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The world's population is increasingly shaping up to become the electric scooter bound population depicted in the Disney Pixar film WALL-E.  (Source: Disney/Pixar)
"When you see me coming your way, better give me plenty space; when I tell you that I'm hungry, won't you feed my face..."

Pleasantly plump, big-boned, rotund, meatier, beefed-up, and portly -- whatever your favorite term, the people of the world have grown much larger over the past thirty years, and not vertically.  In a massive trio of studies [abstract 1, abstract 2, abstract 3] in medicine's top peer-reviewed journal Lancet, the results are astounding -- obesity rates have doubled in less than 30 years.

It is the marvel of modern medicine -- even as the waists of world's citizens swell, cholesterol and heart disease rates are dropping thanks to daily-ingested pills.

Meanwhile, obesity rates have soared from 5 percent of men and 8 percent of women worldwide in 1980 to 10 percent for men and 14 percent for women by the study's end in 2008.  That means that as of two years ago a whopping 343 million men and 458 million women worldwide were of an unhealthy weight.  Another 1.5 billion adults -- roughly a quarter of the world's population, were overweight.

The figure used to measure obesity was the body-mass-index.  While BMI -- a height to weight ratio -- can be misleading in highly muscular individuals, in most cases it is one of the most accurate and quickest ways of assessing the amount of fat a person carries.

The study [press release], conducted by researchers from Harvard University, the Imperial College of London, and other top global universities, was the most comprehensive analysis of BMI, cholesterol, and blood pressure in the worldwide population, to date.

According to the report, Americans are by far the fattest of any developed nation.  Japanese, on the other hand, are the skinniest developed nation. (The most obese non-developed nation is American Samoa.)  But while the west is leading the way in the rise in obesity, obesity rates in Asia are also creeping up.

Majid Ezzati, a professor of public health at Imperial College London and one of the study's authors, comments in a CBS News interview, "Being obese is no longer just a Western problem."

As the fattest continue to get fatter, the experts warn of a coming "global tsunami of cardiovascular disease." Medicine, they say, can only do so much to stave off nature.  Sonia Anand [profile] and Salim Yusuf [profile] of McMaster University in Hamilton, Ontario authored an accompanying review [abstract] in Lancet, in which they state, "[The forecast for global heart disease is] dismal and comprises a population emergency that will cost tens of millions of preventable deaths [unless action is taken]."

Besides cardiovascular disease, obesity carries a host of other problems including an increased risk of a host of cancers, diabetes, digestive problems, and sexual impotence.  In other words, it's pretty much the mother of all diseases.

Besides the U.S., other regions growing fast in the waist are Latin America, the Middle East, and Western and Southern Africa.  Only regions like central Africa and South Asia bucked the global trend.

Researchers say there are a number of options on the cardiovascular disease front -- including mandating lower salt in manufactured foods and banning transfats.  Likewise new medications may be able to continue to counter the effects of the world's higher fat content.  

But the underlying problem is that people increasingly eating too much, and modern medicine has little answer to that issue.  When confronted with their unhealthy behaviors, many defiantly defend their right to overeat.

And the outlook for the other obesity diseases like cancer and diabetes is more dismal.  States Professor Ezzati [profile], "We don't know how much worse the obesity problem will get. While we can manage blood pressure and cholesterol with medication, diabetes will be a lot harder." 

The three studies' lead authors were Farshad Farzadfar [profile], Mariel M. Finucane [profile], and Goodarz Danaei [profile] -- all of which are researchers at Harvard University in various departments.



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RE: BMI
By The Raven on 2/4/2011 12:12:21 PM , Rating: 5
quote:
The figure used to measure obesity was the body-mass-index. While BMI -- a height to weight ratio -- can be misleading in highly muscular individuals , in most cases it is one of the most accurate and quickest ways of assessing the amount of fat a person carries.


Did you purposefully leave this disclaimer off of your quote to make it seem like you had a point?
I think everyone knows this yet people always trash the measurement. What would you people propose they use instead? Doctors actually running around with a caliper to pinch the flab hanging from their triceps?

BMI is accurate for what it is...BODY MASS INDEX. It is not accurate as an obesety meter. It is an accurate measurement that is used to best estimate the flabbiness of the population.

And on top of this, the threshhold for obesity itself is not some scientifically determined hardline number. It is a determination of the greater medical community made based on statistics.


RE: BMI
By lyeoh on 2/4/2011 1:46:20 PM , Rating: 2
quote:
What would you people propose they use instead? Doctors actually running around with a caliper to pinch the flab hanging from their triceps?


How about waist to hip ratio?

Or waist circumference: http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/11360147


RE: BMI
By The Raven on 2/4/2011 3:16:10 PM , Rating: 2
I think that would be more accurate but I think that is the same idea as the caliper that they used on us in elementary school.

Also measuring going on near the crotch may present some problems.

If you are Arnold Schwarzenegger I think you know that you are not "fat". Why are people arguing about the accuracy of the BMI measurement.

Can we just admit that we are fatter now than we were 30 years ago and stop with the stickling?


RE: BMI
By tmouse on 2/7/2011 8:05:19 AM , Rating: 3
Well the BMI also does not take into account bone density, which can be significant. Only a measurement in a water tank can accurately determine percent body fat, next is calipers, BMI is the LEAST accurate (but quickest) way. That’s what people are arguing about. You can look skinny and the BMI will indicate a weight problem if you have a dense skeleton. Again I am not saying people are getting fatter, I am saying I still think the current weight tables are off by quite a bit. The extremes are obvious it’s in between that can skew the results (someone who is slightly overweight falling into the obese category).

Also it was NOT 3 obesity studies it was ONE. There were 3 studies, obesity, cholesterol and a cardiac disease incidence study. ALL of the studies were from the Global Burden of Metabolic Risk Factors of Chronic Diseases Collaborating Group. The potential problem is the BMI study only used 199 countries the more dramatic number (960 and 9.1 million participants) were culled from publications and lumped in. There is no way to determine the overlap or if many new members were added late.

This is not a rigorous study following a true cohort along a 20 year period. This is a gamish of uncontrolled data being thrown into a Bayesian hierarchical model to estimate mean BMI trends. Welcome to science today, make it sexy and hype the hell out of it, strict controlled studies be dammed. I agree obesity is a growing problem (pun intended) but this study was somewhat of a waste of the Gate’s money.


RE: BMI
By tmouse on 2/7/2011 8:07:36 AM , Rating: 2
quote:
Again I am not saying people are getting fatter,


Make that "are NOT getting fatter" ; )


RE: BMI
By The Raven on 2/8/2011 2:43:04 PM , Rating: 2
lol, yeah I caught that.

I did lose you on some of that... what 3 studies?

But the thing is that if they used BMI 30 years ago to measure obesity, then they should use it now. They could do some calculations to account for the % increase/decrease of atheletes and the elderly and come up with a fairly accurate number to measure the difference - now to 30 years back.

If they have the numbers from 30 years back where some other test was used, then we would have a meaningful discussion going on here.


RE: BMI
By tmouse on 2/10/2011 3:40:51 PM , Rating: 2
The article says three studies, there were 3 studies published only 1 was on obesity, not 3 independent studies on obesity.


RE: BMI
By bennyg on 2/5/2011 3:36:18 AM , Rating: 2
ROFL... good luck finding a waist amongst the rolls!!


RE: BMI
By surt on 2/6/2011 12:44:06 PM , Rating: 2
It's not as easy. How many people know their current waist and hip measurements? How many know their current weight and height?


RE: BMI
By Solandri on 2/7/2011 2:56:32 AM , Rating: 2
There's an easier way. Jump in a swimming pool. Exhale slowly until you start to sink. If you have to exhale a little, you're fit. If you have to exhale a moderate amount, you're normal. If you have to exhale a lot or don't sink, you're fat.

Most body tissue including muscle is slightly denser than fresh water, so will normally sink. Fat is less dense than fresh water, so will float. Your fat ratio will determine how hard it is to get yourself to sink. This is actually how they measure your body fat percentage if they want an accurate number - they just put you on a scale underwater ask you to exhale as much as you can. BMI is just a crude estimate to avoid the time and wetness with this method.


RE: BMI
By tastyratz on 2/4/2011 4:42:15 PM , Rating: 2
*can be misleading* and the word accurate are contradictory. That statement makes it sound like the extreme end of the muscular are the only exceptions. My statement is that I believe not only "highly muscular individuals" will negatively impact results.
As you stated BMI is accurate as a body mass index not an obesity meter... but they are USING it as an obesity meter.

It is being used because no other statistics are readily available such as yes you said it caliper measurements. What do I suggest? A test that's accurate for the statistic with which you measure and attempt to argue a point. I agree obesity is statistically higher but why don't we just guess at how much of a problem it really is? We might as well since we cant utlize a proper study.

50%? 10%? did the man in the back say 72%?


RE: BMI
By The Raven on 2/5/2011 2:19:01 AM , Rating: 2
quote:
...one of the most accurate ...

Note she doesn't say that it is "100% accurate".

The words 'richest' and 'hobo' are also contradictory, but yet there is some guy out there who is the richest hobo.


RE: BMI
By tastyratz on 2/5/2011 1:15:41 PM , Rating: 2
bmi is simply mass.
It is known that we are much larger now than we were generations ago be it taller etc. Could it also be that through advances in commonplace nutrition and healthcare people have more body mass by means of bone density, general "thickness" etc. That alone can skew results in favor of the argument.


RE: BMI
By The Raven on 2/6/2011 12:07:29 AM , Rating: 2
quote:
Weight is simply mass. It is known that we are much larger now than we were generations ago be it taller etc. Could it also be that through advances in commonplace nutrition and healthcare people have more body mass by means of bone density, general "thickness" etc. That alone can skew results in favor of the argument.


Fixed it for you (kinda). BMI is an index used to estimate the amount of fat on your average person by using a height to weight ratio. It is less accurate for athletes and the elderly. Are there atheltes and such who throw it off? Yes. But atheletes weren't invented in 1990. So there would be little skewing.


RE: BMI
By tmouse on 2/7/2011 8:14:21 AM , Rating: 3
But it is NOT one of the MOST accurate, as a matter of fact it is one of the LEAST accurate outside of looking at someone and saying I think your fat. There are 3 methods, tank weight, calipers and BMI. BMI is at the bottom and therefore the least NOT most. There is a LOT of other problem with this study I outlined in another thread.


RE: BMI
By The Raven on 2/7/2011 10:55:46 AM , Rating: 1
There are more than 2 other methods that are better at measuring fat percentages but that is beside the point. In this country, we don't dunk people in water every time they go to the doctor or pinch their arm flab or measure their waistlines. We weigh them because it is cheapest, easiest and is sufficiently accurate to advise people that they might need to modify their diets. Also if someone is found via a BMI measurement to be obese, further measurement is typical, meaning that they just might break out the calipers.

If this article was titled, "BMI found to be most accurate body fat measurement," then there would be a point about arguing this. But its not. And we are more overweight than we have ever been. Do you disagree? If so, don't attack the BMI, but put up some info about how we are thinner based on the data you use that is more accurate than the BMI.


RE: BMI
By tmouse on 2/10/2011 3:53:10 PM , Rating: 3
The article says doubles in 30 years. That is a very specific statement. If it said has grown then I would agree. In science that statement cannot be accurate if you followed the protocol they followed. I'm shocked such a study was published. I have personally rejected studies for protocols less sloppy that the ones followed in these studies. This is sensationalism pure and simple. There is most certainly is a problem with obesity in developing nations but things like this do not help. It’s sad to say more and more of this is coming out every day. I've seen studies without replicates, use single populations with small cohorts, parametric tests on clearly skewed populations you name it. Today we are publishing more and more work but higher and higher amounts are coming out with lower and lower standards.


RE: BMI
By tmouse on 2/7/2011 7:36:14 AM , Rating: 2
Problem is he said MOST accurate (not AN accurate; VERY different statement), which clearly is NOT true.


RE: BMI
By The Raven on 2/8/2011 2:46:27 PM , Rating: 1
He said, "...one of the most accurate..."

Its a true statement.


RE: BMI
By tmouse on 2/10/2011 3:35:08 PM , Rating: 3
I’ll repeat my answer again: if there are 3 methods and you are on the bottom the word most is NOT appropriate period. The study is also fundamentally flawed since it is a small study that for some unknown reason then had a HUGH volume of data thrown into it from other studies. One has to ask why? The sheer volume of the other dwarfs the data obtained from the proposed study. It is does not and cannot account for population discrepancies between the studies, there could and probably are vast amounts of duplicate data and the cut offs and categorizations of groups simply will not align. Throwing data into a Bayesian analysis (which has its own limitations) with enormous volumes of second or third hand data to derive any meaningful trends is pure garbage. GIGO. Yes people in developed nations are getting fatter beyond that piece of startling news this study has little merit.


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