Will a pastry a day keep the doctor away?
By James Kingsland “I HAVE a great heart and great legs but the rest of me is hopeless,” says Stanton Glantz cheerfully. The 59-year-old professor of medicine from the University of California, San Francisco, is just a few supersize colas away from being officially obese, but he reckons he’s in tip-top condition. “I just got back from a 350-mile bike trip all over the south-west of the United States,” he says. That must have burnt off a few pounds? He laughs. “I lost no weight whatsoever. I was eating like a pig I was so hungry all the time.” The received medical wisdom is that Glantz’s weight puts him at risk of a slew of illnesses, from osteoarthritis and cancer to diabetes, hypertension and heart disease. But he is confident that as long as he keeps his weight stable with exercise and eats a sensible diet, the risks are not nearly as serious as they’re cracked up to be. Many doctors would disagree, but the balance of scientific evidence may be tipping in Glantz’s favour. Nobody doubts that people living in developed countries are fatter on average than previous generations. But the widely repeated claim that this epidemic of flab is endangering the lives of millions of people is now mired in controversy. Some scientists claim that the most apocalyptic estimates – which put obesity on a par with smoking as a public health hazard – are grossly inflated. They also argue that most of the people who fall into the “overweight” category between normal and obese are perfectly healthy. Stranger still,