I haven’t posted for a while on obesity. I have not lost interest in the area, it is just that I think economists and others have frustratingly little to offer in the way of robust analysis of what is going on. It is not clear what is causing increased average body weights, whether weight increase is as unhealthy as some contend and whether losing large amounts of weight improves health. I’ll get back to thinking about these issues when my current obsession with tobacco issues cools.
Certainly widespread community concern about obesity is having an impact. An article in the Age points out that community hysteria is developing over obesity. In particular, a dramatic escalation in eating disorders has occurred with new figures revealing rates have doubled in the last decade. In Australia those regularly binge eating, abusing laxatives, making themselves sick or undergoing extreme fasting jumped from 4.7% in 1995 to 11% in 2005.
Prevalence of full-blown anorexia and bulimia has remained constant at 2 to 3% but the percentage with the above disorders rose from 2% to 4.6%. While women were 5 times more likely to suffer from an eating disorder, there was a sharp increase in men bingeing and purging.
Experts say the nation's so-called obesity crisis has created huge fears of being overweight in a weight-conscious community.
Obesity might be a problem but so too are unbalanced attempts to address it. TV shows such as The Biggest Loser promote unhealthy weight loss procedures. Reducing weight should definitely be done gradually if you are to avoid increased mortality risks.
The survey giving rise to these findings involved more than 3000 people in South Australia and looked at adult eating disorders. It will be presented at a conference today – when I get a link I will post it.