Is fat good?

by Judith Curry

Epidemiologists struggle to explain a study that challenges a core belief:  Fat will kill you. – William Saletan

I am a bit slow out of the gate on this one, since it is already being discussed on the previous thread, but I think this one deserves its own thread.

Slate has an article entitled Is Fat Good?, which refers to this JAMA publication.  Excerpts:

Fat is bad for you, right? That’s what doctors tell us. But a review of nearly 100 studies, published this week in the Journal of the American Medical Association, confirms previous indications that the story is more complex. Being overweight or even mildly obese, as measured by body mass index, doesn’t make you more likely to die than a person of normal weight. It makes you slightly less likely to die.

Huffington Post has a good article that explains How the Obesity Paradox Works.

The interesting angle taken by the Slate article is to describe the explanations for the studies findings in an attempt to make the new data fit the old ideas:

  1. The difference is barely significant.
  2. Death risk is the wrong standard.
  3. Overweight is too close to obese.
  4. The dangers of being underweight hide the dangers of being overweight.
  5. Some kinds of fat are worse than others.
  6. Fat helps you survive some diseases.
  7. Fat protects you against injury.
  8. Muscular people inflate the survival rate of the fat group.
  9. Sick people depress the survival rate of the “normal” group.
  10. Overweight gets you more medical attention and intervention.
  11. Medicine has made fat less harmful.
  12. Overweight doesn’t mean you’re getting fat. It means you’re resisting obesity.

Slate’s summary reaction to these criticisms:

On one level, these explanations sound weak and weaselly. Dogmas, even in science, don’t surrender easily to contrary evidence. Experts who think weight gain is dangerous will find ways to reaffirm that belief, explaining away data that don’t fit it. But science, in its grudging way, does evolve.

Climate change and obesity?

So why am I talking about obesity on a climate blog?  The first reason is these two articles:

Some of the points made in these articles are

  • Rising inactivity rates because of hot temperatures
  • Drought-induced high prices on healthy foods
  • Food insecurity promotes unhealthy food choices

Obesity ‘denialism’?

(JC inserts tongue in cheek)

So, the new study runs completely counter to established obesity dogma.  Epidemiologists are scrambling to counter the new study.  Wouldn’t it be easier to dismiss this group of scientists as obesity deniers?

Actually, I don’t think this strategy would work for obesity in terms of public opinion, after all equating being fat with being healthy would be a convenient ‘truth.’  Hey, that extra fat on my hips and thighs indicates that I am healthy?

(JC removes tongue from cheek)

The parallel with climate change attribution is this.  Attempts to find simple statistical explanations for complex phenomena can result in misleading, although statistically significant, results.

The Slate article responds to this issue:

The explanations offered today in defense of the fat-is-bad doctrine are actually modifications of it. They’re taking us beyond crude categories such as BMI, overweight, and fat. A decade from now, we’ll still believe fat is bad for you, but we’ll be far more sophisticated in what we mean by “bad” and “fat.” And the JAMA study’s critics, like its defenders, will take the credit.

So the implication is that the science of obesity epidemiology needs to take into account additional confounding factors and conduct more sophisticated analyses,  and I have every confidence that the epidemiology of obesity will proceed in this direction.

On the other hand, with regards to the issue of attribution of climate change, challenges to the core belief of greenhouse gas attribution is dismissed with the charge of ‘denialism.’   Is obesity epidemiology a more challenging scientific problem than the attribution of climate variability/change?

325 responses to “Is fat good?

  1. “So, the new study runs completely counter to established obesity dogma.” – JC.

    Except that it doesn’t.

    It’s been a well-established fact for decades that overweight-mild obesity reduces mortality rates in the aged.

    This isn’t controlled for in the study as age of subjects was generally not known.

    This issue is in fact a great analogy with climate science – a lot of people making great leaps of logic on a topic they know little about. Instead we get a lot of projecting – just like in climate science where most of the ‘skeptics’ are in fact ideologically/politically politically opposed to the implications of the science and are fighting a proxy war on the science to defend their ideological/political dogma.

    • Michael, you must have missed reading this link
      which clearly shows that the study did look at the age of subjects.

      I was beginning to think that I had a reading disorder but I now realise that you apparently don’t read things very carefully, if at all.

      • Here, in the authors on words, is their statement on one of their studies limitations;

        “Our information on age was limited”

        Be sure to write to them and set them straight.

      • Michael, You could consider with a higher body mass index there is more tissue and fluids to buffer the toxic effects of pollutants and high fructose corn syrup. Reubenesques was in vogue during the smoggy days of coal and wood fires in crowded, polluted cities back in the day. Chubby may be a natural defense mechanism?

        Whew! Nothing like a rationalization to start the weekend :)

      • Michael, I disagree with your POV that because the study did not know the specific ages of subjects (only age ranges in some cases) the study was only of limited value in ascribing mortality rates to aged subjects.

        “Established obesity dogma” that Judith has referred to is not what you seem to think it is. It certainly is not your conclusion that “It’s been a well-established fact for decades that overweight-mild obesity reduces mortality rates in the aged.”

        While I generally agree with your statement that some fat is not unhealthy, I still think you were just taking a cheap shot at our hostess because she dares to question climate orthodoxy.

      • Capt.
        No need to rationalize just trust your gut!!

      • Peter,

        What I’m alluding to is that without the ages of the subjects, it’s much harder to do some useful corrections.

        The HR’s at 95% are a bit marginal, with one of the headline categories already extending over 1 at the 95 CI.

        It would be very interesting to know the result of correcting for the already known mortality reducing effect in the elderly.

        Maybe the effect disappears with this correction, maybe it doesn’t.

      • I agree that further work on aging morbidity rates for overweight and mildly obese older subjects would be most interesting Michael but it probably means that new experiments may need to be done in order to control adequately for normal morbidity rates for older subjects.

      • Cap’n, at the Dade County Fair, which also featured chicks hatching in one display shed, I first gazed unbelievingly on Deep Fat Fried Twinkies, rolled in Powdered Sugar. The nearby angels were all screaming in Spanish in flight and double rolling through the troposphere, maybe a little Creole and Portuguess.

    • Michael, were the members of this test group saying grace, before eating their food? It might be important, to know this too.

      • Grace, the grey goose, graciously gave up the ghost before being eaten for food, and the little ones chewing on her bones-oh gracefully had of the Host.

    • Your last paragraph is very true about “leaps of logic.” People come to “reasonable conclusions” based on their everyday experiences. I include scientists in that. They DO make “reasonable assumptions” and draw “reasonable conclusions”.

      But being or sounding reasonable is not the end of it.

      I worked in industrial R&D, and we were encouraged to make such reasonable assumptions and draw reasonable conclusions – but THEN were also required to come up with experiments to test those assumptions.

      Reasonable assumptions and reasonable conclusions are only the starting point of science. As Richard Feynman said when describing the scientific method: The first step is to make a GUESS. And by that he meant a best guess. A reasonable guess. That is the starting point, according to him, but THEN you have to devise a way of testing it (falsifying it), a way that will tell you if it is right or wrong.

      He THEN said that if it does not fail it is NOT necessarily true – but it certainly isn’t wrong. There still may be more to the issue.

      …One of the reasons that Josef Goebbel’s axiom “If you repeat something enough times people will begin to believe it is true” IS true is that upon hearing something ebought times people begin to think it is more reasonable, since they have heard it a lot. What we get exposed to more gets more weight in our thinking than if we are exposed to it only once or twice. And “more weight” = more reasonable.

      Steve Garcia

    • David Springer

      “We categorized HRs into 2 age groupings either as limited solely to people aged 65 years or older or as a mixed-age category (eg, aged 25-64 years or 40-80 years).”

      Looks as if you were caught red-handed commenting on a paper you didn’t read. Tsk, tsk… LOL

    • Michael –> Dr. Curry didn’t say that the study ran contrary to established facts. She said it ran contrary to “established obesity dogma” — which it does.

      The fact that overweight people live longer lives than skinny people has been well established and labelled “The Obesity Paradox” because the fact ran contrary to established dogma.

      Even a moments glance at the NIH, CDC, NHA, WHO and almost any other national public health oriented group web site will reveal that they have been pounding the pavement waving signs of “The End Is Near — Obesity is Killing Us” for years. Children have been weighed and labeled in schools and mocked and scorned if their BMI didn’t comply with the Fat Police standards. There have been calls to take fat children away from their parents who have “abused them” by allowing them to be fat. Fast Food restaurants have been bullied into lowering fat content of foods and to offer apples that kids don’t want with their hamburgers. The amount of nonsense perpetuated and justified by the idea that “fat is bad” and that everyone must be slim and have the correct BMI is simply astonishing. There have been a lot of public health initiatives passed and enforced based on concepts that are not scientifically true.

      Now someone has had the audacity to gather together the data and publish the big picture — and it ain’t what the Fat Police have been telling us.

      It is not any of the excuses either — for example, people classified under the current standards as overweight and slightly obese live longer than those classified as normal weight (not just longer than those sickly really skinny people). Being overweight is not the same as being on the dangerous slippery slope to morbid obesity, that’s just a silly, non-science-ical scare tactic — people with bigger, stockier bodies (what we used to call chunky people) most often just stay chunky their whole lives…they don’t just keep blowing up like balloons.

      The bottom line is what is currently classified as ‘overweight’ is quite possibly the healthiest weight for most people — maybe even up into the ‘slighty obese’ category. However, being morbidly obese is generally not healthy.

      The whole obesity epidemic scare may turn out to be a reflection of the fact that two things are happening: People are getting healthier and carrying a little more weight (or vice versa) and some people (a very small percentage) are getting morbidly obese — for reasons either not yet understood or possibly entirely personal, individual reasons

      We may see CliSci shake out in a like manner: for example, two things happening –> CO2 rising causing some expected general warming and the climate system continuing on its happy way, evening things out by doing what it has done for a hundred thousand years — responding to the Sun, orbits, wobbles, volcanoes, land use changes by Man or other Earth life forms, etc.

      • Having worked in a couple of hospitals many, many moons ago, I can say that being really over weight can be a risk factor for things like sprains, drops, wheel chair and gurney brake failures on ramps, and other aspects of daily hospital activity. Nothing like weighing 165 and trying to slow down someone weighing 300 and very much plus on gurney on a ramp. Not even shouts and squealing shoe soles will alert the heedless.

  2. The problem is that the public cannot trust what government-funded scientists report. George Orwell was right.

  3. Doug Badgero

    Such is the nature of the non-linear, multivariate, deterministically chaotic, biomedical machine called the human body.

  4. Help me here, are eggs still good for you or are they bad for you? Maybe another study from a government grant will clear up this debate.

    • richardK

      Eating eggs is bad for unborn chickens – hundreds of millions (if not billions) die daily from it.


      • That’s if they have been fertilised! Admittedly, not many roosters survive to the most fertile period in their generally short lives ;)

      • Peter, Max doesn’t understand about rooster and hens. Give the guy a break.

      • My bonny chickadee roosts over the bee’s knees, knees, knees.

      • David Springer

        Chickens mean for you to eat those eggs. They’re a peace offering. Hen effectively says, “Here, eat these eggs instead of eating me.”

        There’s no other plausible explanation for why a hen lays eggs that are not fertilized. It’s a huge metabolic waste to lay unfertilized eggs. Evolution would have trimmed the fat (so to speak, pun intended) and prevented the waste had there not been some survival advantage to laying unfertilized eggs.

        THINK, McFly!

      • David. Your point about domestic fowls laying unfertilised eggs is a valid one but perhaps the hormones in their feed (eg laying pellets) is partly responsible for this? Another example of wasted metabolism would be human females ovulating each month. Never thought of this before. Could be that the various eggs have a limited use by date and must be discarded, one way or another.

      • When you look at evolution you are looking at the effects of selective breeding success. For domesticated fowl, perpetual egg laying would be a selective advantage since from the selector’s (human) view point, a hen that doesn’t lay eggs is only good for stew. Hens that lay more eggs live longer and have a better chance of meeting a rooster than those that lay fewer. Metabolic costs are only one mechanism that effects selective success.

    • Are eggs bad for me? It’s bad for me to think about eating anything that comes out of a chicken’s butt. I avoid eggs and anything made from eggs.

      • But, but, but, ALL you wanna SQUAWK about is YOUR EGGS and my butt, butt, butt.

      • Let’s keep our butts out of this. What I said about eggs is true. The egg comes out of the hen’s anus. Be sure the shells is clean before breaking the egg, and don’t eat raw eggs.

      • What is fishy about these eggs?
        Roeful Rhoda, and Salmon Ella,
        Assailed, assaulted, unhalted;
        Laid on a caviar bed.

      • Cloaca to be accurate Max.

      • More of Mox_OK: truth through science… get it while it is hot.

      • fat finger sorry

      • Like eggs, the truth, when hot, is slippery.

        Here, Max, catch this agonal act.

      • Back to your origional queery, looks like it. What is your thought.

      • Yeah, the cloaca, like Mike said.

        But like Max_OK says, let’s keep our cloacas out of this. And wash our precious eggses.

        Steve Garcia

      • Cloaca is an underutilized word.

      • Michael, I’m going to a party next week, and to please you I will try to work “cloaca” into a conversation. Maybe I also can work in gallus gallus domesticus. I hope deviled eggs are served.

      • I’d appreciate a report back on how you fared.

      • Max_OK

        Whut did they teech yew thar in Okie-land?

        Aigs don’t come outa th’ hen’s ay-nus anymore th’n babies come outa their momma’s ay-nus.

        Th’ aig track ends up so close ta th’ ay-nus thet mos’ city slickers caint tell th’ diffrunce, but it ain’t conekted.

        Hell, mos’ city slickers cain’t tell ther own ay-nus frum a hole in th’ ground ennyhow.

        The way yew tawk Ah cn see thet yew ain’t never seen no chickens. Probly never stole none neether.


      • David Springer

        It’s a cloaca or vent, not a butt. Chickens (along with most birds, reptiles, fish, and amphibians) have only one opening where mammals generally have two or three for feces, urine, and reproduction. Mammals in the embryo stage of development have a cloaca which in most mammal species disappears before birth with a few exceptions like the African golden mole. Monotremes (platypus and a few others) also known as egg-laying mammals have a cloaca. Marsupials have a vestigial cloaca.

        It’s sh!t like this (literally in this case) that supports the idea of descent from a common ancestor. Intelligent Design, per se, does not dispute common descent. Most ID advocates go well beyond the strict confines of ID and through other beliefs, usually biblical, dispute common descent altogether. ID is generally rejected by religious organizations because it offers no argument against common descent. Science is hostile to ID simply because it has implications that are copacetic with some religious beliefs and science has become hostile to anything remotely related to religion. This is yet another manifestation of the politicization of science. It’s very sad.

      • David Springer

        I don’t eat the shell so why should I wash it? I don’t wash bananas or pecans either for precisely the same reason.

        It reminds me of a joke I heard in the Corps. A Marine and a sailor are taking a piss. The sailor, when done, begins to wash his hands. The Marine zips up and heads for the door without washing. In passing he says to the sailor “Do they teach you to wash your hands after you piss in the Navy?”. The sailor says “Yes.” The Marine shrugs and says “In the Marine Corps they teach us to not piss on our hands.”

      • David Springer

        Dear stupid Max. You can substitute “vent” for cloaca. It’s probably easier for you to work that into a conversation. If the party is generally attended by your Okie peers words with fewer letters are always more popular. Not as popular as grunts and squeeks of course.

      • “It’s bad for me to think about eating anything that comes out of a chicken’s butt”

        If you think chicken eggs come out of a chicken’s butt you need some serious biology classes. However, let me share with you what you do eat that comes out of a chicken’s butt.

        The feathers, chicken crap and dead chickens are collected in the chicken barns. The whole heap of chicken waste is placed in a giant pressure cooker, and using a Patented process, converted into hydrolyzed protein and chicken crap. The resultant soup is dried and made into pellets.
        The pellets are sold to fish farmers.
        Farmed fish eat pellets made from what comes out of a chicken butt.
        I will not allow my family to eat farmed fish, even though it is so much cheaper than caught fish.

      • When one of the alarmists vents a pretty good rant around here, can we speak of him getting his cloact together?

      • Cloaca-cola?

      • Chicken butt.

      • manacker on January 5, 2013 at 5:56 am
        “The way yew tawk Ah cn see thet yew ain’t never seen no chickens. Probly never stole none neether.”

        A furiner from Europ tries tawking Okie ? . Purdy good try, Max_CH. Pert neer right.

        Actually, I won prizes for my chickens at a county fair back when I was a 4-H member.

        David Springer on January 5, 2013 at 8:56 am
        “Mammals in the embryo stage of development have a cloaca which in most mammal species disappears before birth with a few exceptions like the African golden mole.”
        Thank you, David, I didn’t know that about the African golden mole.

        David Springer on January 5, 2013 at 9:05 am
        “I don’t eat the shell so why should I wash it? I don’t wash bananas or pecans either for precisely the same reason.”

        Do bananas and pecans have fecal matter from passing through a butt hole (cloacas)? Eggs can pick up traces of a hen’s previous bowel movement when passing through that dual-purpose hole in her backside.

        Actually, whether eggs should be washed or not is debatable. Although in some places commercial eggs must be washed before being sold for consumption, washing removes a natural coating that protects
        the inside of the egg from contamination after the egg has left the hen. But that’s no guarantee, since the inside of the egg may already be contaminated, particularly if it’s from a factory farm.

        When I was growing up on the farm our hens were free range. We never washed eggs from our flock, and I don’t recall anyone in the family ever getting sick from eating eggs, even raw ones. I no longer eat eggs, but if I did, and bought them at a supermarket, I would wash the shell immediately before cracking an egg, and I would never eat one raw.

      • DocMartyn on January 5, 2013 at 9:32 am
        “If you think chicken eggs come out of a chicken’s butt you need some serious biology classes.”

        Doc, I know eggs come out of a hen’s butt. She has a dual-purpose hole in her butt, and both eggs and doo doo pass through it, albeit not at the same time. It is not an antiseptically clean hole. You might not be afraid of kissing hen’s egg hole, but I would be.

      • Latimer Alder

        The official Nutritional Police have declared as follows:

        ‘Eggs are bad for you on Saturdays, Mondays and Wednesdays. They are good for you on Sundays, Tuesdays and Thursdays.

        Since it is undetermined whether eggs count as meat on Fridays, we recommend kippers for breakfast on that day instead.

        We are sure that this advice is crystal clear.

        Now. grovelling worthless peasants, just do what you’re told. We are the experts….’

      • Latimer Alder

        Late breaking update

        By some mischance the Nutritional Police’s statement has been conflated with the Met Office’s UK weather trends forecast. Here is the MO’s WTF

        ‘Owing to vastly increased climate change and other things we don’t know about we can now confidently predict that the effect on the UK will be as follows::

        When it is hotter it will be less cold. On colder days, heat will be less noticeable. Winds will vary between quite a lot on breezier days to zero on calm ones. Gales could bring strong winds

        On Saturdays, Mondays and Wednesdays, the climate will be drier than of late, while on Sundays, Tuesdays and Thursdays it will be wetter. On Fridays we are unsure but will eat the seaweed we normally use for forecasting for breakfast.

        Many years of study have now also revealed the shocking truth that the average UK temperatures in months June, July, August trend higher than in December, January and February. We urge all our subject population to make preparation for this on an annual basis. The effects may be quite dramatic and will be seen in domestic gardens. Barbecue winters and midsummer tobaggonning parties may both become things of the past!

        We note that, as ever, our efforts are hampered by lack of money so we instruct all you miserable worthless grovelling peasants to give us more pronto. We are the experts…….’

    • Anything that has been a food since the beginning of homo sapiens sapiens (or at least since the Roman times) should be eaten ahead of any chemicalized artificial “edible food-like substance.”

      Butter over margarine.
      Eggs over fake eggs.
      Olive oil (or other cold pressed oil) over processed vegetable oil.
      Natural Sugar* (as bad as it is) over ANY artificial sweetener. (* though unrefined sugar does have Chromium in it, which aids the metabolism of the sucrose)

      Just don’t trust nutritionists in general, because their paychecks tend to be signed by processed foods companies.

      Get educated on it. The earlier the better, because the bad effects on the body accumulate slowly over the years.

      Steve Garcia

    • Very good for most people. Those with very high cholesterol should only eat a few eggs a day.

  5. ” Is obesity epidemiology a more challenging scientific problem than the attribution of climate variability/change?”

    It’s child’s play compared to understanding climate.

    We can do wonderful things like study twins or Jack Sprat and his wife in medical epidemiology.

    In climate we have only one realization.

  6. @Michael: Are you sure? The study abstract says, “We categorized HRs into 2 age groupings either as limited solely to people aged 65 years or older or as a mixed-age category (eg, aged 25-64 years or 40-80 years).” And also “We selected the most complex model available for the full sample and used a variety of sensitivity analyses to address issues of possible overadjustment (adjusted for factors in causal pathway) or underadjustment (not adjusted for at least age, sex, and smoking).”

    So they apparently did not have exact ages, but they did attempt to factor age ranges into their analysis.

    • I rather doubt that Michael had read this article.

      • See above Peter.

        One of the challenges of SRs -you don’t always have exactly the data you would like.

        But this is typical of the ‘skeptics’ – an amazing lack of scepticism when they come across something that suits their agendas.

      • Michael only reads articles if the headline suggests they would support his beliefs.

      • Ain’t projection grand?!

      • David Springer

        The irony is that if Michael were correct and age was ignored then it would have moved being mildly obsese from just very slightly advantageous in the entire population to extremely advantageous among seniors.

        Open mouth, insert foot, eh Michael?

        Man up and admit you didn’t read the article before your initial comment or I’ll be calling you Little Michelle in the future, too.

      • Dave,

        Not only have you not read the study, you haven’t read the thread.

        Someone else tried the same thing, so I’ll copy the reply here for your benefit.

        “Here, in the authors on words, is their statement on one of their studies limitations;
        “Our information on age was limited”
        Be sure to write to them and set them straight.”

        Oh, and here’s my other reply to you in case you missed it.

        “You dill”.

      • Waiter, there’s a thread in my study.

        Relax, all the better to food fight.

    • @Michael: Um, you now make a big deal that their knowledge of age was “limited”, but your original statement was: “This isn’t controlled for in the study as age of subjects was generally not known.”

      BIG difference. As my quote showed, they did in fact control for age. Yes, they didn’t know the exact age of each subject, but they apparently had age ranges for most subjects.

      If you’d simply said, “They controlled for age, but their age information was not detailed”, you’d have a point. But you wanted to slam those who disagree with you, so you overstated the case dramatically and now refuse to acknowledge this. That’s generally a sign of bias and poor reasoning skills.

  7. reposted with corrected formatting (sorry)

    The question is asked:

    “Could climate change and the obesity epidemic be linked?”

    The proposed links were not too convincing, but there is one (which I posted on the earlier thread as a response to a post on this topic by manicbeancounter – and will repeat here, where it belongs):

    Ah, but there is a potential problem: the miracle molecule, CO2.

    As you know, all plants, including all crops, need CO2 to exist. Greenhouse operators often enhance CO2 levels to increase plant growth and yields, since the “natural” CO2 level appears to be suboptimal.

    The data out there tell us that increased CO2 levels act to enhance crop yields of both C3 and C4 crops, with a higher impact for C3 crops, which include 95% of all plants and most crop plants. Interestingly, most weeds are of the C4 variety, which show somewhat lower response to increased CO2.

    As a side benefit for regions suffering from chronic water shortage or droughts, both C3 and C4 plants improve their water-use efficiency significantly with increased CO2 levels while reducing evapotranspiration.

    The study also shows that at higher levels of CO2, the optimal temperatures for photosynthesis increase.

    And, at slightly warmer temperatures, arable land surface area in higher latitudes should increase, as should growing seasons.

    But how has this worked out in practice?

    Over the period 1970-2010 we had the following observed changes:

    Population: 3.7 billion
    Global temperature (HadCRUT3 anomaly, 10-year average): -0.12 °C
    Atmospheric CO2: 324 ppmv
    Global yields of major crops (million tons corn/wheat/rice): 788

    Population: 7.0 billion (up 1.9x)
    Global temperature: +0.42 °C (up 0.54 °C)
    Atmospheric CO2: 390 ppmv (up 66 ppmv or 20%)
    Global yields of major crops (million tons): 1912 (up 1124 Mt or 2.4x)
    In addition, global starvation rates were down significantly and (despite HIV/AIDS in sub-Saharan Africa) world average life expectancy increased from ~55 years to ~68 years (up by 13 years).

    So over 40 years with a 20% increase in CO2 we’ve seen a 140% increase in crop yields!

    More food per capita means less starvation, to be sure.

    But it could also lead to more gluttony.

    We must, therefore, curtail CO2 emissions immediately and drastically, in order to mitigate against the threat of global obesity!


    • Oh boy, here we go again. Max, now thinks he’s a farmer.

      Says Green Thumb Max, “As you know, all plants, including all crops, need CO2 to exist. Greenhouse operators often enhance CO2 levels to increase plant growth and yields, since the “natural” CO2 level appears to be suboptimal.”

      Yes, as well as optimizing temperature and other climate conditions, which are difficult to impossible to control outside the greenhouse.Too bad Oklahoma’s farmers didn’t have their crops in air-conditioned greenhouses the past summer during the record heat.

      Max, you might make the farmers feel better if you told them last summer would have been even worse if not for the rise in atmospheric CO2, presuming laughing would make them feel better.

      • Okie, me boy

        Seasons come and seasons go.

        This year Okie farmers had a heat wave.

        A couple of years ago they had early frosts in Minnesota.

        So what?

        But 40-year global trends are hard to overlook.

        (Unless you want to.)


      • David Springer

        Max_OK | January 4, 2013 at 11:11 pm | Reply

        “Oh boy, here we go again. Max, now thinks he’s a farmer.”

        Oh boy, here we go again. The Okie now thinks he’s not an imbecile.

      • Sickle and shock,
        Shake and toss,
        Crack and grind,
        Bake so fine.

    • You CO2 worshippers miss the point. Higher temperatures were not good for crops. Apparently, it has never occurred to you why greenhouses can cool as well as warm.

      What do you call Manacker x David Springer x Kim?

      Dummy Cubed

      HA HA !

    • It’s an ill wind that blows no one any good.

      Ridley, Matt. “How Fossil Fuels Have Greened the Planet.” Wall Street Journal, January 4, 2013, sec. Life & Culture.

      Did you know that the Earth is getting greener, quite literally? Satellites are now confirming that the amount of green vegetation on the planet has been increasing for three decades. This will be news to those accustomed to alarming tales about deforestation, overdevelopment and ecosystem destruction.
      Satellites are now confirming that the amount of green vegetation on Earth has been increasing for three decades. Matt Ridley investigates why.

  8. manicbeancounter

    Consider the three alleged “links” between climate change and obesity that Dr Curry summarised:-

    • Rising inactivity rates because of hot temperatures
    • Drought-induced high prices on healthy foods
    • Food insecurity promotes unhealthy food choices

    Rising inactivity is commonly thought to be due to less manual work, the rise of the car and evermore TV/computer. If a rise of 0.8C in temperature were a major factor then in Britain you would see (for instance) the Scots being more active than those in the South of England, or people being more active in winter than summer. In both cases the opposite is true.
    Drought-induced high prices would have to show that droughts were the main cause of high prices of health foods compared to junk foods. Maybe convenience and taste have something more to do with the preference for unhealthy diets. Also you would need to show that rising food prices are connected to decreasing crop yields. Biofuels may have more with the rising food prices.
    Food insecurity diminishes as per capita income rises, whilst obesity increases. That is the poorest of the world have hunger as a problem, whilst the rich countries have obesity as a growing problem. Obesity may be a problem of the poor in the developed nations, but food as a whole is not a problem.
    The above article is a very extreme example of

    The underdetermination thesis – the idea that any body of evidence can be explained by any number of mutually incompatible theories

    Kuhn Vs.Popper: The Struggle for the Soul of Science – Steve Fuller 2003 Page 46.

    • Sweaty fatties fleeing rising sea levels. Is that what is coming to?

      • Fleas fight fat sweat,
        Flies flee sweet seas,
        Flicker flys fire dies,
        Flutter bats beat retreat.

    • David Springer

      manicbeancounter | January 4, 2013 at 8:40 pm | Reply

      Your comment was thoughtful, factful, and very well reasoned.

      Therefore it will be rejected by people like Max_OK who fear what that do not understand. Fear of the unknown is a primitive reaction of the reptile brain. I’m not saying that max is a snake but if the shoe fits…

      • If a snake had legs, she could put her eggs in her shoes and beat feet and foundlings.

  9. Let me weigh in again on whether being big is good or bad. Flagel JAMA 2013 extends what has been more than 30 years of longitudinal observation that those people, regardless of underlying chronic illness or good health, who are over weight, live longer than those people who are “ideal” body weight. For those who are mildly obese, they live just as long as those whose body mass index (BMI) is regarded as ideal.

    These observations do not have causal relationships attached, only that these observations are a paradox for those who have trumpeted that “big is bad.”

    Either the data is wrong, that is, > 30 years of consistent “big is good” data is wrong, or the paradigm: “big is bad”, is wrong. The complaint that there is no mechanism to explain the data reminds me of the complaint by climate scientists that they can’t think of anything else to fit their models of global warming other than CO2. Both paradigms suffer from an entrenched ideology resistant to change; that is, inability to respond to observations. Rather, their strident retorts reflect their failed efforts to explain away what is contrary and inconvenient.

    The problem for both issues is the scientists, plain and simple. Further efforts to massage the data will produce more variables to which there will be a chorus of “yes, but.” Yet the data stands, without explanation, and those who espouse there is something within the data to explore, continue to be shown the proverbial academic door.

    Like some contrarian climate scientists, Katherine Flagel publishes at her academic peril. More’s the pity. Just to be expected in a politically correct funding world. Climate scientists have lead the funding pathway of good intentions to hell. Congratulations for your achievement.

    • David Springer

      Anthropogenic CO2 is bad for the environment.

      Overweight is bad for the individual.

      Jesus saves.

      These are dogmatic beliefs. Dogma is impervious to contrary empirical data. When the truth of something is a given then evidence to the contrary must be somehow flawed.

      Science leaves the building when dogma enters. There are no scientific truths. There are things more likely to be true than other things given the current knowledge of the subject and the likelyhood is always subject to revision upon acquisition of additional information. There are no exceptions. Science is about finding the best explanation while engineering is about find the best instantiation. Improvement is never taken as an impossibility for therein lies the path to becoming moribund.

      • David Springer

        “always subject to revision upon acquisition of additional information”

        Or upon reanalysis i.e. same information but different explanations for it.

        A lot of contentiousness, if not most of it, is over reanalysis so I was really amiss to leave it out.

      • Amen.

  10. Pingback: Are Climate Change and Obesity Linked? « ManicBeancounter

  11. Now that you ask, yes, as long as you don’t eat margarine. NY Times had a reaction to that JAMA article by Paul Campos entitled “Our Absurd Fear of Fat.” He has written a book called “The Obesity Myth: Why America’s Obsession with Weight is Hazardus to Your Health.” He reports the JAMA findings but after he has done that he tears them down by stating that “…there is no reason to believe that the trivial variations in mortality risk observed across an enormous weight range actually have anything to do with weight…” (!) So what is that article about? Looks like he was forced to put this in by the politically correct editors as a condition of accepting the article. The mayor is on an anti-obesity crusade and they don’t want to oppose him.

    • Yeah, true about margarine.

      In 1971 the book came out, “Everything You Wanted to Know About Nutrition But Were Afraid to Ask.” Trans fatty acids (now called trans fats) were discussed and the whole nastiness of them was laid out. All of the horrible effects of trans fats had been known for quite some time before that. Yet the nutritionists for another 25-30 years were all telling Americans to eat margarine instead of butter. Finally about the late 1990s the nutritionists started informing the public about the dangers of trans fats – which are made from bubbling hydrogen through vegetable oil so that it will remain solid at room temperatures. Anything that says “hydrogenated vegetable oil” IS a trans fat and should not be bought or consumed.

      I did not read that book until about 2000, but when I did I felt vindicated, because I’d been telling everybody not to listen to the schmucks and to eat butter, not margarine. Anything that has been a food since the beginning of homo sapiens sapiens should be eaten ahead of any chemicalized artificial “edible food-like substance.”

      Steve Garcia

      • I used to think any fat that was liquid at room temperature was good for the heart. Now I think any fat is good for the heart.

      • Why does that not surprise me

      • Steve G, I used to get a big laugh out of telling people that though the spread they were being hiddenly persuaded to smear on their toasts was made from ‘polyunsaturated fats’, the fats were hydrogenated, or saturated, in order to make the product more appealing; something that also would stick to the ribs.

        Ha, ha, I was ribbing them.

      • Steve, try this, stop telling other people what to eat and keep your kooky dietary ideas to yourself.

      • Too many chefs and not enough picnic ants.

      • Dennis –

        Since when is eating real food a kookie idea? Oh, that’s right, since General Mills and Quaker found they could make more profit with artificial food and then hired a lot of nutritionists to spin it for them.

      • Steve,
        Your body does not know or care if the chemical compounds (everything you eat is a mixture of chemical compounds) you are consuming are “natural” or synthetic. You can isolate vitamin C from oranges or you can synthesize it in a beaker and isolate, there is no difference.
        The flavor compounds that make our food taste good are simple organic molecules that can easily be separated, identified and synthesized and sometimes the compound or the mixture can be improved through chemistry. And usually your body will metabolize the same way it does with the natural.
        As far as fats go, there are naturally occuring cis, trans, and saturated fats and the body does metabolize them slightly differently and some people may want to pay attention to the ratios they are eating. But to say that one has “horrible effects” and to then imply that one form comes from Gods green earth while the other is brewed in a chemists cauldron by bubbling hydrogen through it is silly. The truth is that if you have a large amount of unsaturated liquid oil and you would prefer that it is solid, you can hydrogenate the double bonds, eliminating some and changing some to trans. But nobody is forcing you to eat it.
        You also seem to have a problem with nutritionists because they are in the pay of big-food. Most of the nutritionists I know got their degree in nutrition becasue they really care about nutrition and their caring has nothing to do with the food industry. I will let you in on a secret, a nutritionist is someone who couldn’t pass organic chemistry, a dietician is someone who did pass organic chem.
        But the whole field of nutrition science is full of people who make exzaggerated claims, abuse statisics, sound the alarm, tell others what to do, and in the worst cases get the government to pay them to force other people to follow them. And that is where the real link to climate science is.

      • And one other thing Steve, eating real food is not a kooky idea, people should eat whatever they want. The kooky idea is that you are telling others what to eat when you obviously have no idea what you are talking about.

      • Dennis –

        Just because you don’t know what I am talking about does not mean I don’t. I can’t put 40 years of what I’ve learned into a comment on a blog. Thank you for your side of things. The American populace is the least healthy of the developed world eating the chemicals you advocate. That means nothing.

        Monsanto rules! /snarc

      • I am a chemist, you are not. My point of view is based on scientific knowledge, yours is based on something else.

      • Thanks Dennis, It’s always nice to hear somebody speak from a position of knowledge who also makes sense. Like you said, there are many gross exaggerations about nutrition, and loads of money in selling books pushing the exaggerations.

      • Dennis-

        Your body often does care about the source of what you eat. Particularly, almost all drugs are steroisomers. The molecules are either “right” or “left” handed, the naming derived from how they change the polarization of light when studied in solution. Some drugs are produced as equal quantity mixutures, the usual result of chemical reactions. Others have to be made(or separated) into one isomer or the other. The common anti-asthmnatic drug albuterol is produced in the two forms. Only the L form is active against asthma. The R form was considered inactive for asthma but interacts with other receptors and is thought to possibly increase asthma symptoms. As a result, the L for is available as a separate drug. Lunesta(the sleeping pill) works because it is a single stereo-specific chemical. The enantiomer has some unpleasant side effects.

        Trans and cis fats are a similar case. Almost all fat produced by plants and animals are cis. There are a few that have some trans content. It’s thought that most of the trans fat found in beef and sheep fat comes from bacterial digestion in the gut, although cattle apparently produce one trans fat that may actually be heart healthy, increasing HDL. Trans fat has been shown to increase LDL cholesterol and reduce HDL with a specific risk of increased heart disease. The trans fats in butter, beef, and margarine were probably the main reason why saturated fats were, for a long time, considered un-hearthealthy. The studies didn’t not take trans fat into account. And eating trans fat from hydrogenated margarine is more un-hearthealthy than butter or cis fats of any kind.

        It is true that the trans fat in shortening and other hardened fats does come from bubbling hydrogen through the unsaturated fat, with or without a catalyst. Shortening can be made using enzymes that don’t produce trans fats like chemical hydrogenation does. It’s just very expensive.

        The problem for nutrition, as a science, is that the requirements for a BA nutrition degree is pretty minimal, as far as science, math, and statistics go. The nutrition science is done by PhD chemists, biochemists, and doctors.

        Big metadata studies, like the one we’re talking about are very prone to marginal results. In fact, they are the kind of study that has generated most of the changing claims, bad statistics, and alarms we’ve gotten in the past 50 years from nutritionists. My own primary care doctor, like most, gets his info from journals. He has more than once said the conflicting and changing advice he’s found pisses him off. Better they should wait for valid statistical studies, instead of science by an alarming press release.

      • And, Dennis, being aA chemist, of course you know everything possible to be known about every aspect of chemistry, right? Just like every climate scientist knows everything about every aspect of climate science, right? You’ve looked into EVERY study about natural vs artificial food, yes? And repeated all their lab work? You and I both know that appeals to authority are not science in themselves.

        I notice you didn’t rebut ferocious20022002. DO you only beat up on people you think will bow to your authority, and do you think that lack of a Chemistry degree means all of us others don’t have any ability to understand anything? That all of it is over all of our pinheads?

        Steve Garcia

  12. Woody Allen in the movie “Sleeper” may yet be proven correct: “The secret to a long life is red meat and cigarettes.”

    • What? It wasn’t “85% of life is showing up.” I must have it screwed up somehow.

  13. David L. Hagen

    Clear evidence for warming migration!

    Moreover, the South was the recipient of 95% of the inter-regional net domestic migration (people moving from one state to another), with the West accounting for the other 5%, with the losses split between the Northeast and the Midwest. . . .

    Census data reaffirms dominance of the south
    Re: Rising inactivity rates because of hot temperatures

    In 2011, Florida added 119,000 net domestic migrants, housing prices dropped to normal levels (Note 2). While this is less than one half the gains in 2004 and 2005, it exceeds the annual Texas increase in the previous decade by 20%.

    With all the retirees moving to Florida, there is likely a significant increase in inactivity along with the migration to warmer climates!

    So what are we to fear about global warming migrations?
    The biggest economic impact appears to be migration from colder to warmer climates with a bubble in the Florida housing market resulting in a consequent crash.

    At the peak of the housing bubble in 2006 Americans had $13 trillion in equity in their residential real estate. At the peak, total residential mortgage debt stood at $9.8 trillion. Today, American households have $6.2 trillion in equity while mortgage debt has grown to $10.3 trillion. In other words American households have faced a real financial loss of $6.8 trillion.

    $9.1 trillion bailout price tag.

    So now we have demonstrable high costs associated with warming migration!

    Help, Help, the sky is warming!!!

    Now which the cause and which the effect?!
    Is it all that hot air coming out of Washington?

    A dose of serious statistical analysis would go a long way to sifting the above “statistical” “evidence” for “warming” “migration” etc! e.g.

    David Stockwell discusses AGW Doesn’t Cointegrate: Beenstock’s Challenging Analysis Published

    Beenstock, Reingewertz, and Paldor paper on lack of cointegration of global temperature with CO2 has been accepted! . . .rebutting the statistical link between global temperature increase and anthropogenic factors like CO2,. . .
    the CO2/temperature relationship may be spurious, have an independent cause, or temperature may cause CO2 increase, all of which falsify CAGW here and now. . . .
    Beenstock find that while temperature and solar irradiance series are I(1), anthropogenic greenhouse gas (GHG) series are I(2), requiring differencing twice to yield a stationary series.

    This fact blocks any evidence for AGW from an analysis of the time series. The variable may still somehow be causally connected, but not in an obvious way. Previous studies using simple linear regression to make attribution claims must be discounted.

    The authors also show evidence of a cointegrating relationship between the temperature (corrected for solar irradiance) and changes in the anthropogenic variables.

    See Stockwells further discussions on cointegration

  14. I think the connection is fairly clear–some well-meaning folks with a policy agenda got out a bit ahead of the numbers…

    • You must have been gazing into the mirror as you wrote that…..

    • Their numbers, Tom, are swelling out in front of them like a gurl in trubble, with no understanding of how she got in such a mess, and precious little help to turn to, that having run over the horizon, pockets bulging loot, gats blazing ahead, and shysters galloping along behind.

    • That’s never happened before.

      Steve Garcia

  15. Joe's World {Progressive Evolution}


    Evolution is a real interesting beast in developing and changing.
    We currently live in many areas that would not have been possible 1000 years ago without changing our own environmental surroundings for the food supply that we need to survive.
    In doing so, we do not take into account the changes of the environment that we would never been able to endure on our bodies.
    From density of air differences to light and solar ray differences.

    We are slowly understanding a small part of the big picture…even though political favoring occurs to certain areas of statistical data collection when that does not understand vastly many mechanical processes.

  16. in an attempt to make the new data fit the old ideas:


    So identifying limitations in methodology and the data set, and suggesting caution in the face of numerous uncertainties, is now “an attempt to make the new data fit the old idea.”

    Very interesting.

  17. Excerpt from my book: “The Climate Debate”
    Perhaps the most absurd aspect of the climate alarmist movement is the putative relationship between obesity and global warming. If you enter
    “obesity and global warming” into Google, you obtain 1,100,000 responses. Typical responses in the queue are: (1) Is Obesity Causing Global Warming? A new study has suggested that obesity is affecting the planet …by raising carbon emissions …; (2) Do Obese People Aggravate Global Warming?—ABC News; (3) Scoop: Burning the Fat: Obesity and Global Warming, a study in the latest issue of the International Journal of Epidemiology by Phil Edwards and Ian Roberts plays out a grim scene: a world of overweight …; (4) thinner is better to curb global warming, study says—; and there are thousands more like this. Some claim the effect is through excessive use of resources, while others blame it on increased flatulence.
    The website lists a huge number of ailments attributed by alarmists to global warming with links to the appropriate websites.

    • Yes, Donald, fat people use more energy. For example, the more fat people onboard an airliner, the more fuel it uses to get aloft.

      I guess fat people could be more flatulent, since they eat more to be flatulent with. More CO2 may mean a rise in the ratio of carbs to protein in plants, and result in greater flatulence.

      I should amend an earlier question. Will the the future see sweaty flatulent fatties fleeing rising see levels?

      • That was all figured out in the forties; see how far science has come today? You Depend, on us till today…

      • But that’s the beauty of it. As they flee rising sea levels to higher elevations they store potential energy. Then, you just roll them back downhill to generate kinetic energy for power production. It’s a renewable resource. And, if they eventually lose weight with all that uphill walking, it’s double plus good for overall health.

  18. I am in my early 60s. Until I was about 45 my weight was near the “ideal.” Then my job changed to working on a PC all day. I am now about 25 pounds over that “ideal” weight given by whoever gives out such charts. That makes me overweight, but not close to obese. Speaking anecdotally, within small variation I seem to be about average for my age. Most of the people I know who are my age who are thin seem to all have some sort of intestinal disorder or another (colitis mostly, with some Crohn’s Disease for the rest of them).

    I’d rather have my 25 pounds than their intestinal disorders.

    But I recently moved to a town that is very cool to walk around in, and my weight is slowly coming down. Maybe in a year or two I will be a thin person who is not incapable of digesting the food I eat.

    It is my observation from people around me that, generally, the thinner people DO tend to be sick, at least by the time they get to 60 or so.

    Steve Garcia

  19. A fan of *MORE* discourse

    From 2008:

    Is weight loss beneficial
    for reduction of morbidity and mortality?
    What is the controversy about?

    One problem to understand is what really happens after weight loss.… Several observational studies in large population-based cohorts have indicated some detrimental effects of weight loss, even after intentional weight loss, with increased morbidity and mortality rates.

    The Huffpost story was weak … Judith’s coverage of it was weaker.

    Conclusion  This was among the weakest of all Climate Etc essays, because it is so poorly supported by the literature. \scriptstyle\rule[2.25ex]{0.01pt}{0.01pt}\,\boldsymbol{\overset{\scriptstyle\circ\wedge\circ}{\smile}\,\heartsuit\,{\displaystyle\text{\bfseries!!!}}\,\heartsuit\,\overset{\scriptstyle\circ\wedge\circ}{\smile}}\ \rule[-0.25ex]{0.01pt}{0.01pt}

    • “Judith’s coverage of it was weaker.” – JC

      Don’t forget the Slate story, from which Judith choose to excerpt this dreadful line;

      “Epidemiologists struggle to explain a study that challenges a core belief: Fat will kill you. – William Saletan”

      There is no struggle, there is no ‘belief’ so no challenge to one, because fat will kill you…….as the study at the centre of this actually re-confirms (if it ever needed re-confirming).

      Wonderful churnalism.

      At what point it will start to kill you and what are the effects before that point, are the issue.

      • Correction; “Judith’s coverage of it was weaker.” – fan

      • Pools can kill you, William Shatner…

      • Michael, the study at the centre of this doesn’t actually confirm, re-confirm or refute anything at all – either for or against. In short, it tells us nothing about anything.
        Another classic example of the combined effects of too many people chasing too few research grants, with the woefully lax standards prevalent in epidemiology

      • Michael –> There is absolutely no scientific medical evidence of any kind whatever that “Fat will kill you.”

        Every healthy human body has fat — it’s part of the deal. It is supposed to have fat. Maybe it is possible to say that one can have too little fat — or — one can have too much fat.

        But one can not truthfully say that “Fat will kill you.”

        As ridiculous as saying stomach acid will kill you or blood will kill you.

        The point of this whole post is that there are medical scientists who have vested their careers in an apparently false premise that “Fat will kill you” who now scrambling trying to explain away the data that shows that their dogmatic premise is not true rather than dig in and try to discover a more accurate understanding of the actuality.

        There are multiple parallels in CliSci.

  20. Getting back to Judith’s post;

    Is fat good?

    Of course it is. You’d be dead without it.

    The question is, how much of a good thing is too much?

  21. Obesity creates an aesthetic negative externality that should be mitigated with fat taxes or tradable Twinkie permits. Your right to look gross ends at the surface of my eyeball!

  22. The problem may be the BMI standard itself.
    At 0% body fat, I will still be overweight. Other than thick legs which I have always had, I am not particularly muscular.

    • not to put too fine a point on it, do you happen to have big feet too?

    • Robert ,

      It is.

      BMI is not a good research metric, but the problem for researchers is that it’s the easiest one to use and the most available.

      waist:hip circumference is better, and for research, it would be ideal to link such a measure (which are proxies) to some physiological measure such as LDL/HDL, BSL etc

    • BMI as a measure of obesity is, on basic physical principles, just plain wrong. It is not just that it depends on mass and height alone, but it depends in the wrong way. BMI is proportional to mass divided by the square of height. Whereas any fule kno that in general mass is proportional to the cube of linear dimension.

      That means if you took a small person and scaled them up exactly, so that all relative dimensions stayed the same, the proportion of fat, muscle, bone etc stayed the same, their BMI would go up. (if you used the cube of height, it would stay the same).

      In fact large people are not exactly scaled up versions of small people. If you look at a group of animals that varies a lot in size, like antelopes, you find that mass goes up faster than the cube of linear dimension. That is because a big animal needs proportionally thicker legs to support its weight (strength being proportional to cross-sectional area, or the square of linear dimension).

      What this means is that a tall person needs to be much “skinnier” than a short person to have the same BMI. And as average height increases (as it has in western countries in recent decades), whatever the optimum proportion of body fat, that will correspond to a higher BMI.

      Add in the fact that BMI takes no account of whether the mass is fat or muscle, and you have a very crude measure of obesity. It is commonly found that lean-looking international rugby players (tall and muscular) are obese as measured by BMI, and even male fitness models with very low body fat are “obese”:

      With such a crude measure of obesity it is hardly surprising that a robust correlation with health is elusive. However the general conclusion that being obese is bad for you is not going to be overturned. The controversy is over how much body fat is bad for you, and how it is measured. The trouble is that once some “scientific fact” has been adopted as policy, it becomes very hard for either the policy makers or the scientists to “back down” on it.

      • Gareth

        I like your argument a lot with regards to using BMI to characterize an obesity index. However, that fight was lost in 2000 when world wide BMI became the “standard” and the standard had precise demarcation boundaries; in part, to facilitate research so that everybody knew what the others were saying.

        The BMI is not completely arbitrary as skin fold thickness measurements have some correlation with BMI as a measurement of obesity.

        Children were opted out of the BMI story because of existing growth curves which have their own issues especially with regards to standing height and crown to rump measurements. But that is a different story.

        The issue presented by Flagel JAMA 2013 is one of comparison of like measurements. BMI as used here and elsewhere for an estimation of obesity on a population basis does have some use, particularly in longitudinal studies as opposed to cross-sectional studies.

        Nevertheless, the issue for this thread, the similarity of the response of invested scientists from whatever discipline as climate science or nutrition science, to contrary observational data. As we have seen repeatedly over the years, the first and lasting response is one of “denial.” The data is wrong. We have this other data that says differently. We have this thing figured out. People who produce this contrary data are junk scientists; Etc., etc., etc.

        The most damning statement a climate or nutritional scientist could say at this point: “I don’t know.” End of career. There is little room for uncertainty in the high profile sciences that have lapsed into the political realm.

        Any rescue of this situation involves a posse to hunt down and expose the “bad guys.” Until then: CO2 is the climate change control knob and big is bad.

        This message is brought to you by “big oil.”

      • It comes down to whether nor not the data was wrong. The initial ARGO data, for instance, was wrong. Another line of data indicated it was wrong.

        Case by case, or you’re just a politician.

      • I agree with Gareth.

        And RiHo08, “I don’t know” are the most important words that a scientist can say. Unfortunately science seems to attract a group of people who seem to be incapable of uttering those words. There seems to be some fear of letting others know that there is something that they don’t know. Some expect scientists to be like the Professor from Gilligan’s Island. Always knowing the answer to every question, but science is all about admitting what you don’t know and then trying to figure it out. Not about pretending you know and then demonstrating that you were right.
        I Don’t Know! I like that.

      • JCH said, “It comes down to whether the data is wrong.”

        That can be a problem. Especially when data has to be created to fill in the gaps in the data that may not be correct to begin with.

  23. The link between climate and obesity? Our prosperity, and a manifestation of its upper range such as obesity, have depended upon our prodigal use of fossil fuel. If that fortuitous and fortunate fossil use has changed climate, it has probably been to the warmer, which is a vast good. What’s not to like?

    Another benefit of fat and a thicker subcutaneous insulation layer is improved survival in cold weather and climate. Who could ask for anything more?

  24. Everyone agrees a little is good, a lot is bad. Once you get to a tipping point, things go downhill fast. Same with fatness apparently.

  25. Claiming that obesity is somehow related to climate change, which of course is sup;osed to be caused by man’s activities, only shows the increasing desperation and looniness of global warming alarmists
    Next you know, the AGW freaks will tell you that heating water will make it freeze into ice because that’s how global warming is causing the Antarctic icecap to grow at 20 times the rate the Artctic ice is shrinking.

  26. Warmer temperatures make you fat?

    Quick, somebody better warn the Africans and Southeast Asians.

    The ten countries with the thinnest populations:

    North Korea, Cambodia, Burundi, Nepal, Dem. Rep. of the Congo, Bangladesh, Sri Lanka, Ethiopia, Vietnam and Eritrea.

    I wonder why Canada, Iceland, Norway and Sweden didn’t make the list?

    And how does that hot, arid waistland, the U.S. rank?

    Fattest country in the world.

    Global warming doesn’t cause obesity, but it sure does make some of its acolytes dumber than a box of rocks.

  27. At the nexus of Ceres shrine and epicurean epistemology lie these two: ‘Is fat good?’, and ‘Are questions asked?’.

  28. The dogma surrounding BMI also has the unintended consequence of helping to reinforce eating disorders. People attempt to achive the low end of the normal range even though the low end is dangerously underweight for most people. Similar to the many unintended consequences related to fighting climate change.

    • Rules for child nutrition:

      1. Limit sweets.
      2. Offer a variety.
      3. No guilt whatsoever, even if I’ve slaved over a hot stove.
      4. Vitamins.

      • If your child is overweight its your fault! Other suggested rules to add to Kim’s:

        Eat only at mealtimes and eat at the table not in front of the TV
        Piece of fruit is OK if hungry between meals
        Check for plenty of fibre eg root vegetables
        Git rid of eating as a form of escapism


      • Oh! and definitely limit potatoes to more more than twice-weekly

      • Sorry – no more than twice weekly.

      • As an aside Mr. Peter Davies, have your children read and do they understand the Declaration of Independence and the Constitution of the United States? If not; Hope so…

      • Steven Mosher

        thats right blame the parents

      • Start every meal with two glasses of wine (maybe three).
        Skip the second course.
        For dessert, have another glass of wine.

      • Mosh

        If you ARE a parent, wallow in guilt.

        (For both the dramatic threat from the rampant global warming you have caused by hauling your kids around in your SUV as well as the fact that, as a result, they aren’t getting enough exercise and are getting fat.)

        Guilt is a wonderful feeling!


      • Peter

        Whatsa da matta fo’ you?

        Skippa da patate.

        Mon: Linguine Alfredo
        Tue: Penne con salmone
        Wed: Spaghettini Putanesca
        Thu: Pappardelle con pollo
        Fri: Tagliatelle Marinara
        Sat: Maccheroni con 4 formaggi
        Sun: Ravioli ricotta e spinaci

        Widda lotsa Chianti.

        ‘S gooda fo’ you.


      • Ouch Mosh, that’s just mean.

      • Hi Tom
        ‘fraid not coz they were aussie kids and that was 40 years ago. The kids are now just as strict with theirs. Discipline is good! ;)

        Hi Max
        Your menu would be fine with me ‘coz I like pasta and wine (in no particular order) but ‘fraid not for my kids ;)

  29. I tried the channel Steven & still don’t get it….good night.

  30. I had to smile when I read these two contributions to the intellectual debate by ‘health care’ campaigners:
    Dr Walter Willett – “This study is really a pile of rubbish and no one should waste their time reading it.”
    Prof John Wass – “Have you ever seen a 100-year-old human being who is overweight? The answer is you probably haven’t.”

  31. Love The Chiefio’s musings on food, here on vinegar …

    Re body mass, didn’t know I was in the new ‘risk’ category
    at 5ft 3 and under 8 stone, and I eat eggs and red meat
    and BUTTER! . Nevertheless, all me grandparents lived
    into their nineties were lean and mean like me, tho’ taller …
    except fer me 5’3 red headed grandmother.

  32. David

    Demaio’s alarming cry below leaves me rather bemused:

    ” We have a number of massive Global Health challenges to address as a society, but to me, there are none more pressing, threatening or crucial to act upon than Climate Change and Non-Communicable Disease (NCDs).”

    Despite these two “killers”, human life expectancy continues to increase year by year.


    (Sounds to me like these “massive Global Health challenges” are paper tigers.)


    • Ever heard of dementia?


    • David

      Back to your “silly example”

      Twice as many people were dying of starvation than today 40 years ago.

      No wonder: major crop yields have increased by 2.4 times while population has increased by 1.9 times since 1970.

      Despite this progress, hunger is still the world’s #1 health risk.

      The “rich white man” frets about “climate change” and “obesity” (both phobias driven by guilt).

      For most of the world these “home-made problems” are not even on the radar screen.


      • Joe's World {Progressive Evolution}


        Current science is very biased to what outcome is being paid for.

        You happen to be one of a very few who takes the time to have a good grasp on what the hell is going on…
        Most of society relies and put absolute trust on scientists to keep them informed. This is a bad thing when science is still holding onto the past and hoping all their hypothesis will follow their closed minded track.

  33. Things are complicated in biology, very complicated. Generally one knows that what ever ones description of a phenomena is, you will be wrong on lots of levels; that’s just the way it is with complex systems.

    I liked this from last year:-

    Researchers at the University of Maryland School of Medicine have identified 26 species of bacteria in the human gut microbiota that appear to be linked to obesity and related metabolic complications. These include insulin resistance, high blood sugar levels, increased blood pressure and high cholesterol, known collectively as “the metabolic syndrome,” which significantly increases an individual’s risk of developing diabetes, cardiovascular disease and stroke.

    There are more bacterial cells in your body than there are mammalian. The flora and fauna of you gut own you ass.

    • Steven Mosher

      and given that your gut is your second brain, flora and fauna not only own your ass, but they can probably mess with your head.

  34. I just received an email about an extensive series of blog posts about the obesity paradox, looks pretty interesting

    • Judith

      Great study!

      “Lower mortality risk with fatness – effect increases with age”.

      Fat is good!

      But wait!

      The “mortality rate” is eventually 100%, no matter whether you’re fat or skinny.

      So enjoy!


      PS I’m waiting for the follow-up study that concludes: “Warm is good!”. (Then we can tie everything back to our topic here.)

    • A fan of *MORE* discourse

      Judith Curry provides a link to yet another an outstandingly rational scientific analysis regarding climate-change!\scriptstyle\rule[2.25ex]{0.01pt}{0.01pt}\,\boldsymbol{\overset{\scriptstyle\circ\wedge\circ}{\smile}\,\heartsuit\,{\displaystyle\text{\bfseries!!!}}\,\heartsuit\,\overset{\scriptstyle\circ\wedge\circ}{\smile}}\ \rule[-0.25ex]{0.01pt}{0.01pt}

      Against Junkfood Science

      What is most amazing is how long it has been known that  body fat doesn’t cause heart disease or premature death  anthropogenic climate change cannot rationally, morally, or economically be ignored, yet how vehemently people hold onto this belief. “The notion that  body fat is a toxic substance  CO2 regulations are toxic to the economy is now firmly a part of folk wisdom: many people perversely consider  eating to be a suicidal act  the consequences of climate-change to be harmless or even beneficial,” wrote  Dr. William Bennett, M.D., former editor of The Harvard Medical School Health Letter and author of The Dieter’s Dilemma  Dr. James Hansen, NASA scientists and coauthor of Scientific case for avoiding dangerous climate change to protect young people and nature. “Indeed, the modern belief that  body fat  CO2 regulation is a mortal threat to  its owner  the integrity of planetary civilization is mainly due to the fact that, for many decades, the  insurance  carbon energy companies had the sole evidence, and if it was wrong they would presumably have had to close their doors.” That can still be said today, although the  obesity  carbon energy interests have since grown considerably larger.

      Thank you, Judith Curry, for a post that so effectively exposes the scientific bankruptcy, and the short-sighted, selfish, willfully ignorant moral illegitimacy, of climate-change denialism’s toxic diet of junkfood science! \scriptstyle\rule[2.25ex]{0.01pt}{0.01pt}\,\boldsymbol{\overset{\scriptstyle\circ\wedge\circ}{\smile}\,\diamondsuit\,{\displaystyle\text{\bfseries!!!}}\,\diamondsuit\,\overset{\scriptstyle\circ\wedge\circ}{\smile}}\ \rule[-0.25ex]{0.01pt}{0.01pt}

      Climate-change denialists surely will be confounded … a few may even be enlightened, eh? \scriptstyle\rule[2.25ex]{0.01pt}{0.01pt}\,\boldsymbol{\overset{\scriptstyle\circ\wedge\circ}{\smile}\,\heartsuit\,{\displaystyle\text{\bfseries???}}\,\heartsuit\,\overset{\scriptstyle\circ\wedge\circ}{\smile}}\ \rule[-0.25ex]{0.01pt}{0.01pt}

      • Fan

        “Enlightenment” is not something anticipate when I read your posts – but I do admit you have a handy way with smileys.


      • “By now, we should not be surprised that the media is not reporting on this study”

        Aha where have we heard phrases like this used before??

    • There can be no refuting this from that blog post:
      the CDC now estimates that today’s children will live longer than ever in our country’s history.

      Average age in the world keeps going up, even as more and more countries are consuming more food – aka “following the American model.”

      There is an optimum somewhere in there, but it certainly isn’t what Americans were doing, say, in 1900 when the life expectancy was about 49. (I bow to those who argue infant mortality and vastly improved medicine; in any event, people are continuing to live longer, even as the world is plumping up.)

      It is unlikely, IMHO, that the optimum lifespan or physique model will be reached anytime soon. A recent study gave the chances of people living to 100. Kids b orn now will have something like a 30% chance. My generation is/was <5%. [Sorry, no link. Anyone else read that? If so, a link maybe?]

      Overall, perhaps all the BMI is measuring is physique, when it is what is going on INSIDE that matters for longevity, susceptibility to heart disease and cancer. "…actual angiographic and autopsy examinations of 23,000 sets of coronary arteries which found no relationship between body fatness and the degree or progression of atherosclerotic build-up.

      What it really seems to be is that wrong correlations are being made, that physique and heart health and cellular health are only marginally correlated.

      Making a connection was a reasonable assumption, but reasonable assumptions are like old wive’s tales – until they are put to the test, they sound right, but no one really knows. With 30 years of tests, it sounds like this old wive’s tale needs to be put to rest.

      Overall, a fatter US and world is living longer – can’t deny it. Show me o
      one country living less long. And not on the upswing.

      Steve Garcia

  35. As with climate change, this is a peer-reviewed study. I have no reason to doubt that the BMI considered healthy may change based on this even if it includes above average weight on the population distribution. The thinking that the peak of the population BMI is also the optimal for health was a false assumption, and I don’t know if anyone published anything to confirm that, so this study may not be counter to previous science on the issue, only to previous public views. Obviously as the population shifts its BMI distribution in the heavy direction, the outlier wings become much more populated and there is a major growth in dangerous obesity and negative health outcomes due to it. As with climate, it is the wings where the effect of a shifting population distribution matters most.

  36. Well… now I see what happens after every one of my strong diets: my tummy has a very low sensitivity and the feedbacks are overwhelmingly negative.
    Just like climate ;-)

  37. Denialism of consequences of false attribution and the purposeful ignorance of cause and effect is killing society’s ability to reason. Rationalists understand the logic underlying global warming alarmism: the weather changes — always has and will — accordingly climate changes — always has and will — therefore government dominated by Democrat politics must tax consumers of energy — always has and will.

  38. Heber Rizzo

    You are experiencing the digestive equivalent of “climate-carbon cycle coupling”, a term coined by IPCC authors to describe what could happen when the climate system reaches a “tipping point”, thereby starting a net “outgassing” process, resulting in a “positive feedback”.

    In the digestive system the “tipping point” is signaled by a general rumbling sound and the outgassing manifests itself at both ends of the statistical spectrum, but the correlation is skewed toward a “fat tail” (much like model-predicted climate sensitivity).

    (Check with your doc.)


  39. I eat less in hot weather, and also find salads more appealing.

  40. I don’t know what is the greater harm to society– fat cats or skinny old dogs –but, we really need to get our facts right:

    “In July 2010, a centenarian listed as the oldest living male in Tokyo, registered to be aged 111, was found to have died some 30 years before; his body was found mummified in its bed,[62] resulting in a police investigation into centenarians listed over the age of 105. Soon after the discovery, the Japanese police further found that at least 200 other Japanese centenarians were missing, with the total likely to rise amid a nationwide search that began in early August 2010.[63] In one case, the remains of a mother thought to be 104 had been stuffed into her son’s backpack for nearly a decade.[64]”


    • I hope the son was still cashing in her social security check (or Japanese equivalent).

      Otherwise, why bother?

    • The one (true) story about a centenarian that I like best.

      A French woman died a few years ago at age 122 (I believe). She was one of the oldest women in the record books.

      When she was 75 she sold her house to a 45-year old lawyer with a usufructuary clause (“clause usufruitière”), whereby she could remain in the house free of charge for as long as she lived before he could take ownership.

      The lawyer died at age 75, and she continued living in the house for another 17 years after his death.

      No statistics on her BMI (but I bet she drank at least two glasses of red wine a day).


    • My Daddy always said he was born at home because he wanted to be near his mother.

  41. This thread reflects a lot of what is wrong in contemporary discourse on any somewhat complex science based topic.
    BMI is not a very good metric. Among the leading reasons is that lean muscle is about 4x the mass of fat. Experimental proof: meat sinks, butter floats. So MiChael Jordan at his prime was BMI overweight.
    Bit that does not matter much for morbid obesity, which has risen from less than 20% to more than 30% in all states save Colorado (yes there are regional differences that can screw samples). CDC
    Co morbidities include type 2 diabetes, hypertension, and vascular disease. Proven beyond statistical doubt by inter group comparisons, and inter population comparisons as other countries also now gain weight.
    Cost of obesity (for example type 2 Diabetes, for example rising in juveniles in lockstep with increase in juvenile obesity) now exceeds total cost of treating cancer in the US. So mortality is not necessarily the correct metric for policy.
    No different than temperature records are somewhat fiddled, there are other climate factors just like medical factors influencing mortality, and other perspectives on actionable criteria like cost to treat (or mitigate). Difference is, when it is all but together, AGW is less of a concern while obesity is more.
    Both subjects covered from the perspective of truthfulness ( how do we know) in The Arts of Truth.

    • Actually you have it butt backwards. Using BMI is the kind of thing climate skeptics would do to pour doubt on the “alarmist” theory that obesity is a problem. The paper would be published to a journal like Energy and Environment by people with funding links to fast food.

    • But ((max temp) + (Min temp))/2 = average temperature is a good metric?

    • Re: (undefined NaN NaN:NaN),

      Rud, you say:

      This thread reflects a lot of what is wrong in contemporary discourse on any somewhat complex science based topic.

      I agree, guess what? There is no “type 2 Diabetes, for example rising in juveniles”


      All of these large population studies have consistently shown that rates of type 2 diabetes among children and adolescents at the population level have remained unchanged. There is no epidemic of childhood diabetes. In fact, type 2 diabetes remains extremely rare among pediatric populations.

      Over the past two decades, the estimated prevalence of type 2 diabetes among U.S. teens has been:

      0.12% — 0.15% — 0.12% — 0.04%

      Estimates among children as a whole (age 0-19 years) are lower, 0.02%.

      As Dr. Joyce M. Lee, M.D., MPH, with the division of Pediatric Endocrinology, Child Health Evaluation and Research Unit at the University of Michigan in Ann Arbor, recently wrote in Archives of Pediatric and Adolescent Medicine, the consistency of the population findings across two decades regardless of the methodology clearly shows extremely low rates of type 2 diabetes among young people and a lack of any notable increase, “despite increases in obesity.” The overall burden of type 2 diabetes remains concentrated in older adults, she said.

  42. The phony Obesity cliff is just another manufactured crisis while the real crisis looms as the elephant in the room. Reality check — California is the only state among the ‘nations’ that comprise the top ten economies in the world. It ranks ninth. That is down from eighth. It used to be fifth. And the u6 unemployment rate (i.e., the real not the ’official’ unemployment statistic) is currently at 22%. Why the decline in the economy and the rise in unemployment: global warming or anti-business-global warming Leftist politics, government workers’ unions and the hubris of liberal Utopianism?

  43. Most people discussing here are assuming mortality and morbidity are the same thing. They’re not. Obesity causes significant health problems (morbidity) that science has taught us how to treat so that sufferers do not necessarily die (mortality) of these conditions. However, they’re called ‘sufferers’ for a reason.

    This study has not shown anything new, novel or “challenged” any “core beliefs”. The media has once again whipped up a controversy where there is none.

  44. Steven Mosher

    Interesting unintended consequences from stupid obama program.. I mean obama stupid program

    • They’ll crush my clunker out from the grip of my knuckles on the beloved steering wheel when cold hard cash comes streaming, blindingly, through the windshield. Oh, the trouble it kept me out of. That and the plastic dashboard Jesus.

    • I hate it when that happens. They did have the best of intentions thought.

      I guess this fat thing will kill the liposuction for fuels program.

  45. Need for a lot of quick exits behind clouds of blue smoke, huh?

  46. Muscle is better. Except in your head.

  47. The conclusion that being overweight increases your longevity is probably wrong. Being overweight probably reduces your lifespan, although perhaps not by much. Being obese is even worse, and in this case, the evidence is clear enough not to require the word “probably”.. The recent study (not really new but an extension of earlier meta-analyses) does not provide evidence to refute this. Because the issue is complicated, I won’t elaborate further here but instead refer readers to the Slate article Judith Curry linked to and to my comments on the article and responses to them.

    • Welcome back. Above I had a response at 11:29am that gives my view, which is that it is a mistake to think that the average BMI is also the optimal one, and this study shows that the optimal value may be shifted or at least extended away from the peak. I also posted a link in that thread.
      This makes it clear that a shift in US BMI increases most rapidly at the very obese end and is like climate change in this way. The wing is where the impacts of a changing distribution are most seen.

      • The mortality curve plotted against BMI is U-shaped. It’s just not completely clear how wde the base is and exactly where it starts to curve up.

      • Yes, overweight (BMI=25-30) is above the historical average, but is now average in the US, and is apparently still in the healthy range according to the study. Obese 1 (30-35) also seems to be in the healthy range, also despite its name. This is what is surprising. On what grounds was Obese 1 set? I suspect that the high end of this range is already unhealthy but was averaged in with the more populous lower 30’s.

      • The results were not so clear cut; the 95%CI saw the HR extent to over 1 (just), without accounting forthe already known effect in the elderly. It was also the broadest spread of any of the CI values, which i think reflects the problem with BMI in this range (ie it’s at it’s least sensitive in this range).

      • Jim D

        Before 2000 BMI boundaries were globally and many times author defined. Prior to 2000, in the USA, BMI over weight category was regarded by some as 27 to 33. As one can see, these limits encompassed what is now overweight and Grade 1 obesity. Some of the health benefit “paradox” of being overweight or mildly obese can be ascribed to changing the goal posts: “normal” or “ideal” was @ 20 to 27. Originally, by not including those currently hailed as in the “ideal” 18.5 to 20 a lot of sick people are now included where before they were excluded.

        For large population based studies, BMI is used since it requires just height and weight measurements and one can compare people of various heights with one another. Skin fold thickness and bioelectric impedance measurements have their inter/intra observer and inter subject issues; so, BMI endures.

        You are correct that “disease” is best found in the two distribution tails. When obesity, like climate change became politicized, the middle ground became the alarmists siren call. Essentially there are so few people, relatively speaking of course, in the upper tail; i.e., not very many to worry about, certainly nothing like a tipping point breaking the health care bank; or, for climate change, CO2 levels in the middle ground have become a source of catastrophe handwringing positioned to break the economy’s budget.

        My onion.

        All this goes to show, having a little history on why things became the way they are, helps keep a perspective on why alarmism in science is a very bad thing.

      • RiH008,

        There’s no ‘alarmism’ in obesity – looking beyond mortality figures, the morbidity stats confirm this.

        And people don’t just suddenly become very obese they make their way there through overweight/obese.

    • Fred

      Welcome back.

      We missed you.

      You add a bit of class to the discourse here.

      Hope you’ll stick around a bit.


    • Hi Fred, welcome back!

      • Thank you everyone. My previous comment was cryptic, but to elaborate slightly, the recent JAMA article reported that “overweight” (BMI 25-30) individuals had a slightly lower mortality than “normal” individuals (BMI 18.5-25). The big problem with this comparison is that the “normal” category, as defined in many of the studies reviewed by the authors almost certainly includes individuals who are too thin for adequate health and perhaps some even suffering chronic illness – these are the ones at the 18.5 end. In previous studies, where “normal” represented 20-25 rather than 18.5-25, these “normals” had lower mortality than the overweight individuals. This suggests that “overweight” is not optimal, but rather that the optimal category is one with a lower BMI than that. I don’t think there’s enough good data to accurately define the optimal BMI interval, but it probably has considerable overlap with the “normal” range after the low end is excluded; elsewhere I speculated it might be about 23-26. To me this signifies that in the absence of more useful ranges to compare, we should be reluctant to radically alter our current perception that overweight is probably at least slightly hazardous, and obesity markedly so.

        Two other relevant points. As has been widely emphasized, BMI is a poor measure of the relationship between adiposity and health – it’s a rough guide at best. More important, if you have a bit of excess fat, where you have it is critical. Excessive intra-abdominal fat – the kind that gives one a “pot belly” or a “spare tire” look is almost certainly a health threat. On the other hand, a slight excess involving the arms, legs, hips, or buttocks is probably harmless, and may even confer a net benefit, such as protection against hip fractures in the elderly.

      • Er, ain’t it the extra-abdominal fat that correlates with a problem, Doc?

      • It’s Intra-abdominal fat that is the main culprit because of its particular metabolic effects.

      • Thanks, Prof; life is short, the art is long. Seems like BVI(Body Volume Index) and ICO(Index of Central Obesity) might both be better measures of the dangers of being overweight than is the BMI. Learned those two acronyms from your link. They’ll be on the quiz, right?

      • “Seems like BVI(Body Volume Index) and ICO(Index of Central Obesity) might both be better measures of the dangers of being overweight than is the BMI”

        Huh? You mean that what index you use matters? Imagine that?

    • The recent study (not really new but an extension of earlier meta-analyses) does not provide evidence to refute this.

      IMO (as a complete non-expert), this study seems to have zero, zilch, nada clinical implications. It provides useful information – with it seems the main implication being that BMI is an inadequate metric for predicting health outcomes. Not useless, but like most single metrics in most circumstances, inadequate.

      It is unfortunate that some “skeptics” want to exploit this study for, essentially, ill-gotten gains. For example:

      So, the new study runs completely counter to established obesity dogma. Epidemiologists are scrambling to counter the new study.

      1. What is the “established obesity dogma?” Has Judith researched to find out what that dogma is? Does this study actually run “completely counter” to that dogma? This is an entirely unsubstantiated statement. What does Judith mean by “dogma” in this context? How has she defined the terms? Judith’s assumption is not backed by any form of evidence. Judith feels that it runs counter to “established obesity dogma” and so draws a conclusion that it is so. In fact, it does not run counter to established scientific understanding of the value (and validity) of BMI as a metric. Does it run counter to popular opinions about the health risks of being overweight? That’s actually hard to say: even if we assume popular opinion to be what Judith is referring to as “dogma” – (which seems unlikely since “dogma” is also used to refer to the straw man conceptualization of the “climate science community) – as opposed to the predominant scientific viewpoint (which is the way that many “skeptics” often use “dogma” in the climate debate) – this study, in fact, does not run “completely counter” to that view. It is largely uninformative relative to that view. This study tells use about the value of the metric of BMI. It does not tell us that being overweight is not a health risk generally – and it certainly does not tell us whether being overweight is a health risk for particular individuals, over the course of a lifetime, etc.

      2. What does “scrambling to counter the new study” mean? How is it quantified? How is the assertion validated? Does pointing out the limitations of the study = “scrambling to counter the new study?”

      Let’s run with that for a second: does pointing out the limitations of the metrics used to evaluate the negative consequences of ACO2 = “scrambling to counter” new evidence, in the hopes of maintaining a “dogma” that what humans do cannot affect the climate, or that it is only God that can affect the climate on that kind of scale?

      At this point, this study has few to no practical clinical implications. It is a shame that some folks want to run with it as if it does. It is even more unfortunate that some folks want to turn this study into some kind of ammunition to fight long-standing tribal battles.

      • John Carpenter


        ‘What is the “established obesity dogma?”’

        I think you got it here:

        ‘even if we assume popular opinion to be what Judith is referring to as “dogma”’

        Popular opinion in this case is probably being driven by what you hear from your doctor and virtually every media outlet available. You do not here that being overweight is a good thing… do you? Until this study. Sure, I have read hear that this study is ‘old news’ and represents nothing new… however this is not ‘old news’ to the vast majority of the population. This has been promoted as ‘new information’… heard it myself on NPR.

        ‘What does “scrambling to counter the new study” mean?’

        I will hazard to say that if a new study came out that stated CO2 has no effect on global temps and got the publicity in the same way this study did, many would be scrambling to counter the new study. In fact, since the story has came out… have we not heard a number of counters to this study?… a scrambling to preserve the existing ‘dogma’? Certainy we can see it hear.

        Personally I don’t think the word ‘dogma’ is the right term to use here… it speaks of religious belief. I’m not sure most people would consider the idea of being overweight as being poor for your health as a ‘dogmatic’ belief. It is more of a ‘consensus’ belief…. which in this case I agree with.

      • “You do not here that being overweight is a good thing… do you?” – John.

        And that would be because we’re not sure it does.

        Where’s the scepticism?

      • Joshua has a point here. Once you see dogma and conspiracy in one place, you start to look for it in others, and for some individuals everything then becomes dogmas and conspiracies. It can be a slippery slope. Be careful.

      • Steven Mosher

        I dunno Joshua, maybe the NIH has issued consensus statements on obesity. Probably? i dunno, seems easy to check.

      • I dunno Joshua, maybe the NIH has issued consensus statements on obesity.

        The study doesn’t really tell us anything about obesity. It is informative about BMI. What is the “dogma” about BMI?

        Scientific dogma about BMI? Well, if there is one, it seems that this study does not run counter to that scientific dogma. But more to the point, does Judith know what the scientific dogma is about BMI?

        Popular opinion/”dogma” about BMI? Is there one? I tend to doubt it. And I tend to doubt that the popular opinion about BMI is what one would generally refer to “dogma.” Particularly from someone who frequently uses “dogma” to criticize scientific opinion about AGW – not so much popular opinion.

        OK – so scientific “dogma” or popular opinion “dogma” about obesity? Assuming that we can characterize what those are – this study doesn’t tell us much about that. You will notice that my comment was in response to Fred – who said:

        The conclusion that being overweight increases your longevity is probably wrong.

        In fact, the study makes no such conclusion. The lead author has stated such directly.

        Fred probably actually knows something about this topic. But, to repeat, this study does not, as Judith said,

        …run[s] completely counter to established obesity dogma

        Let’s buck up the science. Let’s rely on careful analysis.

      • John Carpenter


        ‘Where’s the scepticism?’

        Good question. The thing about the issue of weight is…. it is so closely associated with beauty. Thin, tone and shapely is considered beautiful, just look at every fashion magazine on the check out counter. Read a few tabloid headlines about who is ‘fat’ now…. in not a good way. I think it hard for most people to start accepting ‘overweight’ as a good, healthy and a beautiful thing when our culture so massively tells us the opposite. So I gather Michael, you have always been of the opinion that being overweight is a good thing for your health… because you are skeptical…. right?

      • John Carpenter


        “Let’s buck up the science. Let’s rely on careful analysis.”

        But the issue I think Judith raises here is not really so much about the scientific understanding as much as what is perceived by the general population due to what has been reported time and again in the MSM. How this is a counter argument that gained some traction and runs completely counter to what the accepted ‘consensus’ belief is. This is a story about how the general non scientific population is fed information…. not so much about the actual science IMO.

      • John –

        But the issue I think Judith raises here is not really so much about the scientific understanding as much as what is perceived by the general population.

        Could be, but usually, when “skeptics” talk about dogma, and in particular “established” dogma, they are talking about scientific “consensus.” Be that as it may, let’s say you’re right, and Judith is describing popular opinion as “dogma.”

        As I have said, this study doesn’t run “completely counter to the established obesity dogma.” “Obesity dogma” (in popular opinion) is that obesity is bad. This study does not “run counter” to that belief. This study tells us something about obesity, but only as limited to specific ratios of BMI. The definition of obesity is not limited to BMI ratios. Certainly, in public opinion the definition of obesity not not constrained by BMI ratio categories.

        The study tells us that two of the three stages of obesity cause higher “overall mortality.” Is that “contrary to established obesity dogma?” I think not.

        It tells us that being overweight, without any consideration of factors such as comorbidities or other variables, leads to lower overall mortality. Is that “counter” to “established” public opinion dogma? I’d say probably. But that is only one part of public opinion “established dogma.” It certainly doesn’t stand many other aspects of popular “established obesity dogma” on it’s head.

        I get a little sick of people taking complex issues, and simplifying and twisting them to confirm biases about the climate change debate.

        This study is part of valid scientific processes. It is about enriching our understanding of real world phenomena through statistical analysis. It is a step in a process. Reducing it to some comic book version of good guys upturning the applecart of those evil mean “dogmatic” “establishment”F folks is just a smidgeon too convenient, in my book.

        I believe that I could look at this study and construct an argument, either way, to confirm biases along either line of the climate debate. That gets us nowhere. It diminishes the value of what this study has to say (which is basically that BMI is not a very useful tool).

      • What this confirms, for me at any rate, is that people will use all kinds of unrelated material to pursue their proxy war on the climate science consensus, and will even waffle on about obesity and “dogma”.

      • John –

        You do not here that being overweight is a good thing… do you?

        This study does not say that being overweight is a good thing. That is a mis-reading of the study. Read what the lead author has to say. She directly contradicts your reading.

        This study says that being overweight – without consideration of comorbidities (is a “good thing” for more people with many illnesses to have a marginally lower “overall mortality” rate – you tell me), without consideration of fat distribution, may be lead to a lower mortality rate. Let’s stick to describing what the study says when we describe what the study says.

        Of course, the strength of that conclusion must be considered with caveats – such as that the study only looks at “overall mortality,” does not look at morbidities, does not consider the impact of people who are under “normal” weight, and most of all, only when you define “overweight” by BMI ratio – which is a very incomplete way to define “overweight.”

  48. Fat is good. Fat is bad. Neither statement is true. Omega 3 fats are good. Omega 6 fats are bad. Better, but still not accurate. We have to consume these fats in order to survive. Low fat diets starve us of critical fats that make up our brain, nervous system, and other minor organs.

    For a good start into the pseudoscience of diet research and epidemiology, start with Gary Taubes. You’ll soon see it wasn’t the climate scientists who first cherry picked data.

    • “Fat is good. Fat is bad. Neither statement is true”

      It’s more that both statements are true, but there are many factors in determining when there are true.

      • Steven Mosher

        So, i suppose if one went to look at NIH consensus statements about obesity that you would find them saying something akin to your balanced statement? Hey wait, that is a testable proposition. hmm, I dunno, has the NIH ever done a consensus like statement about obesity? That would be interesting to look at what do you predict?

      • I was to ‘fat’ (adipose tissue), but on obesity, I’d expect not a ‘consensus statement’ , but very likely a position statement or guidelines.

      • edit : I was referring to ‘fat’

      • Steven Mosher

        really michael, did you look?

  49. lurker, passing through laughing

    I recall other studies hinting at this from time to time over the last few years.
    But since 90% of scientists agree fat is bad, the study must be false and was likely paid for by big food interests.

  50. “Could climate change and the obesity epidemic be linked?”

    I think it unlikely.
    If it were true there would be more obesity in Sydney than Melbourne. or more in Georgia than Boston. Obesity would track inversly with Latitude. Higher latitude states and cities would give it plenty of publicity.

  51. Some people die sooner because of being obese. Some people die of starvation.
    Which ones have the better quality of life and how do the numbers compare.
    I do try for something in between. I am lucky that I can choose.

  52. A-climate-detective .. IJL .. ERB

    Good to see, your now somewhere between Your Health and climate at last. Bit slow to say the least. Red meat remove the Fat?
    Chicken more damaging.
    10 Key Netrients in red meat? That balance other nutrients within Veg intake? So Red meats Help the digestive of Nutrients best..

    Good Nutients save Gene pool Mutation- Fat Is NOT GOOD for the blood nore cells??
    Iron Intake is Good for your blood? you wish to be energetic and keep down weight?
    Health foods veg and meat in the main dinner daily is Power food with excersise daily.
    Fat is NOT GOOD.

  53. Let’s put the obesity problem into perspective world-wide.

    It’s estimated that obesity-related illnesses cause 3 million deaths every year around the world.

    Every year 15 million children die of hunger

    Obesity deaths have doubled since 1980 (more than doubled since 1970).

    Death from starvation has decreased to around one-half since 1970.

    Crop yields are up 2.4x since 1970, while population is up 1.9x (so folks are eating more).

    But there are still a whole lot more people dying from under-nutrition than from over-nutrition.

    (Just like there are more people dying from cold weather than from hot weather.)


  54. A-climate-detective .. IJL .. ERB

    What ever way, any body wishes to view it?
    Add the obesity GENE to a 200yr Gene pool?
    See the mulfunctioning DNA throw off The Obesity Gene having made it.

    Those that starve? Bless them.. Well they are not counted, those who die of Starvation and those of obesity are not same catogory?

    Look At the amount of complications of obesity gene?
    And those without?
    Remove all other know genetic dissorders?
    Now who is left looking the healthy with a life of longevity? Obese or Trim?

    Truth is man is becoming,
    almost longer living, yet less healthy, at latter parts of life..For both sizes.
    Fat in the diet is not good.

    The Gene resposible for obesity, is your Problem. Fat in the diet is not good for those obese that for sure.
    Now= Starving People? They cannot afford to Buy Nore grow? Yet Other governments at times of Good, Sell to take 3rd World riches?

    • Some (warped?) logic for Fred Moolten:

      – Observations have shown that human obesity, even in its mildest form, tends to prevent human death from starvation.

      – 4 times as many humans die globally from the effects of morbid malnutrition (starvation) than from the effects of obesity.

      – Therefore, obesity has a net positive effect on human life expectancy.

  55. Many people believe you can’t be too fat or too rich. Not so tho: you can be too fat. Based on common sense experiences my guess is that health problems due to weitht could be a hundred pounds more than what the liberal fascists call ‘morbid.’ But, anything above 48-50 suits and XX sweatshirts has got to get more expensive, no? Overweight is something else Al Gore and the Leftists can by hypocritical about–my guess is pound or pound the Democrat party has a lock on pulchritude.

  56. Pingback: Peak (?) farmland | Climate Etc.

  57. A fan of *MORE* discourse

    Utterly politically incorrect … and among the funniest youtube videos ever made:
    an unnamed political leader does the “paleo” diet

    Lackey  My leader! Professor Listig proved how toxic fructose is!

    Leader (angry)  The only thing he proved is how easy it is to cherry-pick PUBMED studies! This Paleo Diet b*sh*t is ****** garbage!

    Nicely shows the abuse of science in service of ideology! \scriptstyle\rule[2.25ex]{0.01pt}{0.01pt}\,\boldsymbol{\overset{\scriptstyle\circ\wedge\circ}{\smile}\,\heartsuit\,{\displaystyle\text{\bfseries!!!}}\,\heartsuit\,\overset{\scriptstyle\circ\wedge\circ}{\smile}}\ \rule[-0.25ex]{0.01pt}{0.01pt}

  58. Best book out there IMO on fat – “Fats that heal, fats that kill” by Udo Erasmus.

  59. Sorry, Dr. Udo Erasmus –

  60. Thought fer Today:
    (In the form of a toast.)

    So lets drink a glass,
    Red wine of course,
    In celebration of
    Human variety,
    Whether tall or short,
    Obese or thin, or gaussian
    Mean Goldilocks – in – be – tween.
    May our species prosper
    Re – gard – less, what – ever
    The weather or variability
    Of climate, cold or hot?
    Whether sea – changes or
    Ice – ages … or what?

    Beth Cooper.

    • Beth

      Great poem.

      Sure beats:

      I don’ wan’ ‘er
      You can have ‘er
      She’s too fat fer me…

  61. Judith,

    I think you are beginning to focus on the real issue in the climate debate – that science can get stuck by committing too early to tentative conclusions that don’t then hold up.

    Scientists, like most people, hate to be embarrassed, but institutions hate embarrassment even more, so they fight desperately to stick to their mistakes – even if the cost is billions of pounds or a lot of human suffering.

  62. I’m not sure if being slightly overweight is as directly unhealthy as is claimed, but, as one whose weight has been a slight problem over the years, and I do have to fight that, I can definitely say it does have a negative effect on a person’s love/sex life!

    And that must imply at least a negative indirect effect on health. So mainstream science is probably not too far off the mark on this issue IMO.

    • I’d also just make the point that medical science does have a pretty severe definition of just what constitutes being overweight. To take my own parameters as an example, at 181 cm (5ft 11in) tall and weighing 88 kg (194 lb for Americans, or 13 stone 12lb for the British ) gives me a BMI of 26.9.

      I feel perfectly healthy, most people would say I wasn’t overweight but I’d have to shed a few kilos to make it down to a BMI of 25 which is what is supposed to be the upper limit of the healthy range.

      So I doubt if we can really say that “fat is good” but if medical science has got it slightly wrong maybe its just on a question of definition. I hope so, otherwise I’ll need to get down to the gym a bit more often.

      • The initial paper that promoted BMI (back in he 70s) specifically advised that BMI was not all that useful for individual diagnosis – but it’s simplicity makes it very attractive.

        Your example and the issues discussed by others are the part of the reason, and the cut-offs are somewhat arbitrary.

      • I can say with a great deal of certainty that medical science did in fact get it more than slightly wrong.
        Volume, and therefore weight – all other things being equal – is proportional to the cube of height, not the square.

      • That’s one of the problem with the study (that the ‘sceptics’ jumped all over with a complete lack of scepticism because it seemed that a chance to bash climate science) – taller people with normal fat levels, can be propelled into the ‘overweight’ class.

        Another reason to be sceptical about the findings.


        I’ll let it speak for itself

      • Denialism is about fooling oneself, as discussed in a previous thread, so there does seem quite a bit of scope for another sceptics/denialists organisation on the question of weight.

        Its not that mainstream science has got it particularly wrong. The fact that body shape scales with the cube of height rather than the square isn’t unknown to mainstream science but there are reasons for not using it. A factor of 2.5 rather than two or three may be more valid though. I’ve just checked and there is quite a bit more to this that I previously realised, and there are other indices besides BMI which need to be considered.

        So, as Michael has pointed out, sceptics do need to be more sceptical. It takes more than a single study to overturn a consensus. It’s very unlikely that the consensus on the health problems associated with obesity is in any way incorrect.

      • “It’s very unlikely that the consensus on the health problems associated with obesity is in any way incorrect.” – temp

        And even if it was, this study has nothing to say on that, as it shows increased mortality with obesity, ie it supports the consensus.

      • Michael

        The long-term mortality rate, with or without obesity, is 100%.

        So enjoy life while it lasts.


        PS You don’t have to get fat to enjoy life…

  63. It seems quite a stretch for Judith to say “On the other hand, with regards to the issue of attribution of climate change, challenges to the core belief of greenhouse gas attribution is dismissed with the charge of ‘denialism.’ ”

    The “core belief” is that CO2 is a Greenhouse gas which causes warming The more CO2 in the atmosphere the warmer, and significantly warmer, it will become. To dispute that is called denialism. Agreed

    If we are looking for a dietary parallel it would be that eating fatty hamburgers causes a weight gain. The more hamburgers consumed, the more weight will be gained. There are those who might say “ah but correlation doesn’t prove causation” . They might say: if we ate no hamburgers at all, yes, we would be typically 18kg lighter than we are, but, having eaten a few the effect very quickly becomes logarithmic and then it becomes saturated, and so most adults can safely increase their consumption in an exponential manner and there won’t be any cause for concern at all.

    I think that would rightly be termed denialism, too.

    • Yes, if you are gaining weight, but prefer to disbelieve your scales, that might be denialism. Or, if you say it is anything but those hamburgers you are eating every day, that might be denialism.

    • tempterrain and Jim D

      So the lady who consumes 5o twinkies and 2 hamburgers plus a half pound of French fries per day, washed down with 12 cokes, is getting fat because of the two hamburgers?



    • Temp wrote- “The “core belief” is that CO2 is a Greenhouse gas which causes warming. The more CO2 in the atmosphere the warmer, and significantly warmer, it will become. To dispute that is called denialism.”

      It is an interesting and telling perspective. Temp does not seem to take into consideration that there is very poor data to determine how much warming will happen over what timescale so as to make a claim that it is significant. Perhaps more importantly, what makes Temp and other BELIEVE that any warming that does occur is really all that significant to the lives of humans. Upon what basis does Temp and others determine what areas of the planet will be harmed vs. those areas that will benefit?

      So in Temp’s world a person is a “denier” if they do not agree with what exactly?

      • Rob Starkey,

        Denier isn’t a word whcih is entirely missing from Judith’s vocabulary. For instance she has said:

        “The influence of global warming deniers, consisting of a small group of scientists plus others that are motivated to deny global warming owing to the implications associated with any policy to control greenhouse gas emissions”

        So, I agree with Judith that a denier would be a person who is motivated to argue against the consensus science for ideological (political and economic) reasons, rather than on the basis that they had genuine concerns on the strength of the consensus position.

        How can it be the latter when they don’t really understand it anyway?

    • A modest proposal for revision:
      The “core belief” is that CO2 is a Greenhouse gas which causes warming (warms the atmosphere: agreed). The more CO2 in the atmosphere the warmer, and significantly warmer (define “significant”), it will become (if one ignores cycles, negative feedbacks and other missing variables). To dispute that is called denialism (by advocates; a slur).

      • BTW. What is the trend of a full cycle of a sine wave?

      • That “core belief” is in error and must be discarded. According to the greenhouse theory the addition of carbon dioxide to the atmosphere causes the atmosphere to absorb more outgoing long-wave radiation, the captured radiation turns to heat, and the air gets warm. But CO2 is not the only greenhouse gas in the atmosphere, water vapor also is there, and they both absorb outgoing radiation at the same time. Question is, what happens to the water vapor when the amount of carbon dioxide changes. According to Miskolczi theory an optimum optical thickness in the infrared will be established which is maintained by all the greenhouse gases present. If, for example, CO2 starts to absorb more because its amount has increased, water vapor must compensate for it and its amount must diminish to keep the optical thickness invariant. To distinguish between these two possibilities we should first measure the transmittance of the atmosphere in the infrared, add some carbon dioxide, and then measure it again. Fortunately such measurements of atmospheric transmittance are available to us because radiosondes have been measuring outgoing long-wave radiation since 1948. In 2010 Ferenc Miekolczi used NOAA weather balloon database of these radiosonde measurements to study the absorption of outgoing long-wave radiation over time. He determined that the transmittance of the atmosphere for long-wave radiation had been constant for the preceding 61 years. At the same time, atmospheric carbon dioxide went up by 21.6 percent. According to the greenhouse theory this substantial addition of carbon dioxide to atmosphere should have shown up as increased absorption of IR but it didn’t – the atmosphere was as transparent in the infrared after the addition of CO2 as it had been before it. That is exactly what Miskolczi theory predicted. This is a totally empirical observation and tells us that the greenhouse theory is just plain wrong and the Miskolczi theory is right. It follows that other predictions of the greenhouse theory are also wrong. The theory belongs in the trash heap of history because that is where theories that make wrong predictions belong. Some of these erroneous predictions were scientific – such as the hot spot that nobody can find. Others involve temperatures – it predicted warming in the twenty-first century that was never observed. But worse are predictions of warming used to justify emission control laws. Knowing that they were erroneous means that these laws were passed under false premises. They do nothing, cost a fortune, and should be reversed.

      • Arno, “He determined that the transmittance of the atmosphere for long-wave radiation had been constant for the preceding 61 years. At the same time, atmospheric carbon dioxide went up by 21.6 percent.”

        Was that constant radiation measurement accurate to +/- 0.15 Wm-2 :)

    • Max,

      If you like, we can equate the hambugers with CO2, the Fries with CH4, the cokes with NO2 etc

  64. Speaking of eggs, I laid one around here but all I see now is cold cuts.

  65. Cerebral fat can be lethal:

  66. “Is obesity epidemiology a more challenging scientific problem than the attribution of climate variability/change?” Undoubtedly. This addresses the key point of quality in climate science. Given that there are demonstrated connections between brain and body and the complexity of the brain, the human body is orders of magnitutude more complex than climate. Not only is the brain extremely complex, it can “re-wire” itself on a daily basis. At least the physics of climate, despite chaotic behavior of the climate itself, are not changing daily.

  67. Climate change and obesity?

    Here’s a good solution to both.

    Nice looking too!

  68. This is just like the last 30 years of:

    A. Coffee is bad for you, in contains carcinogens, etc.
    B. Coffee is good for you, etc.

    These fads, call them research fads, seem to oscillate with a rhythm that is a bit shorter, but similar to, the PDO.

    Certainly, climate science is far more sophisticated and has far more money, than coffee research or fat research, but as Judith’s excellent blog among others points out, there are still plenty of uncertainties in the models, and the models consistently overpredict temperatures. So I wonder, mostly for the sake of humor, if something like the “coffee oscillation” might occur with climate models.

    Something like this: in, say, five years, the modelers finally realize that they have to adjust their models to more closely meet actual temperature records, or they will be ignored and stop getting money. They do so because they can and must, but STILL don’t understand some of the basics of cloud formation OR of the causes of the PDO, or of solar (very weak cycle right now, but how much does that influence multi-decadal temperatures?).

    Then, only after the GCM community has made downward adjustments, does the PDO change over, and a few years later a stronger solar cycle returns, and — only possibly, but for the sake of discussion or anthropogenic science cycles — temps then start to increase.

    I don’t believe that will happen, but hey, its plausible!

    • I think there is a good story waiting to be written about the murkey ‘Coffee science’ from Harvard Medical, that they have been pronouncing to the world over the past half century.on a regular basis. I had no idea it was tied to AGW though…