Fat

Fat

E-mail debates of newsworthy topics.
Dec. 2 1997 3:30 AM

Fat

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Dear Richard,

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       Your assertions are utterly devoid of science or medicine. You cite no studies to make your case. Rather, like your book, they are the cry of an overweight French teacher trying desperately to pretend that his condition is benign, and that obesity is only a problem because our heartless society finds it to be unattractive.
       Yet for literally 100 years now, researchers, beginning with insurance actuaries, have linked obesity to early death. You provide no shred of evidence that this is incorrect, instead choosing to launch ad hominem attacks against JoAnn Manson, M.D., and a previous book of mine, with some Michael Lerner-type psychobabble thrown in.
       Allow me to state the science. You attribute the 300,000 premature deaths figure to one person, Dr. Manson. Yet it's also accepted by the World Health Organization; Centers for Disease Control and Prevention Director David Satcher, M.D.; former Surgeon General C. Everett Koop, M.D.; the chairman of the Harvard School of Public Health, Walter Willett; and the obesity-research field in general.
       The blunt fact is, the fatter you are, the earlier you die. Consider:

  • An American Cancer Society study found that being 50 percent overweight almost doubled the chance of dying during the study.
  • The Nurses' Health Study (ongoing since 1976 and comprising not 16,000 women, as you state, but rather 115,000 women) showed that as of 1995 women 76 pounds or more over optimum weight had over twice the chance of dying during the study period to date. I see perhaps 10 such women each day. Yes, one of the Nurses' Health Study researchers is Dr. Manson, but there are numerous others.
  • An ongoing study of 20,000 Harvard alumni in its most recent assessment found that the thinnest 20 percent of the men were 60 percent less likely to die of heart disease as the heaviest 20 percent.

       Is this some sort of American conspiracy? Hardly. Studies throughout the world have verified these findings. A Danish study showed obesity already causing death in men in their 20s and 30s.
       Being overweight kills primarily through heart disease but also by:

  • Stroke. According to the Nurses' Health Study, women just 44 pounds overweight had more than twice the chance of developing the most common form of stroke, which kills even more women than breast cancer.
  • Cancer. The ACS study found that death from this disease overall was 33 percent higher for men and 53 percent higher for women whose weight was more than 40 percent above average. The Nurses' Health Study has found that being a mere 44 pounds overweight doubles a woman's chance of breast cancer.
  • Diabetes. About 15 million Americans have Type II diabetes, or what used to be called adult-onset diabetes. As obesity has skyrocketed, so has Type II diabetes. One Scandinavian study found that over a 10-year period, moderate obesity was associated with a tenfold increased chance of diabetes, while the rate rose much higher with severe obesity.

       These are the cold, hard facts. It's understandable that you don't like them, but that's not license to simply ignore them and launch attacks on the credibility of those who relay them. You attack my book, The Myth of Heterosexual AIDS, as "outrageous and politically motivated." But the Journal of the American Medical Association called it "the best single source available to enable heterosexual persons to assess their personal risk" and to "take a closer look at overall health care spending, particularly the power of political action committees, the media hype, and the influence of AIDS alarmists." The New England Journal of Medicine stated Myth "is well worth reading for this critical reinterpretation of the available data." Seven years later, every prediction I made has come true. I look forward to you attacking Thomas Edison for predicting that electricity would one day light American homes.The ad hominem attack on Dr. Manson ignores her response in a letter to the NEJM. Like many doctors, she has taken research stipends from pharmaceutical companies. She took a small one from the maker of Redux and later wrote on the subject for the NEJM. As you know, my book absolutely panned Redux, saying it showed absolutely no merit over drugs already on the market. Dr. Manson nonetheless wrote the foreword to that book. So much for her being a Redux lap dog.
       Neither Dr. Manson nor I is responsible for medical data on diet drugs that were completely unknown at the time she evaluated them or I wrote about them, any more than the FDA was when it approved them. Nonetheless, my book did begin its chapter on diet pills with a long list of why people shouldn't take them.
       In sum, Eat Fat is simply a book by a fat person defending a condition he would rather accept than change.
       During the Nixon impeachment hearings, one presidential supporter said, "Don't bother me with the facts; my mind's made up." Sadly, you've stretched this theme into a whole book, and a dangerous one, because it encourages people to stay fat or allow themselves to become that way. You've written a real killer, Richard, and I'm not referring to humor. Next thing you know, you'll be doing the same thing with cigarette smoking. Oh, excuse me. With your book Cigarettes Are Sublime, you've already done that.

Michael Fumento