Reblog: Denialism: It’s not denialism when we’re talking about underweight!

Here’s a reblog from my livejournal from December 2010:

Fat Acceptance advocates often get called “denialists” for questioning the strength of the link between fat and health. (Some go into what I would agree is denialism, but it doesn’t take much to get hit with the “denialist” label.)

Here’s some denialism for you:

Dr Amy Berrington de Gonzalez (National Cancer Institute, Bethesda, MD) said there are some possible interpretations of the underweight data.

“One of them is that what we’re really seeing is a bias, that’s it’s not really that being underweight puts you at increased risk of death,” said Berrington de Gonzalez. “It’s that you’re underweight because you have a preexisting illness of some sort, which is what is actually putting you at the increased risk of death.

She goes on to say that after controlling for some factors, the risk of dying from underweight was attenuated. I don’t find that surprising. However, this attitude that there must be some disease causing ALL of the increased mortality from underweight people, we just don’t know about it yet, we just can’t detect it–do they have any idea how they sound? Try replacing “underweight” in the above quote with “overweight and obese”. Say that and you’ll be… a denialist!

And note that there ARE diseases which cause weight gain/overweight and obese BMIs, as well as ones which cause people to be underweight. Stress, depression, thyroid conditions, and I’m sure that there’s others that I’m not thinking of or don’t know about… or that nobody knows about, just as there might be diseases nobody knows about causing people to be underweight. In fact, all three of the ones I just listed can ALSO cause people to lose weight/be underweight.

It seems that whenever there is data linking thinness to ill health or fatness to good health, it is always questioned or explained away, while data linking thinness to good health and fatness to bad health is accepted with little debate. 
(Brian was one of the first ones I saw pithily and specifically pointing this out, in comments here: “…would it be disingenuous to point out that there is always an excuse to make thin-unfriendly science disappear? And yet when Fat Acceptance activists suggest possible factors being ignored on the other side of those reports, we’re in “denial”?”)

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