Recently, it seems there has been a backlash against medicine and the current knowledge of the relationship between diet, weight and overall health. I don’t actually believe this is directly the fault of scientists or doctors, who react to the trashy mainstream reporting of science with little more than the occasional raised eyebrow. However, many people in response to all these silly health pronouncements, which seemingly come from on high but really are from press coverage of often minor reports in the medical literature, have lost their trust in what science has to offer as a solution to what Michael Pollan refers to as “the Omnivore’s Dilemma”. That is, what should we be eating?
The result of this confusion is a mixture of distrust, cynicism, and receptivity to crankery and lies about diet. After all, if science ostensibly can’t keep their message straight, who knows what to believe?
The fact is, science knows many things about the relationship between diet, obesity, and health with great confidence and it hasn’t changed nearly so much as the popular press would have you believe. The failure to state clear messages about nutrition is a reflection on the haphazard way in which nutritional health is reported, the often confusing nature of epidemiologic science, and the various parties that are interested in cashing in the confusion by promoting their own nonsensical ideas about diet.
Take, for example, Sandy Szwarc. Sandy doesn’t believe obesity or any food choices are actually bad for you. To help spread this nonsense she dismisses valid sources of information like WebMD (which has quite good information) based on the rather silly conspiracy that they have designed their entire website and health enterprise around misleading people into using their products – especially weight-loss products. Because, you know, it’s impossible for a corporation to offer free health advice as a public service without conspiring to grab you buy the ankles and shake the money from your pockets. But it doesn’t end there. We see rest of the standard denialist tactics of course!
Case in point, in a recent article she makes the astonishing assertion that her mortal enemy – bariatric or gastric-bypass surgeons – have admitted that obesity makes you healthier!
Today brought another unbelievable example of ad-hoc reasoning, as well as a remarkable admission that the war on obesity is without scientific merit. It appeared in a paper published in the journal for the American Society for Bariatric Surgery (now calling itself the American Society for Metabolic and Bariatric Surgery), which is edited by the Society’s president, Dr. Harvey Sugerman, M.D. FACS.
The article, “Do current body mass index criteria for obesity surgery reflect cardiovascular risk?” was “work presented at the 2005 American Society for Bariatric Surgery Meeting in poster form.” The authors, led by Edward H. Livingston M.D. at the University of Texas Southwestern School of Medicine, reported that the conventional risk factors for cardiovascular disease “decreased with increasing degrees of obesity.”
Yes, you read that correctly, decreased.
“Therefore,” the authors argued …
“the criteria for obesity surgery should be changed to lower BMIs than are currently used.”
Now, boys and girls, what is the very first thing you do when a suspected denialist feeds you some nonsense in quotes? Check the source! Always, always, always, check the source. Let’s expand those six words that Sandy lifted out of the abstract and see what else the authors had to say: