Tuesday, July 24, 2007

Don't fart

Okay, it's unlikely you visit this blog to hear my opinion about farting, but I just read this article in New Scientist

How the obesity epidemic is aggravating global warming
(Issue June 30th - July6th, p. 21)

which is the most ridiculous fart line up of weak links designed to support a specific opinion that I've come across lately. The argumentation of the author, Ian Roberts (a professor of public health in London), is roughly: if you're fat you are wasting energy. Either by storing fat such that it can't even be used as bio fuel, or by moving it around with the help of gasoline powered transportation devices.

To begin with, despite of what the title says, the author does not actually talk about global warming, but about wasting energy. The connection between both is just assumed in the first sentence with 'we know humans are causing [global warming]', and not even once addressed after this. On the other hand, also the connection between wasting energy and obesity is constructed to make the point that you should loose weight to save the earth:

"[...] it is becoming clear that obese people are having a direct impact on the climate. This is happening through their lifestyles and the amount and type of food they eat, and the worse the obesity epidemic gets the greater its impact on global warming."

Well, if one wants to criticize a lifestyle, then one should criticise a lifestyle, but not add several associative leaps after that. Let us start with asking what exactly is a 'waste' of energy? Using energy for purposes that do not necessarily improve our well-being could generally be considered a waste. That goes for breaking a cellphone (consider all the energy needed to produce it), browsing the web the whole day (your home wireless doesn't run on vacuum energy) as well as for unnecessary consumption of food for whose production energy was needed.

However, whether that food is actually eaten or thrown away is completely irrelevant in this context. Also, on an equal footing one can argue that the mere presence of diet products damages the climate: it takes energy to produce and transport them, but the energy gain after consumption is lowered. Is there any reason to waste energy on producing diet coke when one can as well drink water? And while we're at it, is there any reason to go jogging every morning - isn't that just a waste of energy? Come to think about it, civilization itself seems to be a waste of energy.

The article goes on arguing

"[...] his greater bulk and higher metabolic rate will cause him to feel the heat more in the globally warmed summers, and he will be the first to turn on the energy intensive air conditioning."

If one argues that overweight people turn on the AC more often because they sweat more easily, one might want to take into account that underweight (or generally sickly) people tend to turn on the heating more often. People who suffer from back pain, arthritis and shortness of breath might use their car more often (as the article states), but this must not necessarily be a cause of obesity. The only thing one can state is that being healthy and well adapted to the part of the world you live in minimizes the additional energy needed to survive and feel comfortable (how 'needed' relates to 'actually used' is a completely different question).

I am definitely in favor of more sidewalks, of increased awareness for health risks caused by obesity, and I totally agree that we should save energy. But I would appreciate a scientific discussion of these issues, and not a mixed up mesh of several issues all drowned in politcal correctness.

In a similar spirit I read last week several articles claiming "Meat is murder on the environment" or likewise, a 'conclusion' based on a paper "Evaluating environmental impacts of the Japanese beef cow–calf system by the life cycle assessment method" (published in Animal Science Journal 78 (4), 424–432)

"a kilogram of beef is responsible for the equivalent of the amount of CO2 emitted by the average European car every 250 kilometres"

Being a vegetarian myself, I could give you a good number of reasons to drop the meat, but nothing you wouldn't find online in some thousand other places, so let me just focus on the issue at hand. If you want to save energy with the food you buy and eat, the most important factor to consider is origin and transportation.
  • Your apple from New-Zealand, labeled 'bio' or not, doesn't tunnel to you. In fact you could say since, unlike beef, vegetables and friuts consist mostly of water, the amount of gasoline needed per energy content (joule) of transported food is higher for greens. So, preferably buy stuff that was not transported all around the globe whenever you can.
  • If you buy products from countries where slash and burn is still practiced, you're damaging the environment more than if you support your local farmer - even if he's somewhat more expensive than Safeway.
  • And, needless to say, don't buy stuff you don't need. Each time you have to throw something away, you are throwing away all the energy that was necessary to produce it. That doesn't only go for food, but for everything else including wrappings.

I want to add that much like cows, human flatulence as well release methane, which is said to contribute to global warming. So maybe we should consider a national anti-fart campaign? Regarding the vegetarian factor, also please note that "The cellulose in vegetables cannot be digested, therefore vegetarians produce more gas than people with a mixed diet." [source]

The bottomline of this writing is: don't construct or publish ridiculous cross-relations that are scientifically doubtful for a catchy headline.

See also: Global Warming


Uncle Al said...

An engineer's first task in solving a problem is to identify its real cause.

http://www.mazepath.com/uncleal/arith.htm Greenland was melted by Third World respiration
http://www.mazepath.com/uncleal/tuned.htm Only firemen can end Global Warming.

What is Al Gore's singular contribution to Global Arming? He is deeply invested in carbon credit arbitrage - brokering Medieval indulgences to nullify Official sins.

Bee said...

Hi Uncle :-) Speaking of identifying the real cause. I think it might be these damned Higgses again! Sure enough, they aim to erase mankind through global warming, thereby disabling their own discovery. Best,


Thomas D said...

The solution to the problem is for everyone to stop reading New Scientist - it is the intellectual equivalent of several hundred cubic kilometres of intestinal gas.

It is years, maybe decades, since a meaningful or useful scientific story was published in New Scientist. But somehow our library still keeps ordering it.

Bee said...

Hi Thomas,

I totally agree. I only wrote that post because I was annoyed to have bought it at the airport. The only alternative was 'Discover'. Best,


Arun said...

...Being a vegetarian myself

Is Stefan too?

Bee said...

Is Stefan too?

The brief answer is no. The detailed answer is he is from the Saarland, famous for the philosophy of Schwenken. See also here.


Arun said...

Vegetarian (milk and eggs OK).

Anonymous said...

I don't read New Scientist, but it seems that every time it is mentioned it is because of some ridiculous article like the one B discussed. Does not seem worth reading, except for laughs. I am omnivorous, BTW (meat and potatoes OK; and so are milk, eggs and greens!).



Anonymous said...


Rae Ann said...

Well, how about we create some kind of wearable energy producing device required for those people who like to expend energy frivolously, like runners and other "recreational" exercisers? If you're going to penalize fat people for "storing" too much energy, then it's only fair to penalize anyone who uses more than is absolutely necessary. Using their own calculations I'd say it's just as bad to use energy running (or biking or swimming or whatever) 10 unnecessary miles as it is to store the calories of a piece of chocolate cake. What they'll have to do is calculate how much energy each person requires for basic survival and then come up with some kind of 'energy credits' like their 'carbon credits' to offset the differences in lifestyles. Either that, or just force everyone to live the exact same lifestyle. And isn't that their ultimate goal anyway? To have everyone living in 'survival mode' with no imbalances in comfort levels, etc.? ;-)

ChickenBreeder said...

While I don't agree with the detail of the "fart" article (I don't read New Sci. anyway), I have no problem if, say, a future policy demands that people be taxed based on their weight and the space, in cubic meters, that they occupy.

Seriously, big people consume more natural resource per person but they don't necessarily contribute more, per person, to the society. An elevator that was built to accomodate 10 people would be able to lift only 8 when the average weight of the population increases by 20%, which I believe is what's happening in the last 20 years. Somehow, someone has to pay for it. Also, in America at least, cars get bigger because people get bigger. This has many consequences and someone has to pay for it.

I don't intend to discriminate against fat people but this is about fairness. It's certainly a viable idea. The "fat tax" will be based on voluntary information provided by the taxpayers that is subject to audition, just like income tax. (The auditor will bring a scale, in addition to a calculator.) People of certain occupations that require intensive physical labor will be exampted from the fat tax.

The formula for the tax will have a cutoff, say if an adult of a certain height is below 130 lb he or she will not be taxed. This will prevent any attempt for people to become anorexic just to save on tax. All in all, this will be a terrific scheme to motive the whole population to become healthier and save resources.

(Whether this will also have an impact on global warming is another story.)

Arun said...

"The Saarland" sounds like something out of Tolkein. Maybe hobbits are found there?

Anonymous said...

Saarland is a small territory between Gondor and Mordor. Sold to Mordor for 30 franken.

Anonymous said...

I'm all for a tax on fat. On ugliness in general in fact. This would have the immediate benefit of bankrupting Donatella Versace.

Anonymous said...

The article is written from the perspective that global warming is a given and that obesity, because of its pernicious effects on health and society, is to be combated. The former assumption is appropriate given that the article is speaking about public health and not an article on climate change. The latter assumption is a well-acknowledge belief in public health and there is really no debate there.

While some of the outrage and ridicule to be found in this thread is to be expected, it is nevertheless misplaced. No one is beating up on fat people for the sake of beating up on fat people. The goal is to highlight a particular epidemic disease as deserving of special attention not only from a health perspective but also from a climate change perspective. (That is to say, overcoming the obesity epidemic which is already a problem society is mobilizing to fight, would kill more than one bird with the same stone.)

The author is an epidemiologist and so he is analyzing our life patterns in an effort to help us live longer happier lives. While some aspects of the global obesity epidemic are personal choice, we could probably do without the heavy and invasive advertising and the endless supply of refined sugar and fats not only in stores but even in schools.

I would encourage readers of the article to move past their gut reactions.

Bee said...

Hi Changcho,

I don't read New Scientist, but it seems that every time it is mentioned it is because of some ridiculous article

Yeah... there were other equally nonsensical articles in this issue. The interesting thing about New Scientist though is that they have a high percentage about theory and don't bore me to death with recent nanoscience or quantum dots experiments, and that they pick up relatively new stuff from the arxiv, most often even before it's peer reviewed - which is interesting, but unfortunately it seems the editors don't exactly have the best taste, so in many cases I have the impression they are just promoting nonsense. I read the magazine if my blood pressure is too low.

Hi RaeAnn,

*lol* energy credits, very nice :-)

I actually think the author completely missed the point. There are plenty of options to save energy that are the primary points to attack before one asks people to loose weight for the sake of their environment. E.g. as I wrote above, stuff that is produced for no other reason than to be thrown away is just a complete waste (not to mention that there isn't really an 'away'). Every kind of cheap products that break easily, every useless wrapping, or unnecessary consume falls into that category. The argument it 'supports' the economy is ridiculous. Money isn't going to help producing microchips without energy. Then there are the obvious points like: why does your apartment need an AC running/light burning if you're not in? If you turn on the heating, close the windows. Build city centers such that people can W-A-L-K. Public transportation. Reduce spam mail (yes, it takes energy to produce all these Pizza flyers that you just throw away).

Hi Arun,

Indeed, will try to take a photo of Stefan's feet to prove that hypothesis ;-)

Hi Chickenbreeder,

I can see where you're coming from, but I totally disagree. For one, I strongly believe everybody has a right to be happy how he or she likes to. If someone is fat and happy, fine. If he's fat and not happy about it, he's sick and needs treatment, not a tax.

A tax is raised for something the majority has agreed on should be payed by the people, and I doubt you'd ever find a majority for your tax. There are ways to distribute taxes, but punishment for too high weight isn't going to help. If someone knowingly endangers his/her health, and risks early death by being severely overweight, a tax isn't likely to change that either. I'd rather suggest a tax on junk food that is used to support healthier food. I'd suggest a tax on SUV's to support public transportation. I'd suggest an initiative on city planning, so doing errands by walking is indeed possible.

Hi Anonymous:

I'm all for a tax on fat. On ugliness in general in fact.

;-) Sounds good. Might very efficiently change our perception of beauty.



Bee said...

Hi Anonymous:

You've completely missed the point of my writing.

[...] assumption is appropriate given that the article is speaking about public health and not an article on climate change.

Well, if the article is not about climate change don't you think a title like "How the obesity epidemic is aggravating global warming" is more than inappropriate?

The author is an epidemiologist and so he is analyzing our life patterns in an effort to help us live longer happier lives.

If he had done that, I'd have no problem with that. I suspect that is probably what the author's work is actually on, but this is exactly what the article does not present. The 'analysis' he presents says essentially if you're overweight you are damaging our environment, so please stop it. If he wants to analyze life patters then he should stick to it and not pretend a connection to global warming.

There might be some truth in what the author says, but what he actually writes is just speculative blahblah, and based on about no scientific basis. As I have mentioned above, being unhealthy in general means you'll need additional help to survive/feel well that requires energy. Sure, if you walk instead of drive, you're more likely to gain weight, but this must not necessarily be the case, and an energy-wasting lifestyle must not correlate with obesity. I'm not saying it doesn't. I'm just saying there's no basis for this claim, and I don't appreciate watering down the scientific content of debates (global warming/obesity) even further by printing vague articles like this.



Anonymous said...

By the way, is it true that "pumpernickel" has something to do with the German "pumpern"?

Bee said...

Hi Anonymous...

I just read that for the first time - do you got it from the Wikipedia entry? I admittedly don't know but to me it sounds pretty made up. For one, I've never ever anybody heard using the word 'pumpen' in any other context than 'to pump' (like e.g. a flat tire or so), and also the connection from Nickel to Satan, to the evil fart doesn't sound really convincing. Besides this, I am not a big fan of Pumpernickel, but to my best knowledge it's very well to digest.

The origin of the word that I vaguely recall is 'pain pour une Nickel' (French: Bread for one Nickel) or so (probably something my aunt told me, no idea if that makes sense historically). There are several partly messed up French words in the German language, esp. when it comes to food. E.g. "Schattenmorellen", "BonBons" or "Soße".


Eric Gisse said...

Does New Scientist have a policy of accepting only the worst articles?


Luís Oliveira said...

[preferably buy stuff that was not transported all around the globe whenever you can.]

Not so:


Rae Ann said...

Hi Bee, yes, I totally agree about the reduced packaging and other common sense types of conservation. I recall in the third grade which was during the 70s "energy crisis" we were taught in school that it was just good economical sense to turn off lights when leaving a room and other similar ways of not wasting energy/resources. It was presented as a way of saving our parents' money moreso than of saving the planet. ;-)

If I lived in an urban or even suburban area with public transportation and sidewalks I'd definitely use them. It's always annoyed me that we live 1.5 miles from the kids' school but they can't walk because there isn't even a shoulder on the road for them to walk on. It's much too dangerous for them to walk on the edge of the road with deep ditches on one side and cars speeding upwards of 60 mph on the other. So I drive them.

It would be great to walk to the market sometimes, but the closest one is 6 miles away. Sometimes I wonder if there is a large rift between the urban perception of the climate, conservation, etc. and the rural perceptions. Doesn't it seem like most of the alarmists are urbanites? It's curious to me that when you go to an urban area there are all these lights and things on all night for no apparent reason, but when you drive through the rural areas all is dark and quiet. ;-)

And the current trend of villifying fat people is just another incarnation of scapegoating. There really are people who are genetically determined to store more fat regardless of their lifestyle. If we start villifying them successfully, then what's next? Eye color? Hair color? Breast size? Religious/ethnic background? I just don't like the progression of such prejudicial ideas.

Anonymous said...


(I am the previously dissenting anonymous: "The article is written from the perspective that ...")

Perhaps my previous comment was unclear. I think the article is about the carbon footprint implications of Obesity.

I do not see it as demonizing those who suffer from obesity to say that reducing obesity reduces the carbon footprint of a population. It was not particularly demonizing to malaria suffers when Jeffrey Sachs pointed out that malaria probably reduces GDP of poor nations. We are in a era when people are starting to wake up and see that public health issues have greater impact on our societies than just life expectation. This is a good thing.

I do agree the article fell down when it chose to paint a story instead of giving facts and figures. I don't know why the author did that except maybe to increase the number of potential readers that would understand his argument. However, I do not believe his worthy topic deserves the excoriation it is being given here.

But I think you missed the point of the orginal article if you think it's about critiquing a lifestyle. Obesity is a public health nightmare. It is no mere lifestyle choice. I also think that you misunderstand the difference between what can be combatted from a social policy direction and what can not. The solution to obesity is to get people to eat less. It's such a simple and uncomplicated goal that we might actually have a shot of achieving something like that! Just like the complicated issue of how to stem the AIDS epidemic was boiled down to: wear a condom. These are the kinds of simple things that work.

Convincing people to reflect on how they live and make small changes to reduce energy is a quite complicated goal and is probably not vunerable to a public health/epidemiological approach. Besides, it has nothing to do with health!

Finally, I agree with you about meat consumption. I find it a wonderful example of something that can be tackled in a fairly straight forward way and would reduce our carbon footprint. (Although, again, the public health implications of a diet including meat are somewhat minimal. Moveover, it does not make sense to critique the author for something he's not writing about or else we could list forever all the things he could possibly have included.)

"The bottomline of this writing is: don't construct or publish ridiculous cross-relations that are scientifically doubtful for a catchy headline."

I find the implication patently unfair. I think you are uninformed. You seem to be unaware of the fact that: there is a global obesity epidemic, that it is uncontraversial that it is a bad thing and that we have to and are in the process of fixing it.


The only new thing about this article is saying Obesity might have affect energy which I read as: public health advocates working in the area of obesity and climate change advocates might have some common goals. Just like public health workers in malaria and people fighting poverty have common cause. And of course it increases the carbon footprint, this is common sense. The only issue is to put a number on how much. Which of course the article failed to do. But after all, it's only New Scientist. We can only expect so much. Your critique is like asking for a pamphlet to children on washing their hands, to have citations and be peer reviewed. ( I hope it will be clear that this is ridiculous.)

Anonymous said...

"I have no problem if, say, a future policy demands that people be taxed based on their weight and the space, in cubic meters, that they occupy."

Chickenbreeder, you're too funny!


Arun said...

According to the Brian Lehrer show on WNYC Public Radio the problem's root cause is increasing rates of obesity, and this is the problem:

The Yearly Toll of Diabetes in New York City

Hospitalizations: 20,000
Amputations from diabetes: 3,000
New cases of kidney failure: 1,400
Diabetes-related deaths: 4,700
Hospitalization costs alone: $480 mil.
Total cost: ~$6.5 billion

Anonymous said...

About pumpernickel: no, I didn't read it in wikipedia, it is something I was told many years ago, but by someone who was not German. I think that the "bon pour nickel" theory is pretty much discredited. I guess the origin of pumpernickel [which tastes really good by the way, for those who have not tried it] remains a great mystery, like quantum gravity.

Arun said...

One of the online dictionaries says, "An earlier Ger. name for it was krankbrot, lit. "sick-bread."

(it being pumpernickel).

QUASAR9 said...

Hi Bee,
philosophy of Schwenken?
from the same 'kneck' of the woods as
Frankfurt-er philosophy
Hamburg-er philosophy

The counter-argument by Indians (from India) Hindus & Vegetarians is that cows & beef cattle produce more crap and fart much more than humans, and pigs ... well we know what a pig sty smells of.

If Cows are holy
holy cow, the only alternative is to eliminate drivers and their cars
Of course it is not only heathens worship cars & tin boxes on wheels

But hey at the end of the day it is all just more hot air, and maybe Global Warming will go away.

The major advantage of any global disaster that wipes out two thirds of the human population, is that it will leave so much more land for the rest of us without having to arm wrestle or have a farting competition for ownership of land.
So - Do you feel lucky today

stefan said...

Hi quasar,

philosophy of Schwenken?

well, as you can see from the links Bee has posted (thank you a lot - these are great links :-)), or the Wikipedia entry, that's a topic that's indeed taken very serious by the Saarländer ;-)

Concerning Schwenken and Global Warming - well, for one thing, I often wonder that the main contribution of this way of preparing your meal to the production of greenhouse gases is not so much the meat, but the amount of wood which is burnt in a ususally quite inefficient way. On nice summer weekends, there are tons of trees burned down just for Schwenken in Saarland...

By the way, Saarland was known in Germany mainly for its coal mines and steel mills (more or less all gone now) - so, most people are quite surprised to see that it is, in fact, a very "green" region, with lots of woods and meadows. However, we Saarländer do not have Hobbit feet ;-)

Cheers, stefan

QUASAR9 said...

Hi Stefan, thanks!
I was playing on the fact that German cities, Hamburg and Frankfurt have given us two popular and well known 'meats'

The Hamburger-er & Frankfurt-er.
Odd that the
Ham-burger is actually beef (not ham).
But Schwenken definitely sounds like a 'specialised' dish.

I used to go to the Black Forest some weekends, and the paprika Chicken was finger licking good, or even to "die for".

I know how Green Germany is, after all the pollution from previous heavy industries.
Ironically, some people point to places like Germany of living proof that man will not destroy the world, but will always find solutions.
But people forget that for the last sixty years there has been a concerted effort to clean up industry make Germany Green - an effort which has and is spreading across the EU. And an effort which is spreading worldwide.
The argument has been won. There are few places remaining where industry can pollute with impunity (like China & India) - most people are sufficiently educated and empowered to challenge industrial pollution.

However we are all weakest at challenging 'personal' pollution.
We all like our combustion cars, and out cheap short haul and not so cheap long haul flights.
And so does everyone else!.

This is where there is room for significant improvements and change
Ok it will not be novel technology in Bee's eyes,but small changes and even lateral thinking Spark-free, Fuel-efficient Engines On The Way
The researchers estimate that the increase in fuel efficiency would be a few miles per gallon. "That may not seem like an impressive improvement," said Green. "But if all the cars in the US today improved that much, it might be worth a million barrels of oil per day--and that's a lot."

QUASAR9 said...

Plus, I'm a Kevin Costner's Waterworld fan anyway
Give me a Catamaran, and who cares if all the coastline where a vast proportion of the popultion does live are flooded, as far inland as you will.
And hey raw fish ain't bad, just ask the Japs. Just gotta develop & improve the waterfilter so that I have plenty of fresh water for my tomato plants.
And the stars in the sky at night can be my roof

Rae Ann said...

A few comments in response to the anonymous 'dissenter':

From the WHO site:

"Contrary to conventional wisdom, the obesity epidemic is not restricted to industrialized societies; in developing countries, it is estimated that over 115 million people suffer from obesity-related problems."

Doesn't that 'fact' that obesity also occurs frequently in less than wealthy societies imply that it's not exactly a "lifestyle" (being too rich and consuming too much, etc.) kind of problem?

And all this concern about "pubic health" and obesity is just an extension of socialistic concerns because 'fit' people don't want to pay for the care of 'unfit' people. How is that selfishness any different from 'smart' people not wanting to pay for the education of 'not smart' people? Or the 'rich' people not wanting to help the 'not rich' people?

Maybe you can't see how it boils down that way, but it does.

Besides, WHO is probably just another political organization like the UN with its primary concerns being the support of itself, and by creating an "obesity epidemic" they can assure themselves plenty of funding, etc. to solve this "global" problem like the UN's IPCC's global warming campaign for funding (using a scare tactics, etc.).

Well, I'm not convinced either way that there really is any "global" problem other than mass manipulation and misrepresentation of reality.

(and just a personal pet peeve about anonymous comments, even though it's Bee's and Stefan's blog, why can't people 'own' their comments or are they just too ashamed to put their names on them?)

Anonymous said...

(anonymous dissenter)

My link to the WHO seems to have gotten cut off so here is the correction:



I believe obesity to be the result of consuming more calories than you burn off daily for a sufficiently long period of time that you obtain a BMI of 30 or greater. I think many behaviors can lead to this. When I try to imagine what kind of lifestyle leads to this too many come to mind to enumerate.

The global obesity epidemic refers to the observation that the number of people who have a BMI of 30 or greater has been increasing dramatically.

Calling it an epidemic is related to the observation that obesity is a risk factor in developing several diseases of which hypertension, diabetes and heart disease are the more well known. On the level at which public health operates, millions or billions of human beings, small statistical increases can mean increases of millions of dollars and thousands of deaths yearly. It is rewarding if a poster saying 'Wash your hands' or 'Eat your vegetables' is all that is needed to preserve the lives of a few thousand people per year.

Arun said...

Obesity is increasing in part because of the nature of processed industrial food, in part because cars replace bicycles or the pedestrian habit and so on.

In the US, there is a link between poverty and obesity - poorer people are more likely to be obese because of a greater reliance on processed and fast foods, which are in general cheaper than healthier foods.

The cost of preventative care is pennies on the dollar compared to the cost of care after diabetes or heart-disease has struck.

There is a tremendous cost in human suffering and pain from these diseases as well. One is not a socialist or a capitalist or whatever for wanting to contain these - one is simply a humanitarian.

QUASAR9 said...

Hi Arun,
in the uk it has been shown that poor and not so poor people eat pretty much the same.

But better off people tend to be more active and care more what they look like and about their health, whereas those on lower incomes tend to care less and are more likely to become couch potatoes (they have less motivation to get up).

Plus of course, there are still more poor people than there are filthy rich, even in the uk or US

Well of course poor is a relative term, they are clearly not poor in the same sense as the poor Ethiopia when drought or famine strikes.

Arun said...

Hi Quasar9, US journals have this kind of stuff:


which I assume is reliable.

"Poverty and obesity: the role of energy density and energy costs1,2
Adam Drewnowski and SE Specter

1 From the Center for Public Health Nutrition, Departments of Epidemiology and Medicine, University of Washington, Seattle (AD), and the US Department of Agriculture Western Human Nutrition Research Center, University of California, Davis (SES)

Many health disparities in the United States are linked to inequalities in education and income. This review focuses on the relation between obesity and diet quality, dietary energy density, and energy costs. Evidence is provided to support the following points. First, the highest rates of obesity occur among population groups with the highest poverty rates and the least education. Second, there is an inverse relation between energy density (MJ/kg) and energy cost ($/MJ), such that energy-dense foods composed of refined grains, added sugars, or fats may represent the lowest-cost option to the consumer. Third, the high energy density and palatability of sweets and fats are associated with higher energy intakes, at least in clinical and laboratory studies. Fourth, poverty and food insecurity are associated with lower food expenditures, low fruit and vegetable consumption, and lower-quality diets. A reduction in diet costs in linear programming models leads to high-fat, energy-dense diets that are similar in composition to those consumed by low-income groups. Such diets are more affordable than are prudent diets based on lean meats, fish, fresh vegetables, and fruit. The association between poverty and obesity may be mediated, in part, by the low cost of energy-dense foods and may be reinforced by the high palatability of sugar and fat. This economic framework provides an explanation for the observed links between socioeconomic variables and obesity when taste, dietary energy density, and diet costs are used as intervening variables. More and more Americans are becoming overweight and obese while consuming more added sugars and fats and spending a lower percentage of their disposable income on food."

QUASAR9 said...

Hi Arun,
I am not negating or contradicting the evidence. I am just saying that you can weigh the argument.

Sure it is diet preference and/or affordability (economics) and education. But one cannot and should not exclude the fact that even among those on lower incomes and poor diets there are those who care more about their looks and health, - and there are couch potatoes -
You can argue that those on higher incomes are more motivated to go to expensive gyms or take a stroll around the golf course. But ultimately they are more motivated or inclined to take care of their looks and their health.

And of course some have more money than sense and will resort to expensive rehab and or plastic surgery - and those on lower incomes will continue to put on weight, become couch potatoes and dream of winning the lottery so that they too could 'buy' fitness.

There is an argument going round at the moment that smoking marijuana causes mental problems. One can weight the argument that there is an increase of use in marijuana among those with mental problems. You can arrive at both conclusions with the same research
One simply puts the emphasis on whatever case one is trying to make

I repeat, I am not disagreeing with your information and.or findings just trying to shift the emphasis. Move the goal posts, so to speak.

Anonymous said...

Rae Ann said:
And all this concern about "pubic health" and obesity

Pubic health and obesity? You have placed a picture in my mind, PLEASE TAKE IT OUT AGAIN!!!

Bee said...

Bee: "The bottomline of this writing is: don't construct or publish ridiculous cross-relations that are scientifically doubtful for a catchy headline."

Anonymous: I find the implication patently unfair. I think you are uninformed. [...] I do agree the article fell down when it chose to paint a story instead of giving facts and figures. I don't know why the author did that except maybe to increase the number of potential readers that would understand his argument. However, I do not believe his worthy topic deserves the excoriation it is being given here.

Hi Anonymous: The point is, if I am uninformed, the article didn't do anything to change it. It's nice you regard the topic worthy, so do I. But if somebody who didn't have this opinion to begin with came across the article, it wouldn't have been able to convince anybody of anything. Look, there are sufficient empty words being said every day, do we really need to print them and bore people with a topic that should have been discussed in a reasonable and informative way?

Besides this, your attitude of just eat less is incredibly naive. Evolution ensures the survival of the fittest. But what 'fittest' means changes over time with the environment that we live in. We have managed to change the environment such that we ourselves do no longer fit in. Overeating is not a conscious decision to become fat and unhealthy. It's a result of an environment that is inappropriate in many regards, starting with consume becoming the purpose of our lives. The human body wasn't made to sit in front of a computer ten hours a day, it was made for farming and hunting. We were not meant to live in cities with 4 Mio inhabitants in dirty air and noise, or to fly around the globe with 800 mph. You don't cure these problem by telling people to eat less, you just shift the problem elsewhere - probably to the benefits of the Prozac sales-rate.

Besides this, a longer life is not necessarily a better life.



QUASAR9 said...

"Besides this, a longer life is not necessarily a better life."

Bee, you may have a point there
With five million americans in the US said to have Alzheimers, and with half the population on some sort of medication or pharmacy induced drug dependency.

Maybe Bush is fighting a war on the wrong sort of drugs - lol.

Maybe it is best to die young and stay pretty. The thing I really do not understand is the 'fear' of death. People will hang onto this life by the skin of their teeth, even with no teeth, no eyes, no limbs, no lungs, no heart, or even after having lost their memory, if not their 'whole' mind.

But yes, it is amazing how many people think they'll be able to BUY fitness or Health or Happiness

If only their lottery numbers came up, or they hit the jackpot. And yet we all spend half our waking life dreaming or in a sort of dream , "to dream the impossible dream ..."

Anonymous said...

I fully agree with the author, Obesity is causing problems and fat 'is' stored energy not being used, so in a way they are wasting energy. jac

Anonymous said...

Is this a page where people actually care about the topic or do they just want to show they have writing skills? i bet you all love star wars...

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