CBS Begins Week-Long Gut Check

     Stock up on your oatmeal and flax seed because CBS News this week is taking you on a road trip with junk food-resistant correspondent Mika Brzezinski. The road-tripping correspondent weighed in on an Evening News series this week, Road to Ruin: Obesity in America.

     On the Monday Evening News and in her online diary, Brzezinski drove at proving an obesity crisis in the United States by citing government Body Mass Index (BMI) statistics which can trivialize the difference between the truly obese and those who are only numerically obese by the rigid government formula. Whats more, Brzezinski blamed only poor diet, but not lack of exercise, for subjects packing on the pounds.

     Brzezinski opened her report from what is reportedly Americas fattest city, at a truck stop in Houston, where she braced her viewers for a week-long gut check: Twenty years ago, just a few states had a weight problem, but take a look at today: 41 states have dangerous levels of obesity and were going to travel through that red zone where a quarter of the population is obese.

     Her diary entry from earlier in the day helpfully pointed her readers to a government Web site with the same graphic that she aired on screen on the Evening News, illustrating as she argued, exactly how bad and quickly things have spiraled out of control.

     But in Do You Really Need to Lose Weight, a article from May 2005, writer Dulce Zamora relayed criticism of blind adherence to BMI standards. Zamora turned to two experts, Paul Campos, author of The Diet Myth: Why America's Obsession with Weight Is Hazardous to Your Health and Dr. Patrick ONeil, who heads the Weight Management Center at the Medical University of South Carolina.

     Campos flatly stated the overweight grouping in the BMI scale was a phony category which doesn't have medical justification, and was devised for statistical scorekeeping, not clinical diagnosis. Zamora added an example of how someone could be technically obese under BMI standards but athletically conditioned: one recent study found that more than half of National Football League (NFL) players were obese according to their BMIs.

     Zamora then quoted Dr. O'Neil, noting that he agrees that BMI numbers alone should not be used to determine whether someone needs to lose weight, but that BMI is generally a good clinical tool for initial screening.

     Added ONeil, The BMI is an excellent tool for helping you figure out where you areIt's a lot less useful for helping you figure out where you personally need to be.

     Certainly, Americans need to be getting enough exercise as well as eating right, but, Brzezinski only blamed Americas fat problems on food thats fast, easy, and hard to resist, a temptation especially beguiling to the truck drivers Brzezinski featured in her story.
     A new Duke University study shows exercise helps keep off the visceral fat, the fat around the abdomen. So just eating right would not be enough to keep off excess weight. Exercise is vital, especially for those, like the truck drivers whom Brzezinski featured, have a mostly sedentary job.