On CNN today, Jack Cafferty had a guy on who spoke about the national campaign against obesity. I offer the following because it parallels the junk science problem we have with smoking and health. I'll only post an excerpt so as to not get into a copyright hassle. The url for the full transscript is http://transcripts.cnn.com/TRANSCRIPTS/cnnitm.html
CAFFERTY: Do you have what the doctors refer to as a bit of a weight problem? Maybe so or perhaps you're a victim of society's obsession with our own waistlines. Our next guest argues America's obesity scare is a product of those with the most to gain, namely the weight loss industry. Joining us now to talk about this Eric Oliver is the author of "Fat Politics, the Real Story Behind America's Obesity." He's also a political science professor at the University of Chicago. Eric nice to have you with us.
ERIC OLIVER, AUTHOR, "FAT POLITICS, THE REAL STORY BEHIND AMERICA'S OBESITY:" Thanks for having me on.
CAFFERTY: There's a lot for the weight loss companies to work on out there, is it 1/3 of the nation is now obese? I mean, it's really a rather stunning statistic and all you have to do is walk down the sidewalk in New York City. I mean, we're an overweight nation.
OLIVER: Undoubtedly we are a very large nation and a pretty fat nation, but there is a big question about whether we're an obese nation. And a lot of it depends on how we define obesity. Right now the government defines obesity as having a body mass index that is your height to your weight, a ratio of your height to your weight of being 30 or more. So, say, for someone who's six feet tall like myself, that would be 220 pounds, 2/3 of Americans are now overweight because we have a BMI of 25 or more and for someone like myself who's six feet tall, that would be 185 pounds. I'm technically overweight.
WASTLER: Eric I wanted to -- what's fascinating about the story, you're a political scientist right?
OLIVER: That's right.
WASTLER: And not a doctor, yet you're fighting on the doctor things. Can you tell our audience a little bit about how you got into this? Because I think it sort of opens up the crux of your argument.
OLIVER: Sure. When I first starting writing this book, I like most people assumed that obesity and overweight were major health problems and I was interested in the politics of this. What it would it mean for the government basically to put everyone on a diet, how would this work out. And when I started actually doing the research into this and researching all of the medical health articles linking weight to mortality, I discovered something very interesting. That the scientific evidence there linking weight to all of these adverse health out comes was very really unclear. And so to me, the interesting question became why in light of all of this scientific evidence were the government agencies, were all these public health advocates out there saying that obesity was a disease? And that's where the story got a lot more interesting and the politics got a lot more dark and nefarious.
WESTHOVEN: What do you think is the reaction from the medical community to your argument that obesity isn't the problem it's made out to be?
OLIVER: I get a wide mix of reactions. Some doctors come up and say thank you, this is great. I've been waiting for someone to say that the emperor has no clothes, that this is bogus. Other doctors say oh, you're missing the whole case. In fact, obesity is a disease. It's killing hundreds of thousands of people every year. The mixture is across the board. But it really depends on whether or not someone is selling a weight loss product.
CAFFERTY: Lets go back to phrase you used a minute ago a dark and nefarious. I like that a lot, what are you talking about?
OLIVER: Well like take for example our current standards of what is over weight and obese? The current standards come largely from the origination called the International Obesity Task Force. They're based in Britain would seem like a legitimate scientific organization, but it's largely a front for a couple of pharmaceutical companies that make weight loss products. It's a sort of pseudo scientific organization that is out there advocating sort of obesity as a problem in the name of increasing the importance relative to, I think, an agenda of the pharmaceutical industry.
WASTLER: Go ahead.
OLIVER: In the United States there's an organization called the American Obesity Association and this is an origination that you'd think they'd have lots of, you know, obese people, but it has very few obese people, it's largely a front for the weight loss industry. They've been very active at lobbying the government for example to get obesity classified as a disease, to get weight loss surgery, make it tax deductible through the IRS and get the government to increase funding and attention towards obesity as a health problem largely in order to subsidize the weight loss industry.