IMAT 2011 Q33 [Flaw | Overweight Concern]

Over the last twenty years the number of people, including children, classed as overweight, and therefore at risk of serious health problems, has risen alarmingly. This trend could be caused by an increase in the amount people eat or by a decrease in the amount of exercise they take. Most of us exercise less than people did twenty years ago, and the average number of calories consumed per person is now less than it was twenty years ago. So the increase in the number of overweight people is clearly caused by lack of exercise. Thus the government does not need to worry about trying to change people’s diets.

Which one of the following identifies the flaw in this argument?

A. Some people may exercise more than the average.

B. Some individuals may have increased their calorie intake.

C. The government may need to worry about costs to the health service.

D. Children may use up more calories through exercise than adults.

E. Some individuals may have health problems which cause an increase in weight.

Reminder:

  1. Read the question first
  2. Read the passage
  3. Find the conclusion, highlight keywords
  4. Find assumptions that the argument lies on
  5. Attack these assumptions with the answer options
  6. Discard any invalid options and you’ll have your answer

After reading the passage, the sentence that you should underline is “So the increase in the number of overweight people is clearly caused by lack of exercise”. This is a bold statement and clearly is a strong language choice from the author, consider it a red flag. Next we can find the conclusion, which is the last sentence: “Thus the government does not need to worry about trying to change people’s diets”. The assumption in the argument can be seen from this last sentence, it is assuming that the rise in overweight people has been caused by a lack of exercise only, and diet has not played a role since on average it has decreased. Our goal is to now find an answer that challenges this idea.

A. This is something that does not contradict the text, which says that “most of us exercise less than people did 20 years ago…” not all of us did. Some people does not include only overweight people, it emcompasses the population, so those who exercise more are less likely to be overweight, and the problem is solely on those who do not get enough activity. Therefore this is not the correct answer.

B. If this was the case, it does not mean everyone eats less calories than they did 20 years ago, just overall there is a reduction in average calories consumed. There could be outliers who eat much more than the average amount. Next we can go back to the text and see that it says the trend in more people being overweight “could be caused by an increase in the amount people eat or by a decrease in the amount of exercise they take”. So piece it together, if some people did eat more calories, and either lack of exercise or poor diet can cause weight gain, then diet must play a significant role. This is the flaw in the argument because the assumption of the text is that being overweight is caused by lack of exercise, however this statement proves it is not necessarily true, therefore the conclusion that the government does not need to worry about changing diets becomes invalid since diet is playing a role. Therefore B is the correct answer.

C. There is no mention of cost in this passage, it is an opinion piece asking for change without reflecting on money. This is a common trap, it would make sense in real life that such a program would be expensive, however this is just a call to action that is not considering the financial feasibility.

D. This is not a relevant answer and it does not make a difference. It says that the rise of overweight people also includes children, and the text is stating that diet is not responsible for the increase but it is lack of exercise. If children burned more calories but they were still becoming more and more overweight, it would not be down to the calories consumed but rather exercise, because it would be easier to get rid of calories for them. Therefore this is not the correct answer.

E. In a general population there will always be outliers, the amount of people with health problems causing them to be overweight is likely not reflective of the general population. This is why this answer is incorrect, because it is projecting the problems of a small set of individuals onto a larger population.