[Sca-cooks] BMI: Food for Thought
tom.vincent at yahoo.com
Fri Aug 25 08:55:37 PDT 2006
After our interesting discussion about BMI a few weeks ago: This appeared in Wednesday's USAToday. - Duriel
Food for thought
Posted 8/23/2006 9:12 PM ET
Badly Misleading Indicator? Most people who've checked their body mass index lately have probably found that by the merciless guidelines of the government-approved BMI calculator, they're overweight or obese. A stunning two-thirds of Americans are on the beefy side of the strict BMI definition of "normal" weight, according to federal statistics.
This is relevant, of course, because being overweight can make people susceptible to a range of diseases and medical catastrophes, such as diabetes, hypertension, heart attack and stroke. A new study from the National Institutes of Health and the AARP contends that even being a little bit overweight on the BMI scale after age 50 makes you 20% to 40% more likely to die early.
Forgive us for not freaking out.
The standard BMI gauge considers only a person's height and weight. It doesn't correct for age or muscle. It can be a wake-up call, but it's a rough guide that will tell you little about fitness, cardiovascular health and other important predictors of disease and death.
It can be especially hard on fit men. Hence George W. Bush, perhaps the fittest U.S. president ever, is considered overweight on the BMI scale. At nearly 6 feet and 196 pounds, Bush rates a BMI of 27.3; the upper end of "normal" is 24.9. Here's a guy who mountain bikes intensely enough to leave younger companions gasping, works out six times a week, has the resting pulse rate of a trained athlete — and still fails the BMI test. As do celebrities such as Denzel Washington and George Clooney, and many professional athletes and bodybuilders, including onetime muscleman Arnold Schwarzenegger.
The BMI's limitations taint the NIH-AARP study, which also directly contradicts an earlier study by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention concluding that being modestly overweight might actually lower a person's chance of dying.
Like a lot of scary health information, the BMI index and the latest study should be taken with a grain of salt. Not to say that you shouldn't pass up that salt, get more exercise and slim down a belt notch or a dress size, but as with all things, health advice should be consumed in moderation.
Very civil disobedience. Americans may or may not be as overweight as the BMI suggests. But one thing is clear: They have not grown soft, at least not completely.
Despite growing wealth, and indulgences ranging from 10,000-square-foot houses to cars that talk, Americans are still willing to engage in protests over important causes. Especially those involving food.
Witness the civil disobedience campaign on display in Chicago. This week, some of Chicago's finest eateries defied a new city ordinance by serving foie gras, a delicacy made from the liver of geese and ducks that have been force-fed until their livers are bloated. Patrons joined in the protest by enjoying the delicacy with pan-seared scallops, in salads and in myriad other dishes, gallantly laying down their credit cards for the benefit of humankind and the advancement of culinary rights.
So much for the notion that civil disobedience involves deprivation, such as time in jail or familiarity with a police officer's night stick. Now, its only anguish comes in ordering the right wine and settling on a proper tip, while ignoring the obvious threat to vulnerable animals and aging arteries.
Which raises a question. When a government makes lawbreaking so rewarding, not to mention fattening, what does it say about the law being broken? Perhaps that it is even more ridiculous than the spectacle of people protesting over a white linen tablecloth.
Chicago has set itself up for ridicule by banning foie gras in restaurants and by considering an equally controversial attempt to ban trans fats. Both fights have an underlying purpose. Foie gras is loaded with fat and cholesterol and involves cruelty to animals. Trans fats are linked to heart disease.
Both efforts, however, are undermined by their arbitrariness and the laughableness of a city taking on something as universal as dining habits. Americans do eat too many unhealthy foods. But the defiance in Chicago's restaurants shows how it will take more sophisticated efforts to change this behavior.
The answer will come principally in changing individual attitudes, not public laws. Encouraging people to eat foie gras by banning it does just the opposite.
Republican agenda: Crush the middle class into poverty, rape the environment, enrich corporations, restore slavery, install a theocratic dictatorship. Fight back!
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