Newsflash! Researches Are Human, Don’t Want to Believe Study That Contradicts Their Beliefs

We all love to read things that confirm our biases, which is why, a day after I made the statement that a little extra weight is good for your health (which I didn’t make up, but came from previous research), another study gets blasted all over the media that being a little fat reduces death rates a bit.

You can find this pretty much everywhere, but here’s a typical link.

Of the many stories on this, most follow the same structure:

1. Report the findings

2. Have researchers who have spent their life stating otherwise go to great lengths to trash the results.

3. Commenters on the story hurl insults at fat people and the research.

Sigh…this is all getting so tiresome. It’s so predictable, like watching the same episode of a TV show over and over.

The first part came as no surprise: really fat people die sooner. We don’t know why this is (really, we don’t), but it’s pretty apparent that being really fat isn’t good for you – no shocker there.

The shocker came when they looked at overweight people and slightly obese folks:

…overweight individuals were found to be 6 percent less likely to die prematurely than normal-weight ones, and people with grade 1 obesity were 5 percent less likely to die than normal weight folks.

And their speculation on why this is seems reasonable:

…small amounts of excess fat may provide needed energy reserves to fight off certain illnesses and offer beneficial effects for recovering from some types of traumatic injuries. They said these effects that should be examined for future studies.

That’s why we have fat – as a reserve for the body. Nothing controversial there. Headline: ‘Body Fat Does What We Always Thought it Did’. (Note to any people studying to be researchers: ALWAYS put the ‘more research required’ sentence in ANYTHING you write.)

Lastly, to satisfy the mainstream and not piss off their colleagues, they tell you to ignore their findings:

Regardless of the conclusions reached, the study’s authors won’t advise normal weight individuals to pack on extra pounds.

“Our goal is really to summarize existing information and not conclude what people should do, other than follow good health practices, no matter what their weight,” Flegal told the Los Angeles Times. Her team also published a study in 2005 that concluded overweight people had lower mortality.

Really – pretty tame. There’s a slight advantage to being a few pounds overweight. Despite this advantage – and finding the same thing repeatedly – don’t do it! It’s not healthy despite research showing your death rate decreases.

Despite their professional restraint, researchers lined up to trash the findings, calling the study rubbish and their methods flawed. We do not know for certain if the researchers saying this actually read the research, since it was only reported yesterday, though researchers are smart people and probably fast readers.

The most puzzling quote is this one:

Dr. David Katz, the director of the Yale University Medical School Prevention Research Center, told HealthDay the study presents complex messages but he notes that it only looked at death rates, not disease rates, so overweight people may be living sicker.

“It may well be being overweight does increase the risk of such conditions as Type 2 diabetes, or medication use for cardiac risk factors, without increasing mortality,” he said.

So let me get this straight. Since it only looked at death rates, overweight people may be living sicker.

Is that opposed to the opposite: dying healthier?

Lastly, we come to the fat-person-denigration portion of the study – the most fun for the thin and morally superior among us. The comments on this story include:

Great, just what we need more fat old people. Whoopie.


Yeah right, bet this was a study by fat people for fat people…

Anything to “Justify” their lack of self control.


Quackery. Pure and simple.

I don’t know why I read research anymore – the discourse surrounding studies that don’t agree with our preconceived notions are not debated in a scientific manner like science is supposed to be – they’re trashed because they don’t conform and called rubbish.

Maybe there’s a problem in science where science can’t advance anymore because too many researchers have already come to conclusions on things that are still in debate?

2 thoughts on “Newsflash! Researches Are Human, Don’t Want to Believe Study That Contradicts Their Beliefs

  1. The problem in science is this faulty notion that there needs to be scientific consensus in order (I assume) to prevent mistakes. Actually, scientific consensus tends to perpetuate mistakes. Here’s the late Michael Crichton’s take on consensus science:

    “I regard consensus science as an extremely pernicious development that ought to be stopped cold in its tracks. Historically, the claim of consensus has been the first refuge of scoundrels; it is a way to avoid debate by claiming that the matter is already settled. Whenever you hear the consensus of scientists agrees on something or other, reach for your wallet, because you’re being had. Let’s be clear: the work of science has nothing whatever to do with consensus. Consensus is the business of politics. Science, on the contrary, requires only one investigator who happens to be right, which means that he or she has results that are verifiable by reference to the real world(2). In science consensus is irrelevant. What is relevant is reproducible results. The greatest scientists in history are great precisely because they broke with the consensus. There is no such thing as consensus science. If it’s consensus, it isn’t science. If it’s science, it isn’t consensus. Period.”

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