Filed Under: Big Fat Lies

Kumbaya (The BMI Remix)

“You can fight behind closed doors,” Yale doctor and obesity scaremonger David Katz told the recently adjourned National Summit on Obesity, hosted by the American Medical Association (AMA). “But when you open the door, we should link arms and sing ‘Kumbaya.'” In other words, Katz is advising the medical profession to paper over the serious and ongoing internal debate about important obesity-related issues like the government’s flawed Body Mass Index (BMI) standard (which classifies 43 out of 50 players in baseball’s World Series as overweight) and the relative importance of fatness versus fitness.

According to the AMA’s American Medical News, participants at the summit reportedly “agreed that patients needed simple messages and were confused by the many, often conflicting recommendations about physical activity and nutrition delivered by health experts.” One of these “simple” messages urged at the convention was to make BMI the fifth vital sign, right along with body temperature, pulse rate, respiration rate, and blood pressure.

The sour note for Katz’s Kumbaya campfire cant? Even as the “National Summit on Obesity” tried to rank BMI right up there with blood pressure and body temperature, American Medical News was reporting that doctors aren’t sure if BMI is even as useful as pinching or prodding. “It is unclear whether body mass index [BMI], waist circumference or even dress size is the most useful and easy-to-communicate indicator,” the paper reported.

Not surprisingly, the “National Summit on Obesity” sing-along was led by researchers who have received significant funding from pharmaceutical companies who stand to benefit from hyping the so-called obesity epidemic in order to push their weight-loss products. For instance, the convention was kicked off by George Bray, who was “representing the Endocrine Society.” This organization has received hundreds of thousands of dollars from each of several pharmaceutical companies.

The influential Bray also serves on the board of directors of the American Obesity Association (AOA), the weight-loss industry’s lobbying arm. (AOA, you may remember, was founded by a man who sells $125 kits purporting to test for a supposed obesity virus.) Bray has received “research support” from Roche Laboratories to study the weight-loss drug Orlistat, and he taught an online obesity course for doctors — financed by Roche. According to the financial disclosure of one obesity study he co-authored, Bray has been supported by a number of companies that would love to sing Kumbaya all the way to the bank: He has received research grants from Johnson & Johnson, Regeneron, Novartis and has been a member of advisory boards and speaker bureaus for Johnson & Johnson and Takeda Pharmaceuticals.

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