Today my underweight local female news reporter informed me that the number of women suffering strokes in the past few years has tripled since the numbers in the late 80’s to early 90’s, and doctors are blaming the obesity epidemic. We’re not even supposed to wonder why, of course. We’re supposed to accept the party line that Fat Is Evil and women who let themselves get fat deserve to have health problems.
But let’s – I dunno – examine the claim like researchers or something. Just for the hell of it, okay? It’ll be fun! The two time periods the study compared are 1988-1994 and 1999-2004.
Here are some quotes from her source:
In addition, women’s average body mass index, a commonly used measure of obesity, rose from 27 in the earlier survey to 29. They also had higher blood sugar levels.
No other traditional risk factors like smoking, heart disease or diabetes changed enough between the two surveys to account for the increase in strokes.
I love the word “traditional.” What it tells you is, “We are assuming our ancestors knew what the hell they were talking about.” Assumptions are not very scientific. Asking a lot of questions is a superior scientific method to rounding up the usual suspects and pinning the crime on the one that looks good for it.
In the years they’re talking about, let’s consider a few other things that have changed besides women’s belly sizes:
- People have stopped smoking – maybe smoking really does make you lose weight, thereby preventing strokes. Now, I’m listing this one just to prove a point. I certainly hope the answer to avoiding strokes isn’t to give yourself lung cancer. But real science would look into this, and if it proved true, try to find a way to isolate the components in tobacco that are doing something good so you can make a drug from it that doesn’t cause lung cancer. But gosh, that sounds like a lot of work. Let’s just blame fat chicks instead!
- Increased use of soy – an estrogen mimic – in processed foods. Gee, it’s funny to me how the article goes on to talk about menopause and hormones but it never occurs to them that an increase in phytoestrogens could be, like, worth taking a look at. But hey – soy is one of the biggest cash crops in America. We can’t really afford to take a close look at soy like New Zealand can.
- As one commenter points out, a lot of us have been on birth control a decade longer than we had been in 1994. Again, the article hints at a connection between strokes and hormonal events in women’s lives. But why take a closer look at that when you can blame fat chicks?
Here’s another quote:
Women’s waistlines are nearly two inches bigger than they were a decade earlier, and that bulge corresponds with the increase in strokes, researchers said.
While I don’t expect them to spend much time debating whether the fall of Communism, which also corresponds with this time period, could have anything to do with the increase in strokes, I do have to ask: what about hip size? Thigh size? Muscle mass? Are women having kids later, and could that be anything to do with it (yeah, I hope not too, but if I were researching this, I would ask)? Anemia? Hypertension? Increase in sugar (in all forms) consumption? Smog and pollution? Global warming? Did anybody look at increases or decreases in good cholesterol, which protects you from strokes and lots of other stuff almost like a magic pill, and bad cholesterol, which makes you sick?
Nah, that belly thing jumped right out at them, ’nuff said.
It happened even though more women in the recent survey were on medicines to control their cholesterol and blood pressure — steps that lower the risk of stroke.
Er, wait – this is interesting. I mean, clearly, what I’m supposed to get from this is that fat is so evil it defeats medications. But strangely, I find myself thinking (a) maybe researchers don’t actually know what the “steps that lower the risk of stroke” are, if they took them and it didn’t work and (b) if those researchers don’t know what they think they know, why should I trust these?
I’ll grant that I don’t know how sensible the original study was. I’ve seen some good studies get totally twisted by the news agencies, and I’ve seen some damn stupid medical studies. It may be that a thicker waist line has something to do with a stroke, but the report as it stands is a huge leap based on the cultural assumption that fat chicks suck.
On a hopeful note, more than a few commenters on the article seem unwilling to make that leap. Unfortunately, they are the minority.