Monday, May 22, 2006

Is lack of logic a health problem?

There was a long (stupid) article about obesity in the Dominion Post on Saturday. I'm going to write a long reply. But first I wanted to make a really basic point. The article opened by talking about a 2004 Ministry of Health study into the most common causes of death in New Zealand:

Diet and insufficent phsyical activity were considered responsible for nearly 11,000 deaths in 1997 (the year studied), nearly 40 per cent of all deaths.
Then the article went on to say this:
A ministry report made public this week reveals mroe than half of Kiwis are too heavy. Thirty-four per cent older than 15 are overweight and 20 per cent obese. Health Minister Pete Hodgson calls the obesity epidemic 'the greatest public health challenge facing New Zealand'.
OK here's the thing - there isn't actually any connection between those two sets of facts. If diet and inactivity account for 40% of the deaths, then how can obesity be greatest public health challenge facing New Zealand? The two are not synonymous.

Because here's the thing (and I'm going to explain it very simple, because many seemingly intelligent people don't seem to get it). If our diet and lack of exercise is killing us (and more on that later), then the problem is not one of size. It's a problem of diet and lack of exercise.

If instead of focusing on diet and exercise you encourage people to prioritise weight loss, then you won't get an improvement in diet and exercise. There are an awful lot of ways you can try and lose weight that will hurt your body. Most of them won't result in permanent weight loss, and instead a yo-yo cycle, with each weight-loss attempt doing more damage to your body.

1 comment:

  1. It's nice to see that there is at least one other person out there able to critically evaluate statistics ;-)