Volcanista: a magmalicious blog

Weight loss

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There is a lot of talk in the science blogosphere about weight loss these days. People are talking about their own personal experiences, which are interesting and can start up some good discussions. I have stayed out of them because 1) I’ve been busy and 2) it’s not my place to judge what other people do with their bodies. But bloggers are also posting some questionable scientific support for the benefits of weight loss and dangers of being fat, which are murky at best*… Anyway, I have confused feelings about the whole thing. I support FA and believe pretty strongly that the scientific evidence is much more mixed than the one-sided story generally pushed in the news. Lots of the studies that are spun to present evidence of extreme dangers/costs/impacts from being fat are actually very inconclusive without the spin. A lot of the statistical methods used in the studies that appear more conclusive are pretty much crap. We just don’t know that much, and there is a vested interest in keeping popular opinion firmly in favor of one point of view, science be damned. And scientists are people and are products of this society, too, and it’s hard not to mix your personal experiences into your scientific viewpoint. But a lot of people read science blogs (and Scienceblogs) as a kind of non-peer-reviewed scientific source on many subjects, so I wish other results were getting a little more attention there.**

* I’ll just link to Sandy’s whole series, if that’s all right with you.

** Though I kind of wish that about peer reviewed literature, too. When you design a study to examine possible relationships between health risks and obesity, and deliberately choose a sample pool of fat people with health problems, ignoring all of the healthy fat people (most of them), it’s awfully easy either for you or a journalist to turn around and lazily conclude that all fat people have health problems. There are some methodological problems there.

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