New Blog

I am no longer posting on this blog. I have a new political blog called The Burning Itch, which is updated regularly.

July 27, 2007

No, Fat Is Not Contagious

I awoke Thursday morning ready to read The Seattle Times. I'm sure many people read their local paper in the morning as well. It is an activity that seems retrospectively moot most of the time, since the paper mostly glosses over the news I already saw on the Internet the day before. But I digress.

I've become accustomed to sensationalism in the media, including in my newspaper. They have to make the lead story and the rest of the front page interesting to grab the attention of potential readers. I expect this, but I also expect that behind that relatively mundane sensationalist attired there to be some actual information. Unfortunately, Thursday morning my trusted newspaper let me down.

The lead story was about Boeing's 787 and its first flight coming up. It's at least a competent story, seeing as Seattle was once called the Jet City. But the story that took up the majority of page was actually one about a new study that had been released, titled "Is fat contagious?"

The piece was written by The Washington Post and was quite disappointing. First off, the title asserts that fat can be "caught" from one person to another. According to the "study", being around people greatly increases your risk of being fat. I presume these assessment techniques would also find that bread causes people to commit crimes, since many criminals had carbohydrates in their system during criminal acts.

The article even states:
"[T]he researchers are not saying that obesity is literally caused by a virus or some other pathogen, or that factors such as poor diet, lack of exercise or genetics are unimportant.

Rather, the findings suggest that once a person becomes obese, for whatever reason, it may make it more socially acceptable for people close to him or her to gain weight, and that new social norms can proliferate quickly."

In other words, humans are affected by their environment. Bravo researchers, bravo. You've stumbled across a textbook from psych 101, applied some simple statistics, and magically you have what the Times calls a "trailblazing study." I just hope the next time they decide to ignore a fairly large story, such as the fact that US Attorney General may have lied under oath to Congress, that they actually obtain material that can even be considered news.

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