Obesity not associated with heart disease?

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reports bad news for the obesity industry.

The CDC reported today that,

From 2006 to 2010, age-adjusted [coronary heart disease (CHD)] prevalence in the United States declined overall from 6.7% to 6.0% (Table 1). Similar declines were observed across age group, sex, and education categories. Among racial/ethnic populations, declines from 2006 to 2010 were observed among whites (6.4% to 5.8%) and Hispanics (6.9% to 6.1%) (Table 1).

But just last July, the CDC reported that,

During the past 20 years, there has been a dramatic increase in obesity in the United States and rates remain high.

And as an additional fun-fact-to-know-and-tell reported by the CDC,

Age-adjusted mortality rates for coronary heart disease (CHD) have declined steadily in the United States since the 1960s.

So while the CDC insists that,

Adult obesity is associated with a number of serious health conditions including heart disease…

The trends for heart disease and obesity seem to be heading in opposite directions.

A possible conclusion to draw from all this is that while obesity may be a marker for some underlying metabolic problem, weight (or body mass index, in food nanny parlance) per se is not a determining factor in the occurrence of heart disease.

It should be noted that the the CDC commented in today’s report:

The goal of the [CDC National Heart Disease and Stroke Prevention Program] is to increase state capacity to address the issues related to control and prevention of heart disease, stroke, and related risk factors (e.g., hypertension and high levels of low-density lipoprotein cholesterol).

But what prominent “related risk factor” was not even alluded to by the CDC? Why obesity, of course.

13 thoughts on “Obesity not associated with heart disease?”

  1. The CDC, like the EPA , Labor Unions and most other Govt. agencies have outlived their usefulness and should be either completely abolished or majorly restructured…

  2. Gene, be careful in what you wish for. The CDC has a very large and real purpose in controlling plagues. They, like the others you list, have simply been a victim of mission creep as their initial successes lowered the amount of work to do.

  3. The name of this blog is truly descriptive of it’s content, oh my!
    You can’t argue that two variables are not correlated solely because they change in different directions. That’s bollocks. There are 1001 variables involved here. What you have to do is compare between groups of people who are obese or not; THEN you can tease out correlations and cause-effect relationships.
    So, according to the CDC, Obesity has a 32% attributable risk (the difference in rate of a condition between an exposed population and an unexposed population) for CHD. Source: http://www.cdc.gov/mmwr/PDF/wk/mm4235.pdf .
    In the same document it estimates the attributable risk for other conditions such as smoking, reduce physical activity, hypertension and elevated cholesterol.
    Take a look at this graph and tell me that obesity is NOT associated with CHD. http://i.imgur.com/L5EUc.jpg (source: http://www.nature.com/ijo/journal/v29/n3/full/0802877a.html)

  4. If there are 1001 variables involved, then you can’t very well argue the converse either.

    BTW, “attributable risk” is junk science as you can’t use relative risks estimates to infer risk; they are strictly strength of association indicators.

  5. Daneel, the chart you point out is not complete, in that it is only showing a small part of the population. That is, what about those people that fall outside the narrow bounds that have been used for that chart? Do the numbers drop off precipitously, or are the numbers for lower BMI about the same as for the high BMI? In addition, there are some problems with using a make-believe number such as BMI, and comparing it to anything else. Nobody has done any research to prove that BMI is anything than a somewhat random number that may-or-may-not mean anything. I could say the same for waist-hip ratio. They are charting two imaginary numbers against each other, and pretending that they have meaning.
    As to an obesity epidemic, I haven’t found anything that actually defines what that is. Where are the studies to determine what constitutes an ideal weight? How does that change based on a person’s genetics, height, age, and bone mass? What are the differences between men and women? Does a woman’s ideal weight change after pregnancy and menopause?

  6. “If there are 1001 variables involved, then you can’t very well argue the converse either.”

    Yes, you can. If not, then every medical study would be bunk. You can randomize your sample and take into account multiple variables.

    I’m surprised to hear the “attributable risk” is junk science but just saying that one thing doesn’t cause another based on a report that doesn’t even mention one is not.

  7. The dubiousness of many (most? vast majority?) medical studies has been a major focus of this site for 15 years.

  8. The study you cite was not published in Nature. It was referenced through Nature’s website. The devil is in the details.

  9. Ben, you are right on the money; the problem with all these agencies is mission creep. They were formed to serve important purposes, and most have made real progress on those efforts. But like a shrub that is not pruned every few years, their goals have become to broad and diffused. This clearly shows lack of good management supervision of the agencies. We do not need to eliminate them and rebuild, we need good management. It would be foolish to throw the baby out wit the bathwater.

  10. The International Journal of Obesity is an interesting periodical. It appears to publish a lot of articles about bariatric surgery, and always places that surgery in a very positive light. Even pediatric bariatric surgery is considered to be perfectly acceptable. Coincidentally, bariatric surgery is a big money-maker for those surgeons and facilities that are involved in it.
    When in doubt, follow the money. It works with the climate change argument, and it works with the obesity epidemic. If there are people making a lot of money from an unproven argument, the argument might still be right, but I would be rather skeptical of it.
    I’ll give a rather mundane example of an unproven argument. If you ask a realtor if it is a good time to buy a house, they will always say yes. And they will back it up with some argument that proves their case. The economy is strong, so it will be easy to sell in the future if you need to. The economy is weak, so you should be able to get a really good price right now.

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