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Scholar uncovers the story behind the 'obesity epidemic'

Despite its growing weight, America does not have an "obesity epidemic," according to new research by Eric Oliver, Associate Professor in Political Science at the University of Chicago.

The idea that Americans' increasing girth is a catastrophic disease is largely a myth promoted by the weight loss industry and diet doctors, writes Oliver in a new book, Fat Politics; the Real Story behind America's Obesity Epidemic. "It is our panic over our weight gain rather than the weight itself that is probably causing the most harm," Oliver argues.

Oliver contends there is no scientific evidence to suggest that people who are current classified as "overweight" and even most Americans who qualify as "obese" are under any direct threat from their body weight.

This is partly because the current standards of what is "overweight" and "obese" are defined at very low levels George Bush is technically overweight while Arnold Schwarznegger is "obese." But it is also because most people confuse body weight with the real sources of health and well-being, such as diet and exercise.

In most cases, the relationship between fat and disease is simply an association, he explains. People who are overweight may also have heart disease, for instance, but there is no proof that being overweight causes the heart disease, he said.

"There are only a few medical conditions that have been shown convincingly to be caused by excess body fat, such as osteoarthritis of weight bearing joints and uterine cancer that comes from higher estrogen levels in heavier women, although this can be treated medically without weight loss," he said. "For most medical conditions, it is diet, exercise, and genetics that are the real causes. Weight is merely an associated symptom."

Yet Americans continue to be told that they need to lose weight, Oliver believes, partly because weight is so much easier to measure than diet and exercise. It is also because of Ame
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Contact: William Harms
w-harms@uchicago.edu
773-702-8356
University of Chicago
15-Nov-2005


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