Dangerous perceptions

Philip J. Goscienski, M.D.

January 2011

The first step in solving a problem is to recognize that it exists. In the matter of obesity however, denial and/or lack of awareness are prevalent in those that are most affected. In a society where two thirds of the population is overweight it becomes easier for those persons to consider themselves normal. It's no surprise then that whereas 55 percent of Americans considered overweight persons to be less attractive in 1990, only 24 percent feel that way today.

The National Association to Advance Fat Acceptance has a noble objective: to end size discrimination in all of its forms. The term acceptance, however, follows the path of least resistance. By definition, it also means accepting the morbidity of overweight and obesity: heart disease, stroke, type 2 diabetes and numerous other medical conditions, all of which were rare or at least uncommon only 3 or 4 generations ago.

Acceptance of excess weight takes subtle forms. Today's fashion models are less likely to resemble Twiggy; actors in TV commercials, especially those that promote diabetes products, are overweight and some are clearly obese; online stores offer furniture to accommodate the morbidly obese; plus-size clothing is available almost everywhere.

Childhood obesity has quadrupled since 1970, rising from 4 percent to 17 percent. Even more ominous, mothers of overweight or obese children consider them to be normal unless they are clearly unable to keep up with their peers on the playground or other children start making fun of them. In the United Kingdom, when school lunch programs substituted healthy, vegetable-laden items for the previous pizza and similar foods, mothers passed junk food through the school fence.

There is a vast difference between the obese child and the obese adult: adults have stopped growing. A child's enlarging skeleton is vulnerable to excess weight and the result is an increase in fractures and hip problems. High blood pressure is common in overweight children and we do not yet know how it will affect them in their third or fourth decade of life. Complications of type 2 diabetes that take decades to develop in adults reveal themselves in just a few years in young people. Rapid growth means rapid turnover of blood vessels. Within a few years, sugar-damaged vessels replace normal ones in vital organs.

Complacency toward excess weight may push our healthcare system into insolvency. Before that occurs we will see Draconian legislation to reverse the trend.

Philip J. Goscienski, M.D. is the author of Health Secrets of the Stone Age, Better Life Publishers 2005. Contact him at drphil@stoneagedoc.com.