Thursday, 30 July 2009

Who Are You Going To Believe? Scientists, Or Your Lyin’ Eyes?

Last week, a North East mum was furious after her five-year-old was labelled “overweight” by an NHS measurement programme based on BMI results.

Beth Coates, of Dudley, near Cramlington, claimed BMI was inaccurate for the changing bodies of under-12s, and rubbished figures that placed her son Antonio in the top one per cent of obese children.
My mind conjured up (given that the 'top one per cent' sounds like the very worst example) a mini landwhale, eyes like two raisins in dough, wearing grown man t-shirts and struggling to breathe and walk unaided.

Well, there’s a picture of the lad in the newspaper, and if he’s obese, I’m a banana.

Never mind being in the top one per cent of the obese range, he’s pretty normal for a young boy.
His mother said she feared it could prompt worried parents into starting children on unhealthy and draconian diets.

Ms Coates said: “If wasn’t strong in myself I might start to think I was doing something wrong and start to deny Antonio food. It could give children serious eating disorders. I don’t want Antonio growing up thinking he is obese when he is not.”
Good for you! To hell with the scientists - only someone with an eating disorder themselves could look at this chap and proclaim him even 'chubby'.

Of course, no-one had actually observed the child. This was yet another 'diagnosis by tickbox'.

And when the child's mother had the temerity to question the wisdom of this, she was basically told she didn't know what she was talking about:
But Dr Ashley Adamson, a senior lecturer at the Human Nutrition Research Centre at Newcastle University, warned that our perceptions of what “overweight” means has changed. And while athletes were an extreme case, she said that BMI was still an accurate and reliable measure for the majority of people.

“We did a study of 500 children in the North East, using four of the most sophisticated measures of body fat, and we found that it tallied very well with the simple BMI scores,” Dr Adamson said.
Put down your charts and graphs and figures and take a look at this boy, genius. If he's classed as in the top one per cent of obese children, something's very wrong.
“Parents read the statistics about childhood obesity and say they don’t see that in the playground.

“But scientists have measured them, and 69% of children are overweight or obese. Our perceptions of what ‘fat’ looks like have shifted.”
Oh, please!

Take a look at the photo of the lad. If you maintain that your figures prove him ‘obese’, then you need to relook at your figures.

Any fat on that child is designed to be there. It’s called ‘puppy fat’ and you cannot measure a growing child on the same scale as an adult. One size does NOT fit all.
She added: “What we need is more support for parents. Many don’t have an accurate image of what weight children should be.”
They know if the child can’t run, jump, play or see their toes they are overweight, dangerously so. Everything else will be cured by that most egalitarian of cures – growing up…

11 comments:

Obsidian said...

BMI is a terrible way to measure obesity anyway, parts of the NHS already recognize this.

In diabetes research, obesity indicators are now more about waist size than BMI as that's a far better indicator of obesity.

Rob said...

"But Dr Ashley Adamson, a senior lecturer at the Human Nutrition Research Centre at Newcastle University, warned that our perceptions of what “overweight” means has changed."

Oh yes, they certainly have. They have changed to "obese is whatever the progressives say it is".

69% of children overweight or obese? A fucking joke. JUST LOOK AT THEM! Be careful doing that if you are a man though, as you could be beaten to death for being a paedophile.

"What we need is more support for parents."

Translation: "What we need is more power over parents".

It is very, very disturbing how the medical profession is morphing from one which gave advice but did not force treatment, into one which is using authoritarian powers to force people to conform to their beliefs.

Stan said...

According to my BMI I am clinically obese - but my physical characteristics are pretty much the same as when I was playing rugby regularly. From what I understand, most of the England World Cup winning squad of 2003 would be classed as clinically obese by BMI.

Although useful as a guide for certain people, BMI is almost useless as a general measure.

Optimistic Cynic said...

The trouble is that the NHS and science just aren't the same thing.

Remember, these are the people who tell you how many units you should drink, despite the fact that someone just pulled the figure out of thin air.

If it is science, it wouldn't show
fit athletes as obese, but it does. So as a test, it fails. Now, the sort of response someone might make to pointing this out is "oh, that's unusual". OK, modify the scientific measure to account for it, or don't use it. If it's science, it should be measurable and work.

The problem with The Obesity Epidemic is that it's not an industry and that means that people won't want to see it go away. We've got people in the NHS and various policy groups who use it to create more non-jobs. The likes of the BBC and the Graun can have their anti-capitalist, anti-meat attacks. The middle class press can sneer at pie-eating chavs. And a load of utter freeloaders can get jobs writing books and courses about feeding your kids healthily.

These people don't want to even hear that this isn't an issue.

Anonymous said...

One size does not fit all?

Really?

Have you told the government this?

It could change a few things!

(for could read should, naturally)

Angry Exile said...

Oh, according to the NHS. Wooohoo. Thank you so much, NHS. How very Strength Through Joy of you. Have a fucking burger and shut the fuck up you joyless cunts. What's going on, have they run out of patients to kill?

JuliaM said...

"...parts of the NHS already recognize this."

They need better communication then!

"UST LOOK AT THEM! Be careful doing that if you are a man though, as you could be beaten to death for being a paedophile."

And you'd certainly better not take pictures...

"...one which is using authoritarian powers to force people to conform to their beliefs."

Not always even their own beliefs, but merely those of their political paymasters.

JuliaM said...

"Although useful as a guide for certain people, BMI is almost useless as a general measure."

So, it's used here because it's easier for the 'layman' to understand? Or because it 'bigs up' (heh!) the obesity problem?

"These people don't want to even hear that this isn't an issue."

Of course not. Then they might have to get a real job...

"What's going on, have they run out of patients to kill?"

Not according to National Death Service!

Von Spreuth said...

How long before the SS turn up and take the kid off her, as "in danger"?

Von Brandenburg-Preußen.

Anonymous said...

I'm a fairly normal 40yo male (6ft, 15 and half stone, if you ask)

Today, my BMI is 29.6. Yesterday at the gym, I did 85 pullups among a number of exercises, and I'll be playing squash on Friday.

My BMI is a clear threat to my health, since my blood-pressure rises whenever one of the these medical idiots is quoted in an article.

Any health-person talking to a kid/mother/patient about weight based on BMI is commiting prima facie malpractice. BMI exists because records only used to record height/weight. Any advice today should use body fat (which is safe against mis-diagnosis due to body composition.

We need to file malpractice cases against any doctor or nurse who uses the "available statistic" metric instead of body fat for health advice.

Ian B said...

BMI was not invented by a doctor. It was invented by Adolphe Quetelet, an.. astronomer. He was fascinated by statistics, it was the new in-thing, and had a fascination with the normal distribution (the "bell curve"). He organised the first international statistical conference and was one of the early activists pushing for today's "statistics based state".

He believed that the Perfect Man is he who is the perfect mathematical average in all things. This is a very dubious statistic. I haven't yet met a woman who prefers a man who is, er, average...

Anyway, he invented BMI, not doctors. It is a flawed measure. It is based on the square of height. People are volumes, not areas. It actually tends to favour short people and declare everyone who is tall and not emaciated to be too fat. It's crap.

On another issue, this young lad appears to be of west african descent. West Africans tend genetically to carry more weight than caucasians. So at the very least different genetic heritages should have different BMI scales. Equatorial africans (e.g. Somalians, or the Masai) tend to be taller and slimmer, as another example.

Except that would be racist, presumably, to admit that different ethnicities are actually different.

Everyone must be the same, and must be the perfect average. We've Adoplphe to thank for that.