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January 03, 2012

David Frum: Our Obesity Problem Invites, Nay Demands, Strong Central Planning and the Firm Steady Hand of Benevolent Government Empowered to Make You Healthy

Conservative.

If you as an individual want to change your weight, you must change your whole life. Likewise, to reduce obesity in modern society, we will have to alter the way society is organized.

...

Want to change this? It's no small project. It would involve the redesign of cities, the relocation of schools, the reinvention of our modes of eating and amusement.

First lady Michelle Obama has made healthy eating her special project. Good for her, and let's hope her efforts lead to success. But if we are to succeed, we should understand: The campaign against obesity will have to look a lot less like the campaign against smoking (which involves just one decision, to smoke or not to smoke) and much more like the generation-long campaign against highway fatalities, which required the redesign of cars, the redesign of highways, and changes in personal behavior like seat-belt use and drunk driving.

The good news is that the campaign against highway fatalities has yielded real progress: down two-thirds since the mid-1960s. The bad news is that, for most of us, it will take more than a New Year's resolution. However, if you are seriously resolved, congratulations -- and see you on the jogging path.

@bdomench points out that Frum's central claim for this call for government control over our diets and exercise regimes is wrong. Frum claims off the jump--

Yet as we talk and talk about the issue, the country only becomes fatter and fatter.

-- just isn't true:

The percentage of Americans of "normal weight" has slightly increased in the past year, but overweight and obese people still command a solid majority, according to a new study.

In the third quarter of 2011, 36.6 percent of Americans were of normal weight, compared with 35.6 percent a year ago, the Gallup-Healthways Well-Being Index survey found.

Obese and overweight Americans combined for more than 60 percent of the population, it said.

"Although the majority of Americans are still overweight or obese, it is an encouraging sign that obesity rates are trending downward in the U.S.," the study said.

The government does have a role in this-- the government is actively promoting a theory of overweight (and weight reduction) for which there is almost no evidence, apart from a "consensus" of scientists, and which just might be the exact wrong theory, actually causing the increase in obesity it seeks to check.


Skip to 9:10. It tells the tale of Senator George McGovern, who overruled his dissenting scientists on a government health panel, and made the Pritikin diet the basis for the diet recommendations for America, just because he himself was on the Pritikin diet.

Until the government understands this issue -- which it currently seems not to -- how about it maybe follows the first dictate of Hippocrates, "First, do no harm"?

digg this
posted by Ace at 02:49 PM

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