More Fat Stuff


Fat stories spring eternal. Here's one about a Rand Corp. study warning that obesity may be more detrimental to health than smoking or "problem drinking."

If Americans continue to get fatter at current rates, by 2020 about one in five health-care dollars spent on people aged 50 to 69 could be due to obesity—50 percent more than now, the Rand Corporation study found.

In 2000, 14 percent of money spent on health care for U.S. men aged 50 to 69 went to obesity-related complications including diabetes and heart disease. In 2020, that could rise to 21 percent, the researchers said.

"Improvements in medical care, public health and other health behaviors have dramatically reduced disability among older Americans in the past," Roland Sturm, a Rand Health senior economist who led the study, said in a statement.

"But the continuing increase in unhealthy weight has the potential to undo many of these health advances."

"If the obesity trend were to continue through 2020, without other changes in behavior or medical technology, the proportion reporting fair or poor health would increase by 11.7 percent for men and 14.1 percent for women compared to 2000," they wrote.

Whole thing here. That's a huge "if" statement these researchers are making. If there's one bet worth making, it's that medical technology will be a whole helluva lot better in in 2020 (a year most proactively memorable for its animated Partridge Family series).

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  1. It is kind of a stupid observation on its face. Smoking and “problem drinking” are behaviors which lead to specific pathologies, which in turn will indicate lung cancer or not, cirrhosis or not, etc. Obesity on the other hand can itself be a pathology (such as in diabetes), but is also the end result of the behavior of “problem eating” combined with a “problem sedentary lifestyle”. I find it odd that they would compare obesity (a state) to smoking and problem drinking (behaviors). Maybe because the straight dope wasn’t politically expedient: Stop eating so much, you’re wasting health care dollars and taking up two seats.

  2. Bet on technology.

    Increases in obesity just mean increases in the size of the market for the next fat burning, cholesterol reducing, arterial plaque dissolving wonder drug, or non-invasive outpatient liposuction procedure.

    As someone who could stand to drop 10 or 20 pounds himself, I for one am all too willing to pay for the next stage of better living through chemistry, and the billions of dollars already in the pipeline to address this issue shows that lots of people are willing to sell. The first generation of these drugs is already out there (think Lipitor, Body Solutions, Chitoslim, dozens of others), and even with the %$#*&$% FDA dragging things down, 16 years is more than enough time to make us all wonder what we got so worked up about back in 2004.

  3. We are being set up to encourage us to accept lawsuits ala the tobacco lawsuits/settlements. Somebody(ies) will be making big bucks.

  4. Being pragmatic and assuming the condition that the US health insurance system is not going to change (which it won’t in the short term) – how do you all propose to get fat people to internalize the social costs (i.e. higher insurance premiums) of their lifestyle choices? Why is what amounts to a tax on unhealthy food (what the food lawsuits are really about) such an awful way to accomplish this? Or would you rather continue the status quo of being forced to pay for other people’s health care due to their obesity? How would you provide incentives for people to reduce risky behavior? Would you exchange higher costs at McDonalds for lower insurance premiums?

    Just curious – I don’t quite understand the revulsion to this all…

  5. The obesity “crisis”, “epidemic”, or whatever you want to call it, is not a problem of people getting too fat per se, but of people no longer being held economically responsible for their own health care.

  6. “obesity related complications” requiring medical care is weasel terminology anyway. If a fat guy has a heart attack the cause is automatically assigned by the medical people to the category called “obesity related”.

  7. You beat me to it TWC. Are they actually assuming that everyone who has heart disease or diabetes has it because of obesity? That’s obviously not the case and is just a convenient way for them to make the numbers more dramatic and scary.

  8. There’s hope:
    House prepares for ?cheeseburger bill’

  9. Skip Oliva is right.
    The health insurance that people pay should be linked to risk factors by the insurers. This way the problem would be *their* problem, and nobody else’s.

  10. This is a scourge on our society that must be addressed. Twinkees are as addictive as heroin, you know.

  11. rafuzo,
    That’s hope? Do we really need an act of Congress? Perhaps we do, if only to prevent another act of Congress. But another federal law regulating the minutia of life in these here United States doesn’t fill me with comfort and joy.

  12. A hard drinking, heavy smoking, over-eating, non-exercising, high-risk bi-sexual, cheating on his NRA wife, Pinto driving, intravenous drug using, military infantryman reservist, type-A personality, cab driving on-the-side big city fireman and biker gang member who runs while holding scissors guy is going to be the ruin of teh economy of this phat nation.

  13. Does a dead fat guy who smoked, drank, puffed weed, was divorced and played jazz music get counted 6 times?

  14. Is obesity one of the afflictions that degrades a person’s quality of life, and increases their health care expenses, while not actually killing them? If it is true, as I have read on many occasions, that a very high percentage of lifetime health care costs are accumulated during the last couple of years of life (if you live beyond 70), how long will it be until we are converting old Howard Johnson restaurants into suicide parlors?

  15. EMAIL:
    DATE: 05/20/2004 01:28:20
    All sentences that seem true should be questioned.

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