Wednesday, November 14, 2007

Is being overweight good for you?

On November 2 I participated in a radio debate organised by radio Netherlands, the Dutch world service ( The debate was inspired by a book called 'Diet Nation: exposing the obesity crusade' ( The first author of the book, Patrick Basham (, participated in the debate, and he claims that the danger of being overweight is wildly over-estimated. According to Basham, the present “hysteria” about fatness is the result of alarmist lobby groups and bad science. He provides evidence indicating that people who are thin have lower life expectancy than people who are overweight.
Basham is right in claiming that being a bit overweight is not that bad for health. But obesity, i.e. being grossly overweight is, and on the road to obesity one passes through different stages of being a bit, than a bit more, and more and more extra bodyweight. Time trend research shows that people generally gain between 0.5 and 1 kg per year, and over the course of a few decades this does lead to health-threatening levels of obesity.
Basham claims that lobby groups, including the dieting industry, exaggerate the dangers of being overweight. Although I am sure that the lobby of the food industry to encourage people to eat more than they need is much stronger than the weight-loss industry, it is true that most dieting/weight loss strategies that are commercially marketed do not work in the long run. Almost all diets do lead to weight loss if people comply to the rules and regulations prescribed, but most diets are hard to maintain and such diets are often not well-varied and maintenance is therefore too difficult and if maintained such diets may lead to unhealthy nutrition. People who do loose weight generally regain the kilos soon enough when they stop dieting and start eating their ‘normal’ diet again. In order to curb the obesity epidemic we should therefore not focus on promoting weight loss among people who are somewhat overweight. We should focus on promotion of health eating and plenty of physical activity to help to prevent further weight gain and to promote physical fitness. It is better to be fit and somewhat overweight than unfit and lean. The HOPE project (Health promotion through Obesity Prevention in Europe) is dedicated to informing obesity prevention efforts:

Sunday, November 11, 2007

Body@Work and a new professor of occupational health.

On Thursday November 8, Dr. Allard van der Beek held his inaugural address to accept his chair in occupational health. His address was preceded by a symposium reporting on the Body@Work project (, a collaboration between the EMGO institute ( and TNO Quality of Life ( to support an conduct research on physical activity, work and health.
Professor Allard van der Beek argued in favour of carefully planned and evaluated preventive occupational health care in order to develop better interventions and improve evidence-based practice. He further argued that such research to develop preventive occupational health interventions should be especially focussed on opening the ‘epidemiological black box’, i.e. to gain better understanding on why and how certain behaviours are associated with work disability, and on intervention mapping (, i.e. to carefully tailor interventions to specific needs and characteristics of the target population. Such research is dependent on multidisciplinary collaborations.Allard also completed his first marathon recently…