Monday, December 22, 2008

Wobbly Spin

Ya know what I don't like? This.

The article is a report on the Physician's Health Study, which followed 21 thousand middle-aged male doctors for two decades. One aspect of the study found that for every 7 pounds of extra weight a 5-foot, 10-inch man carries, his risk of heart failure increases by 11 percent. Basically, the study notes, overweight and obese men have a much greater risk of heart failure.

The problem is with Reuters' spin, which starts with the headline: "Even a tiny bit of flab raises heart failure risk." Now when you have a headline like this, it causes the average person who might have been thinking of starting an exercise program to go, "F*ck it. If even a little extra fat puts me at a higher risk, I'll just stay here on the couch eating Whoppers [the burger or the candy, your choice]." Yeah, an 11 percent higher probability of heart failure for 7 pounds does seem a bit high, but the real risks aren't for weighing 7 or 14 pounds over their ideal weight, but for weighing 50 pounds too much.

It's not only the headline that's messed up on this story. I hope that fine news organization is still using this photo to illustrate the article by the time you click on the link. Why Reuters chose to use a close-up of a woman bodybuilder's torso to illustrate an article on the effects of obesity on middle-aged males is a mystery.

Junk science reporting on the "obesity crisis" is a pet peeve of mine.

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