Obesity Continues to Exact a Deadly Toll

Monday, June 16th, 2008

Or not.

The U.S. just set a new life expectancy record last year–by a good four months.

MORE: In response to a couple commenters, note that I’m not implying that obesity is healthy, or even that it isn’t unhealthy (though surveys show a net protective effect of being 10-15 pounds overweight). But obesity hysterics have been saying that our bulging waistlines portend a coming public health catastrophe, with absurd statements like our kids are so fat they may not outlive their parents. That just isn’t happening. Yes, advances in medical technology are a huge reason why we’re living longer. But we’ve also been getting fatter for 25 years. If our pudginess is as lethal as the public health crowds claims it to be, we should at least be seeing the front end of that catstrophe by now. Instead, we’re living longer, and deaths from allegedly obesity-related conditions like cancer and heart disease are actually in decline.

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16 Responses to “Obesity Continues to Exact a Deadly Toll”

  1. #1 |  jwh | 

    Reports like this always focus on the quantity of life, rather than the quality of life.

    I, for one, would gladly be in “29th place” if I believe my quality of life is what I want it to be.

  2. #2 |  ClubMedSux | 

    jwh- I’m going to go out on a limb and guess that there’s a pretty good correlation between quantity of life and quality of life. While I’m not an expert, it seems to me that the same variables that lead to a longer life expectancy (quality health care, a safe and clean environment, low crime, robust economy, etc.) improve the overall quality of life as well.

  3. #3 |  Hmm | 

    This kind of reasoning is beneath you.

    Could obesity in and of itself result in an increased risk of a variety of medical problems, and yet advances in medicine more than offset the morbidity associated with these problems? That is, one could argue that should the nation be less obese the life expectancy would have increased even MORE than it has. Just because the lfie expectancy has increased doesn’t denote that obesity doesn’t shorten one’s life expectancy.

    Now, arguing that the government needs to ban trans fats, etc. etc. to combat obesity is an entirely different argument altogether.

  4. #4 |  Dave Krueger | 

    I’ve always wondered where, in the Great Earth Charter, it says we’re all in a competition to see how long we can extend the life expectancy. I’m not against living longer, of course, but I am not too keen on the idea of legislating longer lives, which is becoming quite common these days. Pretty soon we’ll be seeing the phrase, “If it saves only one life, it will be worth it” emblazoned on the front of vending machines stuffed with celery and carrots.

    Speaking of legislation, shouldn’t we be looking into ways of evening out the disparity between sexes? I was thinking perhaps we could adopt a quota system of some kind (not actually using the word “quota”, of course) or maybe employ some kind of cap and trade scheme. It’s only a matter of time before the medical industry starts promoting sex change operations as a pathway to a longer life.

  5. #5 |  HtownGuy | 

    While I’m not an expert, it seems to me that the same variables that lead to a longer life expectancy (quality health care, a safe and clean environment, low crime, robust economy, etc.) improve the overall quality of life as well.

    I welcome the doubleplusgood quality and quantity of life HopeChangeTM will bring us.

  6. #6 |  Zeb | 

    I don’t really care one way or another whether obesity is going to make you live a shorter life (though I tend to think along the lines of #3 Hmm above). I just get sick of seeing so many damn fat people around all the time.

  7. #7 |  Observant Bystander | 

    “Just because the lfie expectancy has increased doesn’t denote that obesity doesn’t shorten one’s life expectancy.”

    Right. Since there are so many relevant factors, this article tells us nothing either way about whether obesity is affecting life expectancy. The article only tells us, on the whole, things have gotten better. As you said, obesity could still be dragging down the average from what it could be if we were all lean and trim.

    “Now, arguing that the government needs to ban trans fats, etc. etc. to combat obesity is an entirely different argument altogether.”

    So true.

    (Obviously, the purpose of my comment is just to repeat Hmm’s. Clicking on the little thumbs-up icon didn’t seem like enough.)

  8. #8 |  Jim Collins | 

    Zeb,
    I get sick of seeing so many skinny people around all of the time. My size or anybody else’s is none of your business.

  9. #9 |  ZappaCrappa | 

    Amen Jim…except for that guy that went about 400lbs that should have had to pay for half my seat (and half of the guy’s seat on the other side of him) who couldn’t actually sit IN his seat but rather on the arms and overflowed well into my space at a Lou Reed show a few years ago…other than situations like that…nobody’s business.

  10. #10 |  Michael Chaney | 

    My wife spent a couple of years helping diabetics on the phone. The vast majority of them were somewhere between “obese” and “morbidly obese”. Many were losing sight, limbs, and their ability to care for themselves. Many couldn’t realistically leave the house on their own.

    Their lifespan may be longer due to medical advances, but many would rather not be alive.

    Obesity leads to diabetes and heart disease, which are two of the biggest killers in America. Not only that, they also dramatically affect the quality of life. And the sad thing is, for the vast majority of these folks, this is a self-inflicted problem.

    Since it’s picked up in the last 20 years or so, we won’t see the effect for a couple more decades.

  11. #11 |  Chris in AL | 

    You don’t have to explain yourself on this Rad…Your position has been consistant and correct. You have never said that being overweight is a healthy choice. Only that the obesity panic is just another overreaction. Hell, it seems like overreaction is all that society is capable of anymore.

    Anybody in here shooting their mouth off is just starting shit.

  12. #12 |  Thalience | 

    I certainly agree on the overreaction factor in play here. Thoughtless panic is more american than apple pie at this point.

    In particular, I don’t think that the “obesity -> diabetes” causal link is all that well established. Certainly we see lots of obese diabetics, but that would be equally well explained by “diabetes -> obesity” (or “some other factor -> diabetes + obesity”). I’ve met a good number of skinny diabetics as well (and they suffered from the disease as much as anyone else).

    I found the following article to be an interesting look at the issue (from the author’s personal perspective of diagnosing himself as “pre-diabetic”).

    http://www.kuro5hin.org/story/2007/4/22/112114/202

  13. #13 |  Observant Bystander | 

    “Anybody in here shooting their mouth off is just starting shit.”

    Not all disagreement is trolling.

  14. #14 |  Chris in AL | 

    no, but intentionally misrepresenting someone else’s position is. Disagreement is great. It should, in a sane discussion, lead to the distillation of the best possible answer. To suggest that Radley, or anyone else, ever said that obesity was ‘healthy’ or 100% without risk is simply stating a falsehood in place of any reasonable argument.

    That is trolling.

    Thanks

  15. #15 |  Observant Bystander | 

    “To suggest that Radley, or anyone else, ever said that obesity was ‘healthy’ or 100% without risk is simply stating a falsehood in place of any reasonable argument.”

    Good thing no one above said or suggested that. So now that you have misrepresented my comment (whether intentionally or not I don’t know), what does that make your comment?

    And how could you know if I *intentionally* misrepresented Radley’s view? Maybe I didn’t get the point. Or maybe I’m just not very bright. (Feel free to build on that last sentence for your snarky response. No one will see it coming. It will seem so very clever.)

  16. #16 |  Mops | 

    “While I’m not an expert, it seems to me that the same variables that lead to a longer life expectancy (quality health care, a safe and clean environment, low crime, robust economy, etc.) improve the overall quality of life as well.”

    You left out ice cream. Lots and lots of ice cream.

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