, I just saw a few posts about mothers and today’s lovely (coughNOTcough) article.

  125. The only thing I can think of fj is cystic fibrosis, but people don’t normally die from that. lulz.. :P

    I didn’t initially have to look at Sandy’s take on it: I just thought of her when I first heard about this article. :P

    I’ve said it once and I’ll said again:
    Racial/Obesity hatred parelles are accurate, because in both cases: Negative feedback is rarely ever going to help (A), the intent may or may not be advocated for change (B), and as FJ pointed out: We’re all at risk for a whole lot of things whether we live healthy or not (It baffles me that complications from Anorexia Nervosa is still said to kill more than t3h fatzorz, but you never hear of the death rate: Just their “Horrid” bodies/body image as defined by society), and it’s still hatred. You could just try to help someone in a positive manner, if you like…. didn’t have a hateful intent behind it, and try to hid behind something? Obesity hatred is hidden within health, gay hatred is hidden within religion, and race? A whole lot of things I won’t speak of, but anywho…

    And people fail to realize that if you really wanted to change your apperance: You’d get plastic surgery. Of course, in the case of race it’s shameful, but t3h fat: ITZ A VIRTUE LOLZ…

    Thanks for the post.

  126. The only thing I can think of fj is cystic fibrosis, but people don’t normally die from that. lulz..

    Jon B., I’m not even sure what you’re responding to here, but I think you’re thinking of another disease, ’cause people sure do die of cystic fibrosis.

  127. OMG, Shannon, my sisters and I have a little inside joke about how my mom would never say “fat” and “ugly” as separate words, so we made up the word “fatanugly.” In retrospect, it was the saddest thing; an absolute certainty that fat could not be spoken in the same breath as beautiful, and surely influenced the way my siblings and I think about our bodies. Maybe my new word will be “hottenfat.”

    PS–my mom died neither of cancer nor of heart disease nor even of teh diabeeeeetus (although she had two of the three). She died of a drug overdose due to the overwhelming depression wrought by never feeling good enough. Take THAT, people who think they know what causes death.

  128. Kate, I think he’s talking about the “diseases that whites get” post FJ put in right at the beginning of the comments; and I think (hope!) he was being facetious about CF not being deadly! :)

  129. Why does it seem like I’m about 100 time zones away from Shapely Prose?
    I got this article in an email on Halloween, and wrote back to the sender that I don’t eat a whole lot of processed meats, I rarely drink, but as for staying slim… that ship has sailed.
    Jmars pointed out that perhaps those of us who are fat are just “SOL” when it comes to avoiding cancer.
    Here’s my spin.
    If we’re already fat… maybe they will leave us alone now?
    Since dieting causes weight gain… maybe dieting will be banned now?
    I think that the world is made up of two types of people (don’t you hate it when people say that?):
    Those afraid of dying and anything they might associate with possibly dying (key idea being that they are not rational about this)
    and
    Those who accept that human beings die. Life is fatal. There is only one way out. Enjoy it while you can. Leave only footprints, take only memories (sorry, I got a little Lifetime-y at the end there).
    Life causes cancer. Life causes diabetes. Death can only be delayed, not entirely prevented.
    I know I’m summing up what others have stated better than I am, but forgive me for being in some weird space/time warp that allows me only to read life after it’s been lived.
    (That’s what I get for working for the government and not being able to websurf at work.)

  130. If I were to go back to school to get my PhD, I would want to look carefully at what “prevention” means. What the cons are of promoting “prevention” in the sense of what it does emotionally to people who didn’t “successfully prevent” any given disease, and if these are outweighed by the pros of the elusive “prevention.” What I’ve just typed is practically heresy in my line of work, but I made a decision a long time ago to be a mole within the system, darn it, and from time to time I do dig annoying holes in the perfect green lawn of “prevention.” Hopefully, I’m doing some meaningful work as well that has nothing to do with digging holes. But I do feel like the token fat person sometimes.

  131. I know lots of women who say things like: “Oh God I can’t believe I ate that, I’m such a pig” or: “My thighs are so disgusting” or other such things. I’d say those women are pretty much broadcasting that they hate themselves because they’re fat.

    I also think many women – fat and otherwise – come out with these self-denigrating remarks because, in these fucked-up times in which we live, self-hatred is seen as a moral obligation. Even if you don’t hate your body, society teaches us we’re supposed to, (after all, given the narrow definition of “health” and beauty typified by celebrity role models, there’s always plenty of room for improvement). Likewise, even if you don’t hate your body, there’s a fair chance the person you just ate lunch with hates hers. It’s only polite to show a little solidarity, (and validate her self-hatred) by saying you hate yours too – and, of course, if she perceives your body to be more socially acceptable than hers, that will ensure she won’t be giving herself or anybody else a break any time soon.

  132. I know I’m late to the party, but I’ve been thinking…if we’re not supposed to gain any weight AFTER 21, does that mean I should try extra hard to gain all the weight I’ll ever need BEFORE I turn 21?

    I mean, I’m not really fat (yet – it’ll happen. I’ve seen my family. I know how this works) just kind of average. Technically overwieght according to BMI, and I know I’m going to be packing some on later even if I never have those adorable (and, if they’re anything like me, completely impossible) children I one day want.

    So should I just cram in 10,000 calories a day and try to gain it now? So when I turn 21 I won’t have to worry about gaining it later?

    I’m not sure that would work out they way I’m planning it…

  133. I also think many women – fat and otherwise – come out with these self-denigrating remarks because, in these fucked-up times in which we live, self-hatred is seen as a moral obligation. Even if you don’t hate your body, society teaches us we’re supposed to, (after all, given the narrow definition of “health” and beauty typified by celebrity role models, there’s always plenty of room for improvement). Likewise, even if you don’t hate your body, there’s a fair chance the person you just ate lunch with hates hers. It’s only polite to show a little solidarity, (and validate her self-hatred) by saying you hate yours too – and, of course, if she perceives your body to be more socially acceptable than hers, that will ensure she won’t be giving herself or anybody else a break any time soon.

    Oh my GOD, Buffpuff, YES. It throws people for such a fucking loop if you dare to like yourself. They have no idea how to react when you don’t engage in the “I’m So Awful” Olympics.

  134. It really does, Jane. Especially if they don’t know you very well. It’s like farting in church; no one can quite believe you’ve done it and they haven’t a clue how to handle it so they usually get very flustered and shut up.

  135. Have you all noticed that American Cancer Society’s slogan these days (I think it’s new but I’m not as tuned into Cancer) is “No one deserves to get cancer, but everyone deserves the right to fight it.”

    Yes, “no one deserves to get cancer.”

    No matter how many hot dogs one eats, no matter if one has smoked cigarettes or how much weight has been gained before or after age 21.

  136. Jon is right about CF — whites do get it more often than blacks. I forgot about that one. It didn’t count for lunch, though, because it isn’t a major killer (in terms of mortality rate throughout the population).

    Buffpuff, like almost everything you write, this:

    I also think many women – fat and otherwise – come out with these self-denigrating remarks because, in these fucked-up times in which we live, self-hatred is seen as a moral obligation.

    is INCREDIBLY astute.

  137. Have you all noticed that American Cancer Society’s slogan these days (I think it’s new but I’m not as tuned into Cancer) is “No one deserves to get cancer, but everyone deserves the right to fight it.”

    Dude, I can’t believe they have to SAY that. They feel the need to explicitly state, in their motto, that they don’t actually think anyone deserves to get cancer. Christ on a crutch. If you have to say something like that so people don’t get the wrong idea, you’re fucking DOING IT WRONG.

  138. I also think many women – fat and otherwise – come out with these self-denigrating remarks because, in these fucked-up times in which we live, self-hatred is seen as a moral obligation.

    That’s a really good point. You do feel a certain pressure to go along with it when the women you’re with start in. I’ve started getting up and walking away from those conversations, myself.

    It’s like farting in church; no one can quite believe you’ve done it and they haven’t a clue how to handle it so they usually get very flustered and shut up.

    Heh, I remember when my mom and grandma were diet-talking, and I said something to the effect that Id rather be fat than diet. They just stared at me as if they had never heard anything so absurd or ridiculous in their lives. A fat person who doesnt want to dietC! How could such a thing be?

  139. I remember when my mom and grandma were diet-talking, and I said something to the effect that Id rather be fat than diet. They just stared at me as if they had never heard anything so absurd or ridiculous in their lives. A fat person who doesnt want to dietC! How could such a thing be?

    I went through the same thing Sunday night with my best friend, strangely enough. She looked at me like I’d suddenly grown a second head. Although I must admit that in the 4 years we’ve known each other, I’ve never gone off the “I’ll never like myself unless I’m thin” bandwagon – until now. If she’d ever given me the chance to explain why I’ve suddenly decided I’ll never diet again, I bet she’d have learned something.

  140. Oh good glory I saw this on the news last night myself… the greatest part I was sitting with my parents at the time and my mom is watching it and then just looks over at me until I looked back at her (which took awhile cause I knew what was coming) and was like….” well ….. that should give “us” the motivation to get to work on it right? I think we will pass on the ice cream tonight” ~DOH~

    another thought I had from this is maybe so many of us “fatties” are dying early from cancer instead of going into remission and what not because most of us avoid the doctor like the plague, I know I do after going in for what I knew was strep throat (I had had it a few times already and knew what it felt like) and needed the antibiotics and the doctor came in and spent 45 min telling me I should lose weight and giving me a bunch of those wonderful pamphlets chock full of diet advice and that wonderful food pyramid and stuff and said that if I would just lose weight I would feel better and sent me home…. I was so shocked and ashamed I just slunk out of there only to return 3 or 4 days later because I was in so much pain and she acted like it was all in my head and well since I was being such a brat about it she would do the throat culture and give me some antibiotics… and then asked me if I had looked over those pamphlets and was working on them. Ugh frikken…. and that isn’t my only lovely experience with doctors. Lol but that is a whole different rant.. sorry .. I just think that overweight people would be less likely to have health problems if they didn’t have to deal with all that.

    I relate to being fat and anti-fat, that is something I struggle with alot… being quite new to the fact that an overweight person can actually BE HAPPY ABOUT HOW SHE LOOKS…. and not apologize or make excuses for it. I was raised with the whole thought of “You would be so pretty IF you would just lose that weight” If someone had just told me when I was young that you know what I was actually pretty… it could have changed my whole life drastically.

  141. Has anyone else had a chance to read the JFS post about this survey? I hadn’t gotten around to finding the survey itself or more information than OMG EAT VEGETABLES OR DIE before now.

    But wow.

    The organization that put out this “study” (which was really a meta-analysis of a small portion of cancer studies which they pre-screened before including) is devoted to seeing cancer as a preventable disease controlled by diet, exercise, and weight management.

    Not only were their actual findings VERY weak. Not only was there absolutely no indication that being thinner is better. Not only did they pre-screen their studies before choosing them and exclude some large recent studies with findings that contradicted their null hypothesis.

    All that and they’re also a highly-funded “charity” dedicated to using weight loss to prevent cancer. I think I’ve gone from “wow, another obnoxious yet triggery anti-obesity article” to “how DARE they set out on a course to falsely convince people that cancer is their own damn fault in order to support the goals of their undisclosed donors.”

  142. Cordelia, I think you are 100% right about fat people avoiding doctors. More often than not they just use us as pawns or object lessons to feed their need to believe that people are at fault for getting sick. I am mad at your mom for that comment too. “Us” indeed. Why don’t people realize that there is no way that kind of criticism can “help” a fat person?

    Not to interrupt the actual substantive conversation, but I was poking around on Threadless after the Rhino post and found the following design that seems appropriate to this thread: http://www.threadless.com/product/505/Death_our_nation_s_number_one_killer

  143. Entangled, ick. That kind of thing is so dishonest.

    I hate when you get something like this because since it is a “review paper,” people tend to think it is de facto more comprehensive and reliable than a single study. But when you cherry-pick studies to include, it becomes meaningless. That is so misleading.

    I know this is probably something I should already know, but is there a sort of seminal review paper that examines various studies on weight and mortality (or one on weight and cancer too, but I am kind of interested in a broader one), that is peer-reviewed, reasonably objective, logically solid and not put out by a group with a vested interest in the outcome? Thanks in advance to those of you who know this kind of stuff.

  144. Also, this is v. smart:

    I hate when you get something like this because since it is a “review paper,” people tend to think it is de facto more comprehensive and reliable than a single study. But when you cherry-pick studies to include, it becomes meaningless. That is so misleading.

    I think the problem with your dream study is that there’s no money in it. I do NOT want to promote undue skepticism about science, which overall is an admirable institution, and I wouldn’t have spent years studying its development if I didn’t think so. But studying it means reading Kuhn and Feyerabend so bear with me. While science is an admirable and generally functional institution, it can be shortsighted (in a “herd mentality” way, cf. “normal science”), and it can’t flourish in a society that doesn’t value it. What we’re dealing with right now is science — especially medicine — that has a choice between being strongly curtailed by lack of support (financial and philosophical), or taking support from interested parties. I don’t think we’ll have that forever. But lest we EVER be accused of being anti-science, I want to say right now that I am extremely pro-science but I do not think all sciences are functioning at peak capacity right now. If they were, this kludged-together survey of cherry-picked studies funded by partial entities would not be treated as a major breakthrough.

    And of course the reporting is key here too, and don’t think I’m letting journalists off the hook. But my interest there is more personal and less scholarly.

  145. Cordelia, you may be interested in looking through the archives of this blog for a series of posts called: “Fat Hatred Kills.” It’s about pretty much exactly what you said, that fat people avoid the doctor because they don’t want to be harangued about their weight, and that when they do go, they get poor treatment. I definately think that’s a factor. But having a doctor prescribe weight loss for a freaking sore throat is one I’ve never heard before. Jeez.

  146. I’m not sure what lightbulb has dimly gone on at The New York Times lately … or at least for some of its writers. But John Tierney has written blog post with the intriguing title “Is Nutrition Science Not Really Science?” Some of the comments are, of course, not so nice. But still, it’s good to see that at least some in the MSM are questioning some of the “research”

  147. Imagine how some of us feel if we have *already had* cancer (non-Hodgkins lymphoma when I was in my 30s). Not only do I get to experience the thrill of the blame, but I also have to listen to the studies that tell us we are *more likely to relapse* if we gain weight after tx and don’t eat enough fruit and vegetables.

    OK, so it was all my fault I got cancer in the first place, and if I get a recurrence, that’s all my fault too. I know I shouldn’t let it get to me… but it does. I feel I’ve been betrayed enough by my body. Pin a scarlet C on me, please. :(

    The irony of it is that I was actually normal weight before my dx. And I lost quite a lot of weight during chemotherapy and radiation. Where I got into trouble was the post-tx effects: the early menopause, the post-cancer fatigue, the thyroid damage from the radiation therapy. So I guess I shouldn’t have done any of the treatment, ’cause then I wouldn’t be fat. I would just be… well, dead. :(

  148. So I guess I shouldn’t have done any of the treatment, ’cause then I wouldn’t be fat. I would just be… well, dead.

    Yeah, that’s a great way to not get fat or have a relapse. And there’s nothing in this study to indicate that it’s not fat people living longer (the so-called “obesity paradox”), i.e. long enough to be statistically more likely to get cancer, that causes the correlation. Nothing says it is, mind you, but nothing says it isn’t, because this is a crappy meta-study.

  149. That is a really interesting post, and really interesting responses. I actually find it massively encouraging how nobody took a shortcut to making a joke or disparaging comment about fat people at Wal-Mart or whatever, and only a very few made a flippant observation tantamount to “everybody knows HFCS causes obesity.”

    FJ, I think you are right about the current state of science and it’s good to get that information from someone who is actually knowledgeable and not just me going “In my opinion, science is not functioning perfectly right now!” because who cares what my unfounded “impression” is. Anyway, I work in a field that is not anything like a “hot topic” in the mode of global warming or obesity, so when I was in grad school the whole thing seemed pretty straightforward. I’m sure there were instances that I don’t know about, but I never heard of anyone being ostracized for publishing something contrary to “common knowledge” or anything. You just took your funding and published what you found (not me, I have no publications, but others). Of course there was bias toward hoping your shiny new method would work and be cheaper and better than everything that came before it. But there was no media (for the most part) and no crushing weight of public opinion or public backlash. It was also vastly more common to be funded by the government than a vested party (though I’m sure that has its own pitfalls).

    The attitude toward science (which, now that I read your post, may be based partially in the fact that some or a lot of it really is currently groupthink and/or biased, and that is sad but maybe unavoidable) in our society upsets me. I have a bunch of global warming skeptics in my office and they are willing to write off the life’s work of thousands of scientists with a single stroke of the pen. “I bet they just have an agenda.” THEY have an agenda?! They sat in front of a computer model for 10 years of their life, or went and collected samples at the North Pole, or whatever, and analyzed the data with their blood, sweat, and tears and got it published in a rigorous peer-reviewed publication and you are willing to dismiss it just like that just because you sort of feel like another reality would be more convenient for you to believe? It actually makes me feel a little sick. Everyone these days thinks they are as expert and knowledgeable on everything as the actual experts are. This is why I am so paranoid about doing this myself with obesity research, though everything I have seen indicates that the skeptics really are the ones fighting the good fight in this case due to the incredible amount of moralism and social pressure and diet-industry funding that comes to bear on this particular issue, which seems to help make it impossible for the information that gets filtered to us laypeople to actually be accurate and presented in good faith.

    Eh, I was just wondering if someone had done a review paper that I should be familiar with. I will immerse myself in Junkfood Science and try to learn what “important” references I really should have read by now. :P

  150. (My first paragraph above refers to the NYT blog post. You wouldn’t think something so long needed ADDITIONAL explanation but I guess it does. :))

    Perrin J, my good friend’s mom died of cancer when she was young and my friend describes how awful it was to sit in one of her science classes in college and have the instructor go off on how you can prevent cancer if you eat right and exercise (I don’t know the details but I’m sure that was the gist). My friend tried to politely correct her but apparently she just wouldn’t be swayed in her self-righteousness. People’s willingness these days to blame everything on the individual (poverty, disease, being fat, etc. etc.) so they never have to give another moment’s thought to feeling bad for someone else or doing something to help them is staggering. I am so sorry you have to listen to this crap on top of having had cancer.

  151. The comparison to global warming is interesting, because of course the skeptics frame themselves as the ones fighting the harmful groupthink of the scientists, just as we do. The thing is, though, where’s the money in the global warming “agenda”? Every study you see coming out about how everyone should lose weight is funded by people with a financial interest in weight loss. Who’s got a financial interest in global warming? Are the makers of long-lasting light bulbs really paying scientists more than the multinational corporations can? Finding in favor of global warming definitely goes against corporate interests.

    And given how much corporate money goes into science, now that it gets little federal support, I’d say global warming research is an excellent example of how unclouded empirical science should work.

    This is not to say that I think anti-obesity research comes wholesale out of under-the-table cashflow or any such conspiracy theory. But the money that goes in, where it’s coming from, and what they want definitely figure in to how the studies are set up and how they’re received.

  152. Yes, I have often thought of that. It makes no sense in “follow the money” terms (getting afield of science here) for the media to be liberal or global warming research to be biased in favor of global warming (I guess alternative-energy companies might profit but you can’t tell me they have more clout than Big Oil or whatever). But it makes tons of sense for nutrition and medical research to be clouded by the multi-billion dollar industries who are happier the more things we have wrong with us and the more drugs and weight-loss products and surgeries we need to buy. I hate to get all “It’s just common sense!” But if money is as powerful a driver as everyone agrees, then I agree with you 100% about the difference between global-warming skepticism and skepticism of the linkage between obesity and health.

  153. And it’d be one thing if we were just theorizing that maybe these studies are funded by interested parties. But nope, it’s basically always the case.

  154. Bottom line.

    This report and others similar to them – AND REMEMBER I TOLD YOU THIS FIRST – Are the first hint that medical insurance everywhere is about to make a huge profit when they stop covering people because they are slightly overweight. No longer will you have to be morbidly obese to no longer qualify for coverage. You will merely have to be moderately overweight.

    I would not be at all surprised if this effort, this “study”, was not funded by insurance.

  155. Guess I didn’t read far enough. Others were suggesting the same thing, though perhaps slightly in an oblique way.

    Darn, and I was thinking I was soooo smart. :(

  156. Kate said: traditional sweets made by an actual human being are obviously one thing,

    I so read this as “traditional sweets made of actual human beings are obviously one thing”…

    Dude, Soylent Green ispeople!

  157. Kate said: traditional sweets made by an actual human being are obviously one thing,

    I so read this as “traditional sweets made of actual human beings are obviously one thing”…

    Dude, Soylent Green ispeople!

    Rofl that is priceless made me laugh so hard >.> even though it took me a few seconds to realize what was going on

    Becky .. thanks for telling me about that article I will definitely go search for it and read it :)

    Spacedcowgirl, thanks for your comments I gotta admit I was mad at my mom too but this happens on a pretty much daily basis.. the snide backhanded comments almost always done in the terms of “Us” or “We” as though I am too stupid to not know it is directed at me. Though I guess I am a good actress if she thinks I still buy it after all these years.

    On a side note did anyone see the Tyra Banks show today … had an episode called bodyville where they put labels on the participants like “hot”, “skeletor”, “Unhealthy”, Couch potato” on people and then decided who would get what jobs… and who they would exile to the hospital. Well of course labels like unhealthy and couch potato were given to the larger ladies with couch potato being given to the “largest” one. The other women decided that she should get the Phone sex operator job because she is fat and should be hidden away in her home. The kicker though was when they were deciding who to Exile to the “hospital” and decided that a vote between “skeletor”, “Unhealthy”,and “Couch Potato” …. of course my thought was ok this should be easy … unhealthy should go because she is.. well .. unhealthy… but no .. it was couch potato who was voted to get sent to the hospital because she was obviously fat and sick .. and in denial of it when she tried to defend her position. hen when talking about it she said I am not in denial.. I KNOW I am overweight.. but I like who I am, I have a husband who adores me (and he did he was so cute with her) and I am hot and sexy. lol well I was checking out the site http://telepicturesblog.warnerbros.com/tyrashow/2007/10/imagine_yourself_in_bodyville.php after and reading the comments the first one was

    ” I wonder what the reaction would be if someone had stood up on Tyra’s stage and said they were a pack-a-day smoker and that’s just the way they are and that they’re healthy and hot. Would the audience applaud that?”

    it sickened me to see the majority of the comments written were fat bashing ones , saying that of course the fat ones were unhealthy and how wrong it was to be promoting self confidence and liking yourself if you are overweight like this comment

    “….Its all fine that the overweight woman have no issues with themselves, good for them. But when was the last time they went to the doctor just to make sure they were healthy? You can love yourself, but taking care of yourself (including your weight) is a big part of loving yourself. I doubt very much that a doctor would have told the three biggest girls on the show thay they had nothing to worry about…”

    honestly I just have no words for peoples ignorance and stupidity sometimes…

  158. Dude, Soylent Green ispeople!

    :D That made me laugh, too… but because not 20 minutes ago, Hubby walked into the living room just as my youngest said “Yum! It’s got pickles in it!!” (Referring to tartar sauce.) He SO thought she said “YUM! It’s got PEOPLE in it!!!” I said to him, “No, dear, she’s not having Soylent Green with her fish sticks.”

    Cordelia, there are times when I’m SO glad I don’t live in the US anymore. That would piss me off royally. And as for that last comment you quoted, my answer would have been this:

    And when was the last time YOU went to the doctor and he wouldn’t listen to a thing you said just because (for argument’s sake) your eyes were blue??

    Yet another argument for why my hating stupid people stands.

  159. Cordelia, I saw a promo for that Tyra Banks piece on ET yesterday, and my head nearly exploded. I was hoping Kate might’ve seen it and written about it here…

  160. Holy crap. I don’t have tv, Cordelia, and I am so glad. I can’t believe the stuff people were saying in their comments. Of course, it is always amusing that so many of the people commenting have absolutely no grasp of grammar. Odd that I was noticing that, since I am fat, and we all know fat people are kinda stupid.

  161. “….Its all fine that the overweight woman have no issues with themselves, good for them. But when was the last time they went to the doctor just to make sure they were healthy? You can love yourself, but taking care of yourself (including your weight) is a big part of loving yourself.

    That “you go, fat girl, good for you for finding a way to feel that you are OK (but since you probably don’t know, let me make you aware that you’re still gonna die)” that always comes up in comment threads like that is so condescending and infuriating. It’s calling me ignorant, stupid, ugly, unhealthy and deluded in one fell swoop. Grr….

  162. Perrin, my sympathies to you. Dealing with cancer must be hard enough without this kind of crap going round.

    My dad had NHL, and one of the doctors told us that he probably survived as long as he did BECAUSE he was fat. (He was diagnosed at age 50, and for his particular, apparently fairly rare subtype, they weren’t initially expecting him to live another five years…he actually lived for another fifteen, most of them in fairly good shape for someone who’d had chemo and the rest AND recovered from a major industrial accident that narrowly missed killing him partway through that time.) He was also a lover of traditional fatty British country grub, a moderately heavy drinker and before I was conceived , a smoker, but the only possible risk factor his docs ever thought was important was that in his youth, he’d worked in the fields every summer, and they used agricultural chemicals back then in the 50s that were later banned for their possibly carcinogenic effects. No way to tell by that point, of course. But he had a GP who, bless him, always advised him against trying to diet. (Probably to my mother’s disgust, knowing her!)

  163. I have a bunch of global warming skeptics in my office and they are willing to write off the life’s work of thousands of scientists with a single stroke of the pen. “I bet they just have an agenda.” THEY have an agenda?! They sat in front of a computer model for 10 years of their life, or went and collected samples at the North Pole, or whatever, and analyzed the data with their blood, sweat, and tears and got it published in a rigorous peer-reviewed publication and you are willing to dismiss it just like that just because you sort of feel like another reality would be more convenient for you to believe?

    Reading Rethinking Thin, it seems there are some (ok, a tiny handful of) “obesity” researchers that are like this – not exactly supportive of fat acceptance but they know that fat bodies are pretty much genetic, because they discovered the damn gene and various complicated hormonal regulations after years and years of hard slog. And they know weight loss is only ever temporary for all but a tiny percentage. Yet “everybody knows fat is bad and all down to personal laziness and gluttony” prevails even amongst medical and scientific professionals because “fat people are gross and I shouldn’t have to look at them”.

  164. spacedcowgirl, I think the original comment about “loving” ourselves is gone… But, I still have to make a comment about it.

    Would the original commenter give that same advice to a thinner person too? Probably not.

  165. ” I wonder what the reaction would be if someone had stood up on Tyra’s stage and said they were a pack-a-day smoker and that’s just the way they are and that they’re healthy and hot. Would the audience applaud that?”

    Yeah, probably, if she looked like Scarlett Johansson.

    Anyway, nobody would send an otherwise unremarkable looking pack-a-day smoker straight to the hospital just because they smoked. And if anyone claims otherwise, I demand to see their DVD and MP3 collections and their Tivo schedules.

  166. I’m really glad my Mom was fat when she got breast cancer, because it was insurance for when she got sick from the treatments.

    She was a non-smoking, non-alcohol-drinking, health-food loving (dude, she sent me to grade school with turkey on whole wheat with alfalfa sprout sammiches) woman for her whole life. Didn’t keep her from being fat or getting cancer.

    I’m pretty touchy about the idea that we have only ourselves to blame for our illnesses (for the most part). That’s f*cking BULLSHIT.

  167. Sarah, no, no they would not. Condescending jerks. “When was the last time they went to the doctor…” Leaving aside that maybe the fat women HAVEN’T been to the doctor recently because going to the doctor is such a shaming experience for fat people, where does the commenter get off presuming they know ANYTHING about when the last time was that someone went to the doctor? Here is a handy reminder for “normal weight” people to keep in mind and it’s real easy because it applies to any and all assumptions they might consider making. YOU CAN’T TELL BY LOOKING AT US. No, I don’t care what you were talking about, whether it is an assumption about health, health care, diet, mobility, exercise, happiness, intelligence, income, or when the last time was that I got laid. You can’t tell by looking at me.

  168. YOU CAN’T TELL BY LOOKING AT US.

    Ooh, that brings back memories. About a decade and a bit ago when I worked in London, there was an ad on the Tube that showed two guys – actually it was the same guy and they’d just doctored the photos, so it looked like twins, one fat, one thin.. Caption: “You can’t tell by looking who’s got high cholesterol.” Aim was to get people going in Boots, our big drugstore chain here in the UK, to get their cholesterol tested in-store.

    That’s the ONE time I’ve ever seen anything that admitted this among all the other fat-is-unhealthy messages. Something that actually implied that just because you were thin didn’t mean you were OK. The fact that I remember it after all these years shows how rare it is, though.

  169. Emerald, it is so interesting that you bring that up because one of the cholesterol-lowering drugs has a somewhat similar campaign right now, where they emphasize that your cholesterol level is influenced both by your diet and your genetics. (Actually I remember one from a couple of years ago that was even more similar… they would have these people doing various things with their cholesterol number superimposed on them, so the larger guy sitting on a bench might say “155” and the thin lady running past him might say “209.” The point being that you couldn’t tell by appearance or even habit what someone’s cholesterol was.) But those are the only instances I remember where, as you say, they admit that cholesterol is not entirely a function of how frequently you stuff donuts into your fat face (or whatever unflattering image they might usually use).

    Isn’t it ridiculous that the ONLY times we have ever seen this message are times when they want to either make it socially acceptable to use expensive cholesterol-lowering drugs, or scare people into getting tested (at which point they can be put on expensive cholesterol-lowering drugs as warranted) even though they may feel healthy? I guess the rest of the time the money is in making us feel bad for being fat, whereas in these isolated instances it pays better to admit that the truth is more complicated. That is fucked up.

  170. Many of the ways we try to loose weight — diet soda and diet foods laden with chemicals, etc – are cancer causers. That being said, as a breast cancer survivor, I was told to loose weight or die…just like that. I’ve connected with many women of my wieght and height at http://www.cancermatch.com and I have learned to accept my size, be happy and focus on survivint cancer with the body of me that I love.

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