(mis)information proliferation
August 14, 2003 11:51 AM

I've taken to writing letters to people more and more these days. I figure, if you're going to act like an idiot, the least I can do is try to educate you.

Part of the problem is the proliferation of opinions on the internet. Things get passed around and occasionally misread, then the misreadings get interpreted as fact. I used to ignore these misread "facts", but then I started seeing the same numbers cited in different places. It turns into things like the legendary feminist bra-burnings that never quite happened, or even simple things like the notion that a woman who weighs 100 pounds and is 5'8" might be curvaceous.

So, yeah. Now I write letters the first time I see these odd little things cropping up. I stand in front of what could turn out to be media tanks.

At least I can say I did something.

Case in point. Guy takes a scientific article about a possible new thyroid medication (thyroid meds help burn calories more quickly, among other things, but they also speed up the heart rate). Guy turns article into a lambast about fat people and their inability to control their appetite.

One thing in particular intrigues: he talks about fat people eating these ungodly numbers of calories per day. And maybe some do, but I doubt 6-10K calories a day is even sustainable by most people. That's like sumo calories, yo. You have to work hard to convince yourself to eat that much.

So, I suspect that this might be the next randomly stupid "fact" that enters circulation.

Letter I wrote, for the curious. I should have cited more statistics. Oops.

I'm curious about the source of your 6000-10000 daily caloric intake fact/opinion you cite large people eating in your newsmax.com article this week. --------------------------- Frankly speaking, you have to wonder if most obese people have 'what it takes' to get a grip on their problem. Do they have the self-discipline to cut their caloric intake down to about 1,200 per day, after eating probably 6,000 to 10,000 per day? Can they withstand the massive hunger pangs that will grip them for weeks until their bodies adjust? Do they have the mental toughness to stay away from a Big Mac or a milkshake?

From http://leboutillier.blogspot.com/2003_08_10_leboutillier_archive.html#106060717170960098

And
http://www.newsmax.com/archives/articles/2003/8/11/123509.shtml
---------------------------------

Given my understanding that a 6000 calorie diet would sustain an active artic explorer, and that your average Thanksgiving dinner binge is about 3-4K calories, your numbers seem more than a little on the high side.

I'd also like to question your premise. It's interesting to note that many fat or "obese" people in fact consume pretty much the same 1500-2500 calorie diet as the rest of us - which is actually what the thyroid "cure" cited in the AP article that I suspect was one of your sources is all about (see article here: http://www.floridatoday.com/!NEWSROOM/healthstoryA7263A.htm). With or without exercise, people burn different amounts of energy; for a lot of fat people, thyroid medications in combination with exercise help, but most thyroid meds come with potentially serious side effects.

The issue of obesity is not as simple as will power (people on even starvation-level daily diets of 800 calories or less can eventually begin to gain weight), and I hope that your next article or op-ed piece on the subject will take a more balanced approach to research on the subject.

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