March 13, 2008

Say What?/In The News:: Stating the Obvious

I always enjoy keeping up on the latest nutrition-related research, but a University of South Florida in Tampa study reported by USA Today this morning left me scratching my head.

Not out of confusion, mind you, but because I can't believe this is supposed to be "new" or "grounbreaking" information.

The title alone already struck me as odd -- "Obesity cancels health advantage of affluent, educated."

You don't say!

The opening paragraph could have been lifted right out of The Onion:

"A good education and income helps protect people from inflammation that increases their risk of a heart attack, but the more overweight someone becomes, the less protection is gained from a comfortable life, a study suggests today."

Oh, you mean a Harvard degree and $200,000 a year alone are not enough to decrease someone's risk of developing prostate cancer or cardiovascular disease?

I assume that what the reporter is trying to communicate is that education (by the way, who is qualifying what is a "good" or "bad" education?) and income provide more opportunities for people to afford healthier lifestyles.

Mind you, this is a very U.S.-centric concept.

Travel to other parts of the world and it is often the less affluent who are in better health, in large part because they subsist on a diet rich in fruits, vegetables, legumes, grains, and unprocessed junk.

Besides, opportunities are merely that -- open windows. People can choose to use them or not.

I know plenty of people who graduated from Ivy League universities and currently earn six figures who don't exercise, subsist on junk food, and drink way too much alcohol.

The article got even more insulting for me:

"Looking at education alone, overweight people with and without a college education had about an equal level of harmful C-reactive protein."

What exactly is the finding here? Am I supposed to be surprised that "the educated" are negatively affected by weight gain? Last I heard, a plentiful retirement account couldn't successfully reduce high LDL levels.

And then there's this:

"The greater stress faced by poorer, less educated people may promote inflammation, says Elissa Epel, a psychologist at the University of California Medical School-San Francisco, who studies the biology of stress."

So unhealthy blood lipid profiles among less affluent individuals are being attributed to stress? High-earners also experience stress; perhaps not over the same topics, but who is to say it's not with the same degree of intensity?

And what what about the fact that lower socioeconomic neighborhoods in the United States have less access to healthy foods? Or that many of them are simply unable to afford preventive care?

"It's still a bit of a mystery" why people who are better off have better health, says Richard Schulz, an expert on how psychology and lifestyle influence health."

What, exactly, is the mystery? Money in and of itself does not buy health, but it provides more opportunities to keep it in check.

Even if many people with higher incomes eat unhealthily, they can afford treatments and medications to alleviate or eradicate certain conditions.

And while education is certainly important as it provides the necessary knowledge to make informed choices, it's obvious that once someone is 20 or 30 pounds overweight, their blood lipid profile will deteriorate, regardless of where -- or how much of -- their education was completed.

Maybe tomorrow we'll "find out" (in the name of science, of course) that severely underweight runway models are just as unhealthy as severely underweight janitors.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Well, you were reading USA Today. I'm not sure what you really expected, but I'd recommend changing papers.