Our posts on accepting women’s bodies of all shapes and sizes will sometimes inspire the fat police to appear to denounce any acceptance of being overweight. So I’m very happy to say that the idea that being overweight is unhealthy now has a huge question mark against it. Though we’ve heard this before, the idea is getting new attention from an August finding that even with diabetes II, being overweight can be a protection. From the NY Times:
In study after study, overweight and moderately obese patients with certain chronic diseases often live longer and fare better than normal-weight patients with the same ailments. The accumulation of evidence is inspiring some experts to re-examine long-held assumptions about the association between body fat and disease…
…. there were hints everywhere. One study found that heavier dialysis patients had a lower chance of dying than those whose were of normal weight or underweight. Overweight patients with coronary disease fared better than those who were thinner in another study; mild to severe obesity posed no additional mortality risks.
In 2007, a study of 11,000 Canadians over more than a decade found that those who were overweight had the lowest chance of dying from any cause.
To date, scientists have documented these findings in patients with heart failure, heart disease, stroke, kidney disease, high blood pressure — and now diabetes.
There are many possible explanations. One is that being overweight is often not studied independently of fitness:
The link between obesity and health derives in part from research like the Framingham Heart Study, which has followed thousands of men and women since the 1940s. But Paul McAuley, a professor of health education at Winston-Salem State University, has noted that Framingham and other longitudinal studies often fail to take into account physical activity and fitness.
Research that does tease apart weight and fitness — like a series of studies conducted by Steven Blair at the Cooper Institute in Dallas — shows that being fat and fit is better, healthwise, than being thin and unfit. Regular aerobic exercise may not lead to weight loss, but it does reduce fat in the liver, where it may do the most metabolic damage, according to a recent study at the University of Sydney.
The bottom line? This may be it:
In 2005, an epidemiologist, Katherine Flegal, analyzed data from the National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey and found that the biggest risks of death were associated with being at either end of the spectrum — underweight or severely obese. The lowest mortality risks were among those in the overweight category (B.M.I.s of 25 to 30), while moderate obesity (30 to 35) offered no more risk than being in the normal-weight category.
The article is interesting in another respect, as a comment on what happens to opinions that go against very established beliefs. An early article ran up against the critical review, “This cannot be true.” And as they say, it will take some time before you can expect an internist/general practitioner to accept it. It goes against the “paradigm”.