Today’s big news is about fat.

Yup. That stuff around your waist.

Or didn’t you know that

About 1.6 billion people are overweight worldwide, with 400 million of them considered obese, according to the World Health Organization. About two-thirds of Americans are considered to be overweight, the researchers at Harvard and the University of California at San Diego said.

Well, the New England Journal of Medicine, who has switched from being a journal of science into a journal of pseudoscience printing “scientific” articles about psychic cats (psychic hell…it’s odor…It’s the acideosis, stupid.) has now printed a report from the Framingham study saying if your relatives and friends are fat, you are more likely to be fat…but there is no connections to being fat if your next door neighbor is fat.

This allows the press to spin more guilt for the slender challenged among us:

Just watch how the headlines change in reporting the study. The study doesn’t blame anyone or prove any cause, it merely shows an association. Yet the headlines suggest otherwise.

Obesity may spread in social circles
Economic Times, India – 3 hours ago
LOS ANGELES: If your friends and family get fat, chances are you will too, researchers report in a startling new study that suggests obesity is ‘socially

Obesity is ‘socially contagious,’ study finds
CTV.ca, Canada – 12 hours ago
Having a circle of friends who are chubby just might make it more likely you will become overweight yourself. That’s the interesting finding from a new
Obesity may be catching
Canada.com, Canada – 16 hours ago
According to a study published today in the New England Journal of Medicine, obesity can be “socially contagious.” A person’s chances of gaining weight
Study links obesity to friends
San Diego Union Tribune, United States – 17 hours ago
By Cheryl Clark Well, maybe. But in a major study published today, UCSD and Harvard researchers point a finger at an unlikely culprit: the subtle – perhaps
Study suggests obesity is ‘socially contagious’
San Francisco Chronicle, USA – 17 hours ago
People whose friends become obese have a greater chance of also getting too fat, a finding that suggests that obesity is “socially contagious,” spreading
Your best friend can make you fat: study
Sydney Morning Herald, Australia – 19 hours ago
Researchers who have studied “networks” of obesity think so: they found that if someone’s friend becomes obese, that person’s chances of becoming obese

Too fat? Thank friends and family
San Jose Mercury News, USA – 19 hours ago
By Judy Peres CHICAGO – Your friends may be more important than your genes in determining whether you gain weight, according to a new study billed as the

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Ah, yes. Blame your family and friends, not overeating and lack of exercize.

Of course, there is one thing not mentioned in the study that might have something to do with the association: Ethnicity.

Massachusetts towns tend to be mini cities of various ethnic groups. And many of the more traditional ethnic groups do not frown on mild obesity, since eating is considered a joyful part of life rather than a religion that one needs to count every calorie in pursuit of eternal life, or at least a few year longer life.

A lot of my relatives just don’t pump iron or jog, because they are fatalistic toward life. They enjoy eating without guilt. So doctors hyperventillate about poor health habits, but within limits, I wonder if it’s because of a puritanical streak rather than a real hard look at what is usually called “quality of life” issues.

Personally, I see the spread of obesity caused by the increase in food to eat and with a decrease in the necessity of working hard and walking everywhere.

One only has to compare the diet and lifestyles of the Pima Indians in the US with the Pima in Mexico.

In the US, the Pima get commodities and food supplements and do not rely on their fields for their food. They tend to be heavy, short, and have the highest incidence of Diabetes in the USA. But their relatives in Mexico tend to be short, thin, and have little diabetes.

Here in the Philippines, traditional lifestyle is hard work for hours in the fields, lots of rice and fish, and some veggies and fruit. You live forever (lolo’s mom lived to be 96)…unless you get an infectious disease such as tuberculosis, pneumonia, etc.

But now, the kids hit Jolibee or the streetvendors after school, take tricycles (motorcycles with side cars) to travel back and forth, and play computer games instead of helping in the fields after school. You can tell the richer people: They are taller, and heavier and smarter than those in the villages who still eat traditional diets.
And when you read about X country having lots and lots of elders (e.g. Japan) because they eat Y diet, just remember that limiting calories does lead to longer lives, but also that mild malnutrition leads to an increase in death from infectious disease. And since disease “culled” the weakest during the 1930’s and 1940’s, should we wonder why the survivors tend to live longer?

Perhaps by increased calories we shorten lives, but perhaps also we allow the substandard humans to live and thrive, not to mention that IQ’s tend to be higher with a better diet.

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Nancy Reyes is a retired physician living in the Philippines. Her website is Finest Kind Clinic and Fishmarket and she writes medical essays to HeyDoc xanga blog

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