Posted by Pattie on 7/22/2009 08:33:00 AM

Sandy Szwarc's article over at Junkfood Science about the cost of misplaced priorities in the Great Britain's National Health Service, reminds me once again regarding the costs of this overblown emphasis on "obesity" as an epidemic. I wrote about this in Taking Up Space, but this cost hits close to home. My father's doctor was so concerned to put my father on a diet when he started gaining weight and so convinced that my father was lying to the doctor when my father said he wasn't eating anything to make him gain weight, that the doctor ignored a treatable medical condition, hemochromatosis, until my father checked into the emergency room because he couldn't breath and he had 27 pounds of fluid removed from his abdomen. The fluid was due to his liver deteriorating because of having too much iron in his blood. He passed away 18 months later from liver failure, preventable liver failure, at 69 years old.

Sudden weight gain is a symptom sometimes, a symptom of underlying conditions that are ignored because in medical circles they care too much about the symptom and not enough about the underlying causes.

Looking back on my own history, in 1997, I became ill with what was diagnosed at the time as lupus. I say "at the time" because at the moment I'm not sure if it was lupus. One of the symptoms during that year was that I gained about 80 pounds in about 8 months. This was assumed to be because I became inactive during that time. I was riding my bike to school (6 miles round trip, 3 days a week) and walking a lot. I became bed ridden and wracked with constant pain that nothing seemed to relieve. The weight gain was not considered a symptom. After all, I was already fat, so this was just me eating too much. It was "obvious" to the doctors and I was too sick to fight the fight and not as informed as I am now.

In the past 2 years I've been diagnosed with hypothyroidism. As I have read more about this, I've come to realize that my lupus symptoms might have been subclinical hypothyroidism, ESPECIALLY if we had taken account the weight gain. What I do know is that once I got on the thyroid medication, many of my lupus symptoms subsided after years of semi-helpful treatments.

How many deaths and misdiagnosis (and the wrong treatments) have occurred because doctors are so busy giving fat people diets that don't work to help us lose weight that may have been gained due to an underlying disease? I've spent 12 years of my life suffering and while I can't be sure if this is true, it looks now like I spent that time suffering because I've been treating the wrong condition.

I know that it is possible that medical professionals have their hearts in the right place. But frankly, I don't care anymore. The fact is most of what passes for science in the question of obesity is bad science. AND ...

An error does not become truth by reason of multiplied propagation, nor does truth become error because nobody sees it. --Mohandas Gandhi


gabfly1 said...

I agree with your comments. I wanted to add that there seems to be no one who is discussing how prejudices affect the attitude toward the patient. Certain patients are assumed to be worthy of medical intervention, including such things as pain management, and certain other patients are assumed to be unworthy. Unfortunately, the fat are often in the latter category, in large part because the medical professional will assume that she is indulgent, lazy, and out-of-control. Insofar as the obesity epidemic is portrayed in moral terms (as it is) and insofar as medical professionals see themselves as moral arbiters, the fat person is in a bigger bind. Medical professionals will need more than statistical awareness to address these biases.