Dr. Lon Kilgore finds a numbers game at the heart of the obesity epidemic.
An increased frequency of obesity is a cross-societal issue that is receiving a tremendous amount of scientific and media attention. Current estimates of obesity range from 33.8 percent in the U.S., 23.0 percent in the U.K. (with Scotland leading the way with 27.0 percent) to an international low of 3.4 percent in Japan.
There are myriad proposed explanations for the upward trend in obesity occurring since 1960, with most explanations based on correlation and conjecture rather than causality. Despite the lack of causal data, the correlative data is used as a basis for many nations’ public health policy. In the U.K., the National Health Service proposes that 55 percent of the adult population will be obese by 2050 and will represent an annual fiscal health care burden of 4.2 billion pounds ($6.63 billion). This is an alarming statistic and merits attention, and there is significant movement within policy makers to respond.
But we need to examine the historical aspects of obesity and its measurement in order to avoid alarmism and potential misdirection of national assets. To more fully understand obesity and our current straits, we need to consider whether the epidemic of obesity is authentic or an artifact of changing social values and constantly changing definitions.