On that Cuban starving the populace makes them healthier study

I\’ve never really quite believed Cuban health statistics. Who would believe the output of a communist dictatorship in an rea where they claim that they\’re world leaders?

But put that aside for a moment over this latest study.

The hard times experienced by the people of Cuba in the early 1990s – when food was short and petrol almost unobtainable owing to the tightening of the US embargo and loss of Russian support – led to falling rates of heart disease and diabetes, say doctors.

Researchers studied the so-called \”special period\” between 1991 and 1995, when people resorted to donkeys to transport loads and the government imported 1.5m bicycles from China, to see whether eating less, walking, cycling and manual labour made a difference to the health of the population as a whole.

Deaths from diabetes and heart problems fell as the diet reduced and the exercise rose: then as the economy improved they rebounded. We know what\’s coming next, don\’t we?

In a commentary supporting the call for government action, Walter C Willett, professor and chair department of nutrition at Harvard School of Public Health in Boston, says the study offers \”powerful evidence that a reduction in overweight and obesity would have major population-wide benefits. To achieve this is perhaps the major public health and societal challenge of the century. Medical treatment of people at high risk for disease will have limited impact on mortality rates if the primary causes of disease are not dealt with, and reviews agree that solutions will require multi-sectoral approaches.\”

Potential strategies include \”educational efforts, redesign of built environments to promote physical activity, changes in food systems, restrictions on aggressive promotion of unhealthy drinks and foods to children, and economic strategies such as taxation.\”

Yup, you got it. They\’re preparing to starve us all in order to make us healthier.

The original information is interesting and useful: but that twat seems to have forgotten that we get to decide our path from cradle to grave, not them deciding it for us.

Looking at the actual paper though I found something much more interesting:

We used the following categories for body mass index: underweight (<18.5), normal weight (18.5-<25), overweight (25-<30), and obesity (?30). All participants in the four surveys signed the informed consent. The ethics committee of the University of Medical Sciences, Cienfuegos, approved protocols.

OK, they used the standard BMI categories.

Most cohort studies have suggested a “U” shaped association between body mass index and mortality, with the lowest point in the index range of 24 to 29.

It is obesity (and more so, morbid obesity) that kills, not being overwieght. sure, we know this already: just interesting to see the two points being made in hte same paper.

The idea that we all have to starve ourselves like jockeys to get under 25 is simply wrong. Even with or without that we get to decide part, it\’s still wrong.

20 thoughts on “On that Cuban starving the populace makes them healthier study”

  1. Fifteen years ago I was 18 stone (I’m 6ft 1in tall).

    I was told I was morbidly obese – the BMI charts proved it.

    The fact that I then had a very physical job, played rugby all winter to a pretty high standard, bowled 15 overs and ran around the outfield every Saturday in the summer, swam twice a week, ran marathons, cycled a lot, walked my dog most mornings, lifted a lot of weights, and almost literally didn’t have an ounce of fat on me… all that was irrelevant, apparently.

    Now I’m half an inch or so shorter and three stone lighter, and a lot less fit, though still not unfit, and I’m merely overweight.

    Incidentally, they still do not understand the food/fat relationshiop completely. My wife eats like a fucking horse and does no physical exercise whatsoever, other than walking the dog and housework, and is, and always has been, as skinny as a lath (except in the right places).

    They’re all fucking idiots, that’s my considered opinion.

  2. Wouldn’t this make the North Koreans the healthiest (physically) people on Earth? And they ain’t.

  3. The BMI science is crap. Don’t get me started on calories. Do you know how they are calculated? Food is burnt to a crisp. So unlike how the body actually digests.

  4. The tables for BMI were compiled in the late 1940s. when Britain still had rationing. Basically a half starving population!

    North Korea is the perfect model that we all should aspire to!

    Interested: I disagree with you. They are not all funcking idiots. They are interfering fucking busy bodies and closet dictators with too much time on their hands!

  5. @ SBML & Interested
    Bodyweight is proportional to the volume and density of the body. Volume is, for identically shaped individuals, proportional to the CUBE of the height. The BMI divides bodyweight by the SQUARE of the height.
    Muscle weighs more than fat so a muscular guy. like “Interested” was as a lad gets a higher BMI reading than one with the same volume largely comprised of fat.
    The third “killer” of the BMI fallacy is that it takes no account of build (e.g. breadth of shoulders) so a narrow-shouldered guy like me could build up adequate musculature and still get classified as underweight when I was young (or even during occasional periods of middle-aged fitness) while a broad-shouldered guy the same height with a slightly smaller %age of muscle in body mass and no significant fat was classified as overweight.

  6. BMI is measured by square of height because in general taller people have greater height but do not have proportionately greater girth. Still, BMI is a very inexact guide to anything but is of course now treated, like any other calculatable or measurable number, as some kind of absolute infallible, taking no account of individual circumstances.

  7. BMI is used like Gaussian distribution (bell curve). Rather than use it to find what is in the population, it’s used to make the population fit the curve. BMI is a rough and ready way to find out the sizes of the people in a population.

    Where my wife used to worke, they would deliberately downgrade annual assessments of employees to ensure that the bell curve was the right shape.

  8. Everyone is right about the failings of BMI: Olympic sprinters are borderline-obese.

    But that’s not what BMI is for, and if you’re a rugby centre-forward or an Olympic sprinter and you go to your GP and he tells you you’re obese, then he’s a useless dickhead who should be fired.

    Among average, not-very-active people, who make up the vast majority of the population, BMI is a decent guide to “are you fat”. Although for dudes at least, “can you wear a tight t-shirt without people around you feeling slightly unwell” is probably just as good.

    Obviously, Interested is wrong on the calories stuff. Calories in – calories out = weight gain/loss is a good rule, and the only people who disagree with it are churlish fatties.

    Most people are crap at estimating how many they consume and how many they burn (a large lady of my acquaintance purported to not know how she gained any weight whilst only eating rabbit food, which I believed until she dated my housemate and I saw the “extra large” pizza boxes they’d split in the trash).

  9. JohnB, I’m not wrong, obviously, as I know my wife and you don’t.

    If you seriously think that people do not metabolise food at different rates, and that different foods do not create fat differently (eg carbs vs protein), then you’re a bigger twat than the kind of twat who opines knowingly about the size of “centre forwards” in rugby, when there’s no such position in rugby as “centre forward”.

  10. There’s some famous lab work that was done on monkeys that showed the benefits of calorie restriction. Then some bloody spoilsport pointed out that the results may just conceivably have been influenced by the fact that the control monkeys in the study were given a diet that was 30% sugar.

    I declare those researchers to be honorary climate scientists and the spoilsports to be honorary McIntyres.

  11. I’m no fan of Fidel but if “starving” people makes them lose an average of twelve pounds, starvation is a much less frightening concept than I had assumed. Cubans are still bigger, on average, than we are.

  12. The most bizarre thing here is the conflation of diet and exercise. Being fit is important; being svelte is not.

  13. If the range 24-29 is associated with the longest lifespan, then starving the population is going to bring most under this range.

    Thus, this study is recommending reducing the life expectancy of much of the population.

  14. “…to see whether eating less, walking, cycling and manual labour made a difference to the health of the population as a whole”

    Yeah, It reduces heart disease & diabetes. Did anyone stop & ask what it does to people, living a regime like that? Walking maybe 10 miles to the town, then walking 10 miles back. Maybe with a heavy load in the baking heat of a Caribbean summer. Going to bed hungry every night because they’ve given the kids some of their own meagre ration.
    D’y know. I get an overwhelming urge to educate Walter C Willett, professor and chair department of nutrition at Harvard School of Public Health in Boston, with a base ball bat. I know a couple Cubans’d hold him down for the lecture, as well.

  15. @ #9 Interested
    Quite right
    Long before I heard of “basic metabolic rates” I knew that some children could stay thin while eating more than other fatter kids. My best pal was even skinnier while eating even more. Some (more than a dozen) years later the topic of BMR came up and my sister told me that my brother-in-law (5′ 11″ and 9 stone) radiated heat in bed (because his BMR is much higher than her own).
    @ johnb
    Your criticism on calories is aimed at the wrong person: don’t accuse “Interested” of saying something stupid if you want to criticise SBML.

  16. Oh, just for the hell of it.
    BMI is not constant throughout life. So life expectancy and, to a lesser extent, mortality rates based on BMI index needs to state the pattern of BMI throughout life. There is data showing that rats whose weight is restrained in youth below that which they would reach with unlimited food supplies live longer than those able to eat as much as they wish. The data for humans is, fortunately, not available on a perfectly like-for-like basis – I do not wish to live under a government that would run such experiments.
    Cutting down the number of people who injure their health by over-eating will increase longevity while starving people will reduce it. So, other things being equal, Cuban policies of equally sharing poverty should boost longevity. However things are not equal: the massive increase in income per head under Churchill, MacMillan and Thatcher means that no-one in the UK cannot afford to eat properly, unlike Cuba.
    Not so long ago Tim talked about being able to eat a meal for £1 and a critic argued about whether one could live on £1 a day.

  17. John77 – thanks. I also knew extremely skinny guys who were pound for pound stronger than bigger blokes and could run up and down hills literally all day who *some* doctors said were dangerously underweight.

    BIS – a good point. A lot of people I worked with end up having knee ops in particular because of the extra wear and tear. Bad backs, bad shoulders, bad hips, bad ankles too.

    Exercise is great, but the luxury of slobbing in an armchair with nothing much to do but read a book or watch the Test match is almost the point of what humans are.

  18. Surreptitious Evil

    Where my wife used to worke, they would deliberately downgrade annual assessments of employees to ensure that the bell curve was the right shape.

    RBS did this.

    I did try to point out that the Byzantine recruitment process was designed to ensure that we only recruited very good people – so it shouldn’t be any surprise that everybody was at least okay at their job …

    Nah. Some how-the-flying-eff-did-they-pass-their-MBA somewhere in the slime-mold of ineptitude that was HR had decreed this so that was the way it was.

  19. @ Interested
    Yes, there’s the obvious physical effects you mention. To which I’d add bad teeth & a tendency to bone weakness in women who have children, due to calcium lack & a host of other problems. But what this guy is talking about is the grinding misery of poverty. I share my life with someone who comes from that sort of background. Years after leaving it, she’s still got very limited mental horizons. She’s grown up in a place where they don’t think much past where the next few meals are coming from & achievable expectations are a mystery. She’s very reluctant to trust & to be honest, not easy to trust herself. Trust & honesty aren’t survival traits in that world.

  20. Oh, might be worth adding, my first brush with things Cuban was a Venezuelan journalist I met in London. She got on the wrong side of Fidel’s police, was multiply raped & had cigarette burn scars all over her.
    I don’t share the left’s affection for the country.

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