Monday, December 17, 2012

High blood pressure is the biggest global killer...but obesity isn't far behind, warn leading scientists

Below is a report of a huge body of research recently published.  It aims to find what ails the WORLD.  One wonders what the point of that is.  As it points out itself, disease incidence varies markedly from country to country.  So the report must be some sort of classic of overgeneralization.  Leftists are normally blind to the individual and insist on seeing people in groups only but this is ridiculous.

And the conclusions are as foolish as one would expect.  What does it mean for "obesity" to be a major killer?  All the research shows that middling weight people live longest.  So if the report had any precision, it should be saying that extremes of weight is the big killer.  The whole thing is arrant nonsense that tells us nothing useful.  The key academic journal article concerned is here.  I have read a fair bit of the report and all I found was reams of carefully tabulated but meaningless data. 

The national life expectancy table was at least amusing, however.  The male life expectancy is 79 for Australia and Japan,  77 for the UK and 76 for the USA.  Iceland was tops at 80, followed by Andorra, Switzerland and Sweden.  Given the large minorities with different health outcomes in the U.S., the overall U.S. figure is another bit of meaninglessness, of course. 

High blood pressure killed more than nine million people worldwide in 2010, making it the greatest overall health risk.

Smoking and alcohol came second and third, according to the study which looked at the trends of 43 risks between 1990 and 2010.

High body mass index was the biggest ‘climber’, moving from tenth place in 1990 to sixth in 2010.

That year more than three million deaths were attributable to excess body weight - more than three times as many as under-nutrition.

In Australasia and southern Latin America, high BMI ranked as the leading risk factor.

The research, published in The Lancet, was carried out by an international consortium of scientists as part of the Global Burden of Disease Study 2010.

Professor Majid Ezzati, of Imperial College London, said: 'Overall we’re seeing a growing burden of risk factors that lead to chronic diseases in adults, such as cancer, heart disease and diabetes, and a decreasing burden for risks associated with infectious diseases in children.

'But this global picture disguises the starkly different trends across regions.

'The risks associated with poverty have come down in most places, like Asia and Latin America, but they remain the leading issues in sub-Saharan Africa.'

The researchers estimated both the number of deaths attributed to each risk factor and disability-adjusted life years (DALYs), a unit that takes into account both years of life lost and years lived with disability.

Prof Stephen Lim, of the University of Washington, said: 'We looked at risk factors for which good data are available on how many people are exposed to the risks and how strong their effects are, so that our results can inform policy and programmatic choices.'

Smoking, including second-hand smoke, was the risk factor with the biggest burden in western Europe and high-income North American countries, and accounted for 6.3 million deaths worldwide in 2010.

Dietary risk factors and physical inactivity collectively accounted for one tenth of DALYs in 2010, with the most prominent dietary risks being too much salt and not enough fruit.

Prof Ezzati said: 'The good news is there are lots of things we can do to reduce disease risk.  'To bring down the burden of high blood pressure, we need to regulate the salt content of food, provide easier access to fresh fruits and vegetables, and strengthen primary healthcare services.  [Rubbish!]

'Under-nutrition has come down in the ranking because we’ve made a lot of progress in many parts of the world.

'This should encourage us to continue those efforts and to replicate that success in Africa, where it’s still a major problem.'


The fruit fetish

Just one excerpt from the research mentioned above. 

To deconstruct it:  The old correlation is causation fallacy would seem to be at work.  Richer people probably eat more fruit and veg.  In poor countries many people live almost entirely on a carbohydrate staple such as rice.  So it is simply richer people who are healthier  -- an already well-known finding.  Fruit need have nothing to do with it.

The Global Burden of Disease researchers uncovered a number of surprises, some of which are likely to be questioned by other epidemiologists and biostatisticians.

As a cause of death and disability, lung cancer is rising, but emphysema and chronic bronchitis — which are also caused by smoking — are declining. The reason appears to be a huge reduction in indoor air pollution from cook stoves (which can also cause emphysema and bronchitis) in China and India.

In charting risk factors, the researchers found that diets low in fruit were responsible for more disease than obesity or physical inactivity. That conclusion was reached through analysis of the health effects of various components of diet and the number of people consuming diets high or low in those components.

“We were very surprised,” Murray said of the fruit finding. “I’m a pretty profound diet skeptic. But the evidence on diet is as convincing as on obesity.”

Murray and Lopez did a similar but smaller Global Burden of Disease in 1996 that described causes of death and risk factors for the world in 1990. The new study recalculated those findings using new data and methods in addition to providing a picture of the world in 2010.


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