Notice to the chefs, line cooks, and waiters of America: Cut down the portions, and come out with your hands up. Government regulation of our meal size is the latest food-cop fantasy, as hysterical fears of obesity have led one physician to demand in a Chicago Tribune op-ed: “The only effective way that we will attack this epidemic is for the surgeon general to mandate that, effective immediately, all portions of food served in restaurants and fast-food places be cut by one-half to two-thirds.”
But even as newspapers are filled with calls for Draconian regulations on our menus, at least one more doctor is battling back and publicly asking: What’s the real epidemic? In a recent op-ed titled, “Obesity epidemic that isn’t: Get moving, get healthy,” Michigan State University professor of medical ethics Howard Brody outlines the story of a group of doctors who were champing at the bit to battle America’s bulge. But when they were asked to carefully review medical journals to discover how big a problem obesity really is, something strange happened. Brody reports:
The physicians were a bit sheepish when they came back after doing their homework. To oversimplify a bit in the name of bluntness, what they found in the scientific data was — first, there’s no evidence that obesity itself is a health problem; and second, there’s no evidence that if it were, we docs have a clue as to what to do about it.
Admitting that this may sound like “heresy” to those who want Big Brother shrinking your Big Mac, Brody continues:
There are a lot of studies, all of which show obese people have worse health and die sooner. The trouble is that few of the studies carefully separate out two factors — obesity and inactivity. The obese folks also are inactive, as a rule, so which one actually causes the harm?
Some suggestive evidence would cause us to think that it may well be the inactivity, not the obesity. When you can get fat folks moving around, they tend to get healthier, even if they don’t lose any weight. So maybe our problem is we have an inactivity epidemic, not an obesity epidemic.