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Is epidemic a big beat-up?

CSU researcher announces end of 'obesity epidemic'.

A controversial new book by a Charles Sturt University (CSU) researcher argues that the so-called ‘obesity epidemic’ has been grossly exaggerated by both the media and the medical mainstream.

In his second book on the topic, The End of the Obesity Epidemic, Associate Professor Michael Gard, a lecturer and researcher at the CSU School of Human Movement Studies in Bathurst, argues that in their attempts to raise awareness about obesity, researchers and health authorities completely misrepresented the size and nature of the problem.

“In total contrast to the widely held view that obesity rates are rocketing out of control, we are not in the middle of an obesity health crisis,” Gard said.

“Obesity rates have been stable or falling around the Western world for over 10 years. Health in most Western countries is improving, while obesity is simply one among the many health challenges we face.

“The recent statistics on health and life expectancy in Australia make this point exactly. The obesity research community has for the last decade been predicting sky-rocketing rates of obesity and plummeting life expectancy. Neither of these claims are true, nor are they likely to come true any time soon.”

Gard said the book would inform those interested in the way Western countries tend to “breed health panics”.

“While there was an element of truth about the obesity ‘epidemic’, it never was, and is not now, nearly as serious as declared by some. The book is a case study in how and why health panics - as scientific, political and cultural issues - grow and spread,” he said.

Gard hopes that the book will contribute to more rational and humane thinking about health and health policy. “There are already signs that some Western countries are walking away from the idea of an obesity crisis and others will soon follow.

“The point of this book is that in their attempts to raise awareness about obesity, many interest groups completely exaggerated the problem. As far as health resources are concerned, a huge amount of wasteful and ineffective policy has been enacted. This is why hysterias like the ‘obesity epidemic’ matter; they divert our attention away from the important challenges that face us,” he said.

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