Monday, January 14, 2013

“Obesity Crisis; Real or Imagined?”

As seen on!
Being overweight (BMI  25–29)) was associated with LOWER mortality than “normal” weight, in an analysis of nearly 100 studies! This impressive review, published in a prestigious medical journal, included nearly 3 million people from around the world. Lower mortality rates were also found for “grade one obesity” (BMI 30-35), compared to normal weight people (BMI 18.5-24). 

Happy New Year to me!  I’ve been talking about this phenomenon for ages, based on many individual population studies.  But this is the mother of all studies!

So what do we do now?  Encourage people to gain weight instead of lose weight?  Should government subsidies provide cheaper, low quality, potentially toxic foods to fatten us up?  Should pharmaceutical industries create drugs that coax weight gain instead of weight loss?  Should surgeons be sued for weight loss surgeries that mutilate digestive systems, before having adequate evidence of creating long-term health?  These ideas sound may sound absurd, but no more absurd as the opposite.

My message has not changed.  People naturally come in all sizes, and everyone must strive to live a healthy lifestyle.  Every overweight person will not live longer; these studies simply reflect trends.  There are probably evolutionary advantages to all sizes, which ought not be messed with.  Super -obese people may live  longest if our food supply dried up, but may die off a bit sooner if not needed for survival.  Don’t they deserve respect for this important role?

So how can we reduce stigma, bias and discrimination against people of size, while helping everyone to become healthy?  First of all, stop beating yourself up for feeling fat!  It is abusive, demeaning, degrading, and counter-productive.  It is exactly the same as if you called other people those ugly names.  Offer yourself the same respect you would offer friends or strangers.

 Next, our government should eliminate ” ideal weights” and “BMI’s.”  Assess health according to lifestyles, biological markers, (blood pressure, cholesterol and insulin resistance), and perhaps some physical measures of strength and endurance.  

 Exercise often improves all of these indicators, for people of all sizes!

Nuts, avocados, dark chocolate, fruits, whole grains and salmon are healthier than partially hydrogenated oils, processed foods, and chemicals for everyone.  Responding appropriately to hunger and satiation might work better than portion control, and coping effectively is always a plus… regardless of pounds on a scale.

 Americans are living longer than ever, despite being fatter.  This doesn’t sound like a crisis to me!  In times of abundance, people maximize height, weight, and longevity, but we must realize the price for living longer.  Being mortal, we must die from something.  Deaths from cancer in the US are astronomically high, compared to cancer deaths in India, because they don’t live long enough in India for those cancers to develop!  It’s not because we’re fatter!

 So let’s stop the hysteria, and use the wonders of medical science to replace a knee, control diabetes and manage other maladies, without blaming fat people for being fat.  We don’t blame thin people for being thin, despite their higher death rate than overweight people!

 Genetics account for at least 60% to 80% of our weight, so let's do the best we can with what we have.