Oct 2, 2020
At LONG LAST I am pleased to present Part 2 of our deep dive
into the murky underworld of "Big O" - Australia's obesity
organisations, and their links to Big Pharma. Join me and fearless
anti-diet dietitian Mandy-Lee Noble as we reveal the disturbing
progress which Novo Nordisk is making, steadily infiltrating our
universities, academics, health professionals, consumer groups, and
news media with one goal: to make larger bodied Aussies believe
that they are diseased and need urgent treatment! And in spite of
the obesity organisations repeatedly claiming to be 'transparent'
about their funding sources, we keep discovering that NOTHING is
what it seems! Smoke, mirrors and deflections abound, and there is
SO much money being thrown at so many different groups, our heads
are spinning. AND they're using weight stigma as a weapon to push
their drugs and surgeries! It's diabolical double speak and it
needs to be stopped. This is an episode NOT to be missed !
firing up my wonderful anti-diet dietitian guest Mandy-Lee Noble?
Since our last podcast, (Ep #55 - Inside The Obesity Collective),
there have been some new developments on the Big Pharma front,
particularly in how they are trying to shape hysteria around weight
- driving people into treatment and portraying higher weight as
being a health issue in and of itself.
has really spiked Mandy’s frustration is that at the start of 2020
the esteemed journal Nature (in their medical journal ‘Nature
Medicine’) released a “Consensus statement” about obesity
WARNING - we’ll be using the stigmatising ‘o’ word (obese)
throughout this podcast because of how the groups we’re talking
about use it. But we HATE IT because it is implicitly
- So this
group released a joint international consensus statement for the
ending of stigma of the ‘o’ word (with that stigmatising word in
thought … maybe they’re starting to do the right thing? But … no.
Upon reading, it reveals itself as just another push to get people
into treatment simply because they are in a larger
what might be influencing this paper? Let’s check how many times
Novo Nordisk is mentioned in this statement as a ‘conflict of
interest’ … it’s in the double digits. 20 times, out of 40
Nordisk isn’t the only conflict of interest. The major supporters
of this paper were pushing surgical devices for bariatric surgery
has issues about the use of the word ‘stigma’ here. Weight stigma
is when you’re treated poorly just due to your weight, which we
know is an epidemic and happening all the time and leading to poor
health outcomes and disengagement from healthcare. When these
industry groups use that word, they consider it a barrier to people
using treatment! It’s all just dollar-signs to them.
- In the
spirit of transparency - let’s go through the conflicts of interest
for Louise and Mandy. Hope you’ve got some time …. (Louise played a
cricket sound). ;)
- Basically fuck all, right? We’re not getting
paid. We’re here for love, not money - not for the vested interest
of corporations or even of ourselves. This kind of ‘investigative
journalism’ research has an impact on our mental health, for
arcs up at the assumption that people at higher weights need
treatment for disease - the stigma is there in the
reflect on what happened after the last podcast. There were
unexpected ripples from that episode. The powers that be at Obesity
Australia were listening … either that or there were some totally
- Some of
the coincidences: the fact sheets disappeared! The fact sheets
telling people that chips were lethal and to drink Diet Coke to put
off their hunger, all of the magic 1920’s weight loss tips have
vanished. The whole oldy-worldy Obesity Australia website has
vanished and replaced with a trendy new Obesity Collective website.
This all happened within 2 weeks of our last podcast with
was a bit of an MIA issued in the last podcast for the Weight
Issues Network - a consumer group that just didn’t seem to exist,
until it magically appeared very soon after the podcast
wondered, where are they getting the money from? Mandy sent them a
Facebook message asking, and was told that the director would be in
touch. Tiffany Petrie, director of The Obesity Collective, did
reach out and offered to meet us for a coffee, which we accepted.
We then learned Petrie would be bringing some friends to the coffee
(some backup?). Immediately before the coffee date, they … pulled
out! Petrie said she would be too busy for months to meet. The
offer is still open from Mandy and Louise!
- On the
types of articles that are being reposted on the WIN Facebook page,
which has a huge following - at the moment there’s 100 people
following, which includes Louise and Mandy. It’s funny that this
group that’s meant to be addressing weight stigma reposts so many
stigmatising articles. Things about the ‘war on childhood obesity’,
and other articles that make Mandy go “wow”. Overall though, there
isn’t too much action happening on that page.
was contacted by some journalists to comment on the funding that
Obesity Australia receives, and was pleased to see the table she
provided was reproduced entirely in one of the articles (but
Medical Republic released a podcast and media article, which Louise
came away from a bit disappointed - the title of the article was
framed as ‘why is this being battled out between skinny people’, as
if HAES Australia is battling in the ‘war on obesity’. HAES
Australia is a body without industry funding to support people who
want to provide weight-neutral care. Whereas the WIN is a ‘patient’
group which frames obesity as a disease. Completely different
wanted the title of this podcast to be “Obesity Australia, if you
are listening” - a reference to Russia and Trump, and how Obesity
Australia seemed to be listening to the last podcast.
Australia, if you ARE listening and if you REALLY are serious and
want to end weight stigma, DO THESE THREE THINGS WE’LL TALK ABOUT
- Number 1: Advocate for medical professionals to disclose
industry funding when they are talking to the media and/or their
about informed consent! What is behind the advice that someone is
receiving? If it’s money, that’s important information to
- A good
example recently from Channel 9 News in a short segment called
‘Study hoped to decrease obesity stigma’. It’s just a minute
or two long. We’ve seen all the ‘war on obesity’ stories, and this
is a new take - obesity
stigma?! But when you
watch the story, it’s nothing new at all. The story is tremendously
stigmatising with all the same language about ‘battling’ weight and
obesity, framing it as the enemy. It also uses ‘headless fatty’
images, of people in larger bodies with their heads not shown,
carrying their fast food lunches around as it was probably filmed
on a lunch break.
program banged on about rates of overweight and obesity as if they
were the rates of people who were unwell - as if everyone in those
groups is diseased. Life expectancy, however, continues to rise
study mentioned in the story was QUITE hard to get hold of. It’s
not even a new study, it was published in February 2019. At least,
we think this is the study because they haven’t referenced it
adequately in the story. Our statistics match up with theirs, so we
think it’s the same one. And the study itself has NOTHING to do
with stigma. The title is “Gaps to bridge: misalignment between
perception, reality and action in obesity”. But the gap is ‘how to
get people to treatment’ - why aren’t more fat people asking for
help from their doctors? That’s basically the only question asked
in the study, and ‘weight stigma’ doesn’t appear in the study. None
of the researchers are weight stigma researchers.
Georgia Regis gives an expert opinion as an ‘obesity physician and
researcher’ that people in larger bodies need to seek medical help.
She’s using the big assumption that everyone in a larger body
requires treatment. And was this opinion out of the goodness of her
heart? Or … perhaps because she has some vested interest that isn’t
declared in this piece?
Regis actually has several conflicts of interest to declare, which
we see on the research articles we read - but people seeing her
speak on the news don’t get that declaration of conflict of
interest. Dr Regis actually received $43,000 over three years from
Novo Nordisk, a company that produces weight loss drugs. And that’s
not the only treatment industry that she’s accepted fees from -
there are other payments here from companies that make products and
treatments for bariatric surgery.
Regis may of course be giving unbiased and evidence-based opinions.
Either way though, just as she is required to do in research, she
should be declaring these conflicts of interest to the media she
speaks to and TO HER PATIENTS. Transparency! It’s even in the
Obesity Australia principles!
fact: Novo Nordisk (you’ll never guess) actually completely funded
this research paper. They also have made other payments to the
authors on the paper, and this is on top of paying for the
researcher’s travel expenses to attend ‘author meetings’ about this
paper. Where would they need to go !??
talk privilege, because it’s necessary when talking about stigma.
Mandy and Louise have the privilege of being educated, having
access to research, and being health professionals. When Mandy and
Louise read this research, conflicts of interest have to be
declared - but it’s not necessary at the moment that these
conflicts are declared to media or to patients. Obesity Australia,
if you’re listening - advocate for health professionals to declare
conflicts of interest.
- Number 2: If you’re listening, Obesity Australia, be
transparent about industry funded consumer groups. This includes
WIN, the Weight Issues Network.
does say on their website (in their ‘transparency statement’) that
they receive some funding from Obesity Australia,
ANZOS and ANZMOS (groups with ties back to Novo
- WIN has
six principles - transparency is one of them, another is about
being ‘safe and empowering’ - providing “information, support, and
a place to have a voice”. So, what we’re asking from them is
definitely in lines with what they say they’re going to provide.
One of our planned ‘coffee questions’ was about where they got
their money from - and at first we were told the money was donated.
Since then we’ve learned that Obesity Australia gave WIN $5,000 to
start them off. We haven’t had a response about how much money they
received from ANZOS
It’s interesting that when we email them we get responses back from
Tiffany, who is not actually part of WIN … it’s all very
- On the
WIN page, we learn that funding has come from the Obesity
Collective, which is basically the same as Obesity Australia. The
other thing is that WIN has now set themselves up as a separate
charity, which means people can donate directly to them and get
(possible) tax exemptions.
other issues we have with transparency - they claim they’re getting
pro bono support. We generally understand that as people providing
work for free. This pro bono work is coming from
PricewaterhouseCoopers. They have a long term business relationship
with Novo Nordisk, having been their auditors for
- WIN has
a board - some with lived experience, a clinician, a researcher and
some others including a bariatric surgeon (we think some of the
people in WIN are this surgeon’s patients). Who we mainly hear from
is Lynne Keppler, who has done some media and spoken at obesity
conferences. What is missing from the board is people who are not
treatment-seeking. All of them describe themselves as a patient or
someone living with a condition of ill health.
- The WIN
also receive some training, some webinars that we’ve seen that come
from Dr Arya Sharma, a Canadian bariatric physician and bigwig in
Obesity Inc. Who paid for
Nordisk paid to fly Dr Sharma in for seminars and meetings - his
expertise here is helping people tell their stories and stay on
track with their key messages, all of which perfectly align with
Novo Nordisk. It’s pretty clear in these webinars that the key
messages he wants people to stay on are that obesity is a disease,
and that weight stigma is a barrier for larger bodied people
seeking weight treatment such as surgery and
what we have is a consumer group that has claimed that they are
transparent, when they’re really receiving training from people who
are heavily funded by Novo Nordisk and being supported by groups
that are supported by Novo Nordisk and other pharma groups and
bariatric supplies manufacturers.
hard to see how this is a transparent consumer group that is free
of conflicts of interest because it’s all being funded by weight
loss treatment industries. That’s our concern.
we’d like Obesity Australia to do, if they’re listening, is
encourage WIN to be transparent. For example, where is the source
funding coming from for events such as the one run by Dr
their website and Facebook group, WIN encourages people to share
their stories. Louise has the question ‘what for?’. Is it so their
stories can be packaged up and used to further the agenda (lobbying
the government to increase obesity services?). It’s a misuse of the
word ‘stigma’. Talking about the stigma you’ve faced takes a toll -
and then that lived experience gets media trained and packaged so
you continue talking to the media and government groups about how
much you need these interventions … it feels really dark. They’re
not really asking people for stories about weight stigma, but about
stories of treatment seeking.
- Number 3: If you’re listening, Obesity Australia, we’d
like you to be transparent about the industry funding that health
professional groups get. Health professional groups are another way
to lobby for change, lobby governments, etc. It would be really
good if we could see those entities also be
example: NACOS, the National Association of Clinical Obesity
Services. Louise had never heard of this group before! It’s quite
new, having only dropped in September 2019, after WIN dropped in
August 2019. Louise read through a NACOS financial report,
wondering who they are and how they came to be. Clinical Obesity
Services are units in hospitals involving teams of health
professionals offering weight loss services. Evan Atlantis, NACOS
President, in his financial report for NACOS wrote that they
are committed to improving health services and clinical services
for patients with obesity, with considerable support and
grant funding from … Novo Nordisk.
the NACOS formed, the Novo Nordisk money paid for Price Waterhouse
Coopers (PWC) to write up a report outlining just how dire obesity
is and how urgently services are needed (you guessed it, completely
the same as the other Novo Nordisk reports written by PWC). PWC
wrote 4 out of the 5 “obesity is dreadful” reports produced by
who is the secretary general of NACOS? Dr Nick … the bariatric
surgeon who is also on the board of WIN.
you’re listening, Obesity Australia, here are those three things we
want you to advocate for if you’re really serious about addressing
1: Advocate for medical professionals to be transparent and
disclose industry funding with media, general public and
2: Consumer groups that are industry funded be more transparent
about all funding, in-kind support and training.
3: That health professional groups be more transparent about their
there something that All Fired Up! listeners could possibly think
about as you move through media and accessing healthcare? We might
look at all this stuff and think “bloody hell, I’m just one person!
What can I do?!”.
you’re talking to anyone medical who is trying to sell or advise
you on weight loss drugs or procedures, ask them to disclose if
they are receiving any payments or training from these groups … and
how much. You need to know if your health professional is being
potentially influenced by industry funding. Research shows that for
the majority of health professionals who are inviting people to use
these drugs or surgeries, their training about them has come
completely from these groups that make money from them. And ask
about the long term side effects!
- We hope
this has been helpful and insightful, and rounded out our journey
down the rabbit hole that we started over a year ago.
- Why is
Novo Nordisk, a HUGE pharmaceutical company, so interested in
little old Australia? Actually, this is happening globally - and
that will be the subject of the next podcast. You won’t believe the size of this
update on Professor Simpson, executive director of Obesity
Australia who had a grant from Novo Nordisk … we found out how much
it was. Let’s remember that the research that Novo Nordisk were
funding was NOT about weight stigma, but about cricket sperm. Hmm.
And that grant amount for research that has nothing to do with
weight stigma? 13 MILLION DOLLARS. The head of Obesity Australia, an organisation
which pretends to be all about weight stigma, is being funded to
the tune of $13 MILLION by Novo Nordisk in order to research
people are really feeling they’re providing unbiased advice, they’d
be happy to provide their conflicts of interest.
- When we
hear messages from the head of Obesity Australia, think about it,
are we really hearing the messages of Novo Nordisk?
- To be
continued! This story isn’t over.
Find out more about my amazing guest Mandy-Lee Noble
The Joint International Consensus Statement for
Ending Stigma of Obesity
Issues Network website
(checkout the logo!)
The Medical Republic
“Why is the war on obesity being
fought by skinny folks”?
Channel 9 news piece
which wasn’t really about weight
study that the Channel 9 news piece was talking about,
which also has nothing to do with weight stigma
The Novo Nordisk funded
National Association of Clinical Obesity