Monday, March 24, 2008

I'm metabo - so what!

"Metabolic Syndrome" seems to be medical speak for what used to be "fat". I wonder how long it will be before the pharmaceutical industry invents a new syndrome (and the treatment to go with it) for the state of having no identifiable disease.

The title of this post is (the translation of) a new book by some Japanese person who argues that being a little overweight is nothing to be worried about. But "metabolic syndrome" seems to be all the rage here, eg our canteen has lots of notices about "metabo" on the tables among the general info on health and diet. The Govt is now apparently jumping on the bandwagon, adding a "metabo test" to the annual health check that all employees have to undertake each year, and even threatening to fine companies that have too many fat people. The real issue behind this is healthcare costs and productivity, of course. Notwithstanding that the obesity level here is way behind the west, it is increasing at quite a rate.

So what is this "metabo test"? It appears to be mostly based on a simple waist measurement, with a threshold of 85cm (33.5") to mark the "at risk" population (for women it's 90cm/35.5"). While this has the advantage of simplicity and economy, it can hardly be a reliable measure - I'm on the wrong side of it (after a big meal, at least)!

As I mentioned, we already have an annual health check, which has in the past generated the risible result of some flabby wheezing pot-bellied man in a white coat trying to tick me off for gaining a kilogramme over the year, and advising me to try to get out for a brief stroll at lunchtime. Since I already cycle to and from work most days (a hilly 40 minute ride in each direction) I mentally placed his advice in the circular file where it belonged. I'm lighter now than 15 years ago when I was mostly rowing (and pretending to be a student) and frankly a bigger problem is maintaining a healthy weight on Japanese-sized portions (hence the occasional chicken binge, or more likely visit to the local curry). So I am amused by the thought that some wheezing flabby man in a white coat may tell me I'm at risk from "metabo", or that the Govt may fine JAMSTEC for not looking after me properly.

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