Have a Contrary Opinion on Obesity? You’re Fired!

Researchers in American universities supposedly enjoy academic freedom, but don’t count on it in Australia. A Sydney University researcher published findings showing that obesity in children was caused by eating too much. But the official position of the state health minister was that obesity was caused by children not getting enough exercise. So the minister had the researcher fired.

Drawing by Joe_13.

Childhood obesity is a problem all over the world. Even European countries where people supposedly walk and bike more than in the U.S., are facing increasing rates of obesity.

Meanwhile, new research out of UC Berkeley finds no correlation between fast food and obesity. That explains how a man from Virginia could lose 80 pounds in six months exclusively on food from McDonalds.

Interestingly, the Berkeley researchers used the presence of interstate highways as an indicator of fast-food restaurants. So what their research really shows is that automobility is not correlated with obesity.

Those who claim to have simple solutions, such as New Urban design, for complex and poorly understood problems are fooling themselves or deceiving the public. People should be free to live in New Urban communities if they want to, but such designs aren’t going to cure obesity, global warming, or any other social problem.

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18 thoughts on “Have a Contrary Opinion on Obesity? You’re Fired!

  1. JimKarlock

    But the official position of the state health minister was that obesity was caused by children not getting enough exercise.
    Wow!! You wouldda thunk that he proved that light rail, compact cities and high density were all a waste of money, a waste of energy, hurt people and don’t reduce pollution or reduce energy consumption!

    Thanks
    JK

  2. hkelly1

    I like how an obese man who starved himself on 1,400 calories a day by eating apples and salads at McDonald’s helps prove that sprawl is not bad.

  3. prk166

    Obesity is much more complex than is painted by people. I remember Frontline or some PBS show 5 years ago looking at it. They had a professor at the UofPenn who ran triathlons. Yet according to BMI he was obese. And according to the way people tend to talk he was going to have all sorts of health problems because he was obese. Yet we know from things like a meta-study Mayo did a couple years ago that “obese” people who exercise are much less likely to have heart problems than below average BMI people who don’t.

  4. craig

    McDonalds is not bad if you avoid the bad food or only eat there once in a while.

    Sprawl is not bad if that is what you prefer.

    I love fried food, Ice cream and eating too much. But I try not to.

    I believe choice has the most to do obesity. We choose what to eat and when and then we choose not to exercise. Then we allow our children to sit around the computer, tv and and play video games when they should go out side and play.

    Freedom is the problem and we need to do something about that.

  5. TexanOkie

    I agree with the premise of this article, especially as stated in the final paragraph. What ever happened to urban planners and designers who got into the profession just because they loved urban form, culture, economics, etc? Why are there relatively none of us left? Too often it seems we’ve been taken over by misguided environmentalists and cult-like propagandists.

  6. sustainibertarian

    Yes, lack of exercise is not a problem, because the texas guy I was in a line up next to at the Seattle Zoo left because their hot dogs werent big enough, not because they didnt have electric scooters. (It was the latter.)

  7. msetty

    The U.C. research by implication also suggests that the public will use quality transit when provided, confirming what is shown by the 0.98+/- R-squared one routinely gets when comparing transit service quantities provided to transit patronage. Paper documenting this is on my website.

    By implication when discussing fast food and child obesity, arms merchants also have no moral culpability since they are only responding to “market demand” for wars and assorted state- and warlord-sponsored mayhem.

  8. Francis King

    The first thing is deciding what obesity means. The UK standard, for example, was constructed in 1944, after years of rationing. Some people were so hungry that they took desperate measures, including boiling up and eating rhubarb leaves (a very stupid thing to do). The only survivor was the grandmother, who didn’t eat any. The Germans were equally hungry by that stage, and one of the more popular recipes was for ‘roof rabbit’.

    Is this realistic for the 21st century, when we have so much food available?

    Secondly, stress is a problem. People counteract severe stress with comfort eating, smoking and alcohol abuse. It is a major problem, but governments seem to be more intersted in starting wars than in sorting out boring things like this. Then they whinge about all the problems that come from an over-pressured culture.

    Thirdly, cultural acceptability is important. Given that there is so much food around at the moment, social prejudice is one of the biggest obstacles to obesity. If being larger becomes more acceptable, people will get larger.

    Fourthly, we have lost touch of the old standards of cooking. People have so little time left, and spend too much on leisure activities instead (like contributing to web sites!) Food bought and cooked in bulk is way cheaper than going to fast food outlets, and it’s healthier too.

    Fifthly, and last, the UK parliament select committee came to the conclusion that the best exercise is that which people do as a part of their everyday activity, and the worst kind was that which is government sponsored. So, broadly speaking, denser housing, allowing for more walking and cycling journeys is a good thing – as long as people can make their journeys partly or wholly by these methods, as is easily possible in Bath, UK, where I live.

  9. foxmarks

    “arms merchants also have no moral culpability since they are only responding to “market demand” for wars and assorted state- and warlord-sponsored mayhem”

    Correct. As far as the simple example and flawed logic go. Arms merchants respond to a demand for arms, not for wars. A moral culpability might arise in choosing to deal with state governments, who have been delegated (or allowed) the power to demand war in the name of public interest.

    Kind of like a rail-equipment maker is morally responsible for the suffering caused by ludicrous transport policy, no? Trains don’t keep people poor, motormen do.

  10. hkelly1

    craig:
    I remember growing up and the concern was mostly children starving.

    I prefer obesity over starving

    Whoa… I’m sorry… maybe you missed the stories about families in Africa and Asia going even hungrier because of the extreme hikes in prices for rice and other basic supplies? What arrogance… just because in AMERICA we have such abundance does not mean it is everywhere… but I guess it’s the same logic that makes people say “Who cares about sprawl? We’ve only paved over less than 5% of the available land!!” Good grief, have some perspective man.

  11. msetty

    Fewer or no wars. Fewer arms sales. Why arms dealers and manufacturers want wars and lobby for them. My point stands unassailed.

    The logic of taking fast food out of schools and discouraging its consumption is perfectly justifiable from a public health standpoint, and good public policy, despite the blatherings of libertarians and others who make a religious fetish out of the “free market.”

  12. craig

    hkelly1 said:

    Whoa… I’m sorry… maybe you missed the stories about families in Africa and Asia
    ————————
    Read what I wrote
    I remember growing up and the concern was Mostly children starving.
    I prefer obesity over starving

    ——————-
    I never addressed if anyone was starving today or not
    I said

    I prefer obesity over starving!

  13. bennett

    “I prefer obesity over starving”

    So many polarities on this post. Can we agree that people are fat because the eat too much AND don’t work out. Can we agree that obiestiy and starvation are bad. I think there is a corrilation between the built environment and obestiy. Fast food too. Eating too much too. Why do I have to choose one over the other. Fact: people who don’t walk, eat only fast food and eat too much of it will be fat. I don’t need a peer reviewed study to tell me that.

  14. prk166

    “Food bought and cooked in bulk is way cheaper than going to fast food outlets, and it’s healthier too.” — Francis King

    It can be healthier; it depends on what I’m buying.

    “Whoa… I’m sorry… maybe you missed the stories about families in Africa and Asia going even hungrier because of the extreme hikes in prices for rice and other basic supplies? What arrogance… just because in AMERICA we have such abundance does not mean it is everywhere… but I guess it’s the same logic that makes people say “Who cares about sprawl? We’ve only paved over less than 5% of the available land!!” Good grief, have some perspective man. “– hkelly1

    Please act on your own advice.

  15. rationalitate

    Doesn’t the presence of interstates correlate with population? Given that most walkable areas are downtown, and interstates tend to be near cities, doesn’t being near an interstate simply mean that you live in an urban or suburban area as opposed to a rural one?

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