Where's The Beef?

Yet another "warning" was issued last week about obesity in America, this time zeroing in on Texan waistlines in a report authored by a demographer named Karl Eschbach, sponsored by the Texas Health Institute and announced to the public by state senator Jane Nelson of Flower Mound--who said  in not very original terms that excess blubber "is the single most serious threat we face in Texas."

Forget the crumbling economy, unemployment lines, pollution...No--by 2040, according to the "study," 46 percent of Dallas County's population alone will be "officially" chunky.

But wait a minute...haven't we been told in the past that (1) more than 60 percent of Americans were obese and (2) Dallas ranked amongst the fattest places on the continent? Seems like, by 2040 (and using the study's "data"), we'll be lagging behind the hefty behinds of our fellow countrymen and women--and slipping away from the shadows cast by the beer bellies we supposedly have now.

Can't these people get their stories straight?

Although the alarm has been spread widely (get it?) in the past, I've yet to see a real study confirming America's weight problem.

No, most of these reports are based upon Body Mass Index--BMI--the actuarial equivalent of standardized test scores. BMI assumes a person's appropriate weight based upon height and a set of healthy averages. The statistical breakdown struggles to keep step with the evolutionary fact that, thanks to better healthcare and diet, people are generally larger nowadays. More significantly, it ignores workout regimens.

According to BMI, for instance, NBA rosters are crammed with roly-poly superstars. The governor of California is a blubbering whale who should have died of heart disease long ago. Only the waifish male models used by Prada are "healthy," apparently.

In other words, BMI is a simplistic and flawed measure.

Hell, even the "study's" author  admits the report's audacity: "while we  know [my italics] obesity rates are alarmingly high in our state, there is a dearth of data [again, my italics] at the county level that helps us to understand the true scope [yes, me] of it."

Then why bother making this crap up? 

Obviously there are real concerns--the spike in diabetes amongst them--and Americans may indeed be suffering a growing problem. Sedentary kids, weight problems in rural America, and other issues are worth discussion. But the debate should be based upon hard assessments of the population, rather than statistical guesswork.

Of course, papers will always run scare-mongering numbers. And in the era of Bill O'Reilly, why bother with hard earned facts?

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Dave Faries
Contact: Dave Faries