Comment: Why being ‘overweight’ means you live longer: the way scientists twist the facts.

OK, so a friend of mine recently posted a link on Facebook to an article entitled ‘Why being ‘overweight’ means you live longer: the way scientists twist the facts’. I can’t lie, just the title alone made my blood boil. My main concern was, aside from what appeared to be an oversimplification of a phenomenon that scientists know as the ‘obesity paradox’, the title also plays beautifully into the ‘us vs them’ notion that academics are somehow untrustworthy. But, after my blood pressure settled, I decided to give it the benefit of the doubt and read the whole article – I’ve heard at numerous ‘media training’ workshops that it’s not uncommon for editors to alter article titles just before print to make them more appealing and more likely to garner views, so perhaps the body of the article was a bit more nuanced?

The article overall gave the impression that the author was well versed in scientific literature, using well placed quotes from research papers to highlight important points. For example, the author quotes a study from 2005 which used medical data (collected between 1971 and 1994) to show increased mortality (risk of death) in those with BMI’s (Body Mass Index) over 30 (i.e. those classified as obese). He correctly points out that the title of this paper (‘Excess deaths associated with underweight, overweight and obesity’) is misleading and implies that being overweight (i.e. having a BMI of between 25 and 30) increases your risk of mortality, when the study actually finds lower mortality in those with BMI’s between 25 and 30 than for individuals in the ‘ideal’ BMI range (18.5-25), I.e. being moderately overweight is good for you.

These findings do actually agree with a number of similar studies. In fact, in addition to these findings, there are also a whole host of studies which suggest that being overweight can lead to better survival rates following a large range of medical conditions (for example coronary heart disease, chronic heart failure, stroke and more).

So, do I agree with this article? Well, partially.

I agree that the obesity paradox exists and these findings are not often spoken about. However, the reason that they are not often publicised is not because academics want to ‘twist the facts’ or, as the author states, that ‘no one can bring themselves to say: Sorry, we were wrong. A BMI between 25 and 29 is the healthiest weight of all. For those of you between 20 and 25, I say, eat more, become healthier’. It’s because there is much more to these findings than first meets the eye.

I don’t think many doctors or researchers would argue that obesity, especially weight carried around the stomach, is a major risk factor for type 2 diabetes, lipid disorders, hypertension, coronary heart disease and some cancers. A quick search of Google Scholar will turn up a stack of articles suggesting that increased weight is linked to a whole range of long-term conditions.

But, how can both these findings be correct? How can it be possible that being overweight can mean you live longer but you are also more likely to suffer from a chronic illness (i.e. diabetes or heart disease)?

I believe that this is the question we are yet to find a satisfactory answer to, and therefore the reason it’s best to be cautious about making statements such as “being “overweight” is the healthiest and most “normal” weight of all”.

A paper entitled ‘The Obesity Paradox Does Exist’ expressed this problem very well, stating: “the discussion over the existence of the obesity paradox cannot lead to an underestimation of obesity as a crucial risk factor for the development of cardiovascular and metabolic diseases that requires comprehensive prevention and management strategies”.

But what’s my overall impression of this article?

I believe that it does raise awareness of a medical phenomenon which needs to be discussed but, that it does so in a dangerous and inflammatory way. Blaming scientists and accusing them of manipulating/twisting results is not helpful. Neither is writing a biased article which does not acknowledge the breadth and depth of understanding around a topic – i.e. it’s just as dangerous to tell individuals that it’s entirely healthy to be overweight (in the case of this article to even go as far as to suggest that the dangers of obesity are greatly overrated) as it is to ignore this obesity paradox entirely and blame everything on excessive weight. We need to be smart and realise that any reference to things being ‘black or white’ is probably dangerously misleading.

So, what can we take from this article and the related research?

Well, certainly not that it’s always going to be OK to be overweight. But, perhaps that we put too much stock in BMI calculations? Especially when this calculation (weight in kilograms divided by the square of your height in meters) does not take into account the extra weight carried in muscles, an individual’s body shape, fat distribution across the whole body or overall fitness level – all of which are important indicators of whether or not the weight we carry could be harmful. In fact, many of the academics studying this paradox suggest that it may actually be caused by problems related to the BMI measurement rather than any actual protection afforded by excess weight. That means that if you eat well and exercise regularly, even If your BMI is high, you are probably going to be healthier than someone who eats badly, smokes, and rarely gets off the sofa (whatever their BMI). At the end of the day it’s just a number, we all know how healthy our lifestyles are so we shouldn’t believe that such measurements can 100% predict our health outcomes. Hopefully, in the future, researchers can plan studies which allow them to look beyond BMI and work out how different types of fat, where it’s stored on the body and our overall fitness level affect our health – this might give us a better picture of what is really good for us.

Post by: Sarah Fox

References:

Excess deaths associated with underweight, overweight and obesity

The Obesity Paradox: Perception vs Knowledge

Obesity Paradox Does Exist

 

Save

54 thoughts on “Comment: Why being ‘overweight’ means you live longer: the way scientists twist the facts.”

  1. An outstanding share! I have just forwarded this onto a friend who has been doing a
    little research on this. And he in fact bought me lunch due to the fact
    that I found it for him… lol. So allow me to reword this….
    Thank YOU for the meal!! But yeah, thanks for spending time to discuss this matter here on your site.

  2. A lot of thanks for all of the labor on this website.

    Kim really likes setting aside time for internet research and
    it’s eas to see why. We learn all regardring the dynamic manner you deliver very important tricks on your web site and as well as attract participation from others
    on the area of interest so our princess is always starting too learn a lot.
    Take advantage of the remaining portion of the year.
    You are performing a glporious job.

  3. Oh my goodness! Incredible article dude! Thank you so much, However I am hacing issues with yor RSS.
    I don’t undewrstand the reason why I can’t join it.
    Is there anybody getting similar RSS issues? Anyone that knows the
    solution can you kindly respond? Thanx!!

  4. I simply couldn’t goo away yoiur web siote before suggesting tha I
    really loved the usual information a person supply for your
    guests? Is going to be back frequently iin ordsr
    too check out new posts

  5. I’m still learning from you, as I’m trying to achieve my goals.
    I definitely love reading everything that is written on your site.Keep
    tthe aarticles coming. I loved it!

  6. I cherished as much as you will obtain performed proper here.
    The cartoon is attractive, your authored material stylish.
    nonetheless, you commsnd get bought an edginess over
    tht you want be delivering the following. ill unquestionably come more beforehand once more since precisely the simiular nearly very continuously within case you defend this hike.

  7. It’s appropriate time to make skme plans for thhe future and it’s time to be happy.
    I have read thiks post and if I could I wish to suggest you some interesting things or
    tips. Maybe you can write next articles referring to this article.
    I wish too read more things about it!

  8. I woould like to take the ability of thanking you for that professional direction I have
    constantly enjoyed visiting your site. I’m looking forward to the particular
    commencement of my college research and the overall
    preparation would never have been complete without dropping by
    your site. If I may be of anny help tto others, I will be pleaased to help via what I have learned from here.

  9. I feel that is among the most important info for me. And i am
    happy reading your article. But should remark
    on few basic issues, The web site style is great, the articles is in point of fact nice :D.
    Good job, cheers.

  10. Undeniably believe that that you stated. Your fasvorite reason appeared
    to be on the web the easiest thing to have in mind of.
    I say to you, I definitely get irked whilst other folks think abput issues that
    thesy just do not realize about. You managed to hit the nail upon the highest as well as outlined outt
    the entire thing with no need side effect , otfher people could take a signal.
    Will likely bbe again to get more. Thanks!

  11. Hey very cool web site!! Man .. Excellent ..
    Amazing .. I will bookmark your site and take the feeds also?I’m happy
    to search out a lot of useful info here in the publish, we’d like work out
    extra techniques on this regard, thanks for sharing.

  12. A motivating discussion is definitely worth comment.

    I do think that you need to write more about this topic, it might not be a taboo matter but typically folks don’t talk
    about these subjects. To the next! Many thanks!!

  13. This is really fascinating, You’re an overly professional blogger.

    I’ve joined your feed and sit up for in the hunt for more of your magnificent post.
    Additionally, I have shared your website in my social networks

  14. I definitely wanted to post a simple comment to be able to say thanks
    to you for all the splendid items you are giving on this site.
    My particularly long internet research has at
    the end been paid with sensible suggestions to go over with my family.

    I ‘d claim that many of us site visitors actually are truly lucky to exist in a magnificent site with
    many perfect professionals with beneficial tips and hints.
    I feel pretty happy to have discovered your web pages and look
    forward to really more amazing times reading here.
    Thank you again for a lot of things.

  15. I cling on to listening to the rumor talk about getting free online
    grant applications so I have been looking around for the top
    site to get one. Could you tell me please, where could i get some?

  16. Just to follow up on the up-date of this topic on your website and would
    really want to let you know just how much I liked the
    time you took to produce this helpful post. Inside the post, you actually spoke on how to truly handle this problem with
    all ease. It would be my pleasure to get some more concepts from your web-site and come as
    much as offer some others what I learned from you.
    Many thanks for your usual fantastic effort.

  17. Thank you for the blog post. Jones and I are already saving
    to get a new ebook on this issue and your article has made all of us to save the money.
    Your thinking really answered all our questions. In fact, over what we had acknowledged
    prior to when we discovered your great blog. We no longer have doubts including a troubled mind because you
    have attended to our needs above. Thanks

  18. It’s a shame you don’t have a donate button! I’d without
    a doubt donate to this brilliant blog! I guess for now i’ll settle for
    book-marking and adding your RSS feed to my Google account.
    I look forward to fresh updates and will share
    this website with my Facebook group. Talk soon!

  19. Thank you for being the coach on this topic. I actually enjoyed your article a lot and most of
    all enjoyed the way you handled the issues I considered to be controversial.
    You’re always extremely kind to readers much like me and help me in my lifestyle.
    Thank you.

  20. Nice blog right here! Additionally your site quite a bit up fast!
    What web host are you the use of? Can I am getting your affiliate link
    to your host? I wish my website loaded up as quickly as
    yours lol

  21. Hey there I am so delighted I found your website, I really found you by accident, while I was searching on Askjeeve for something else, Anyways
    I am here now and would just like to say kudos for
    a fantastic post and a all round interesting blog (I also love
    the theme/design), I don’t have time to read it all
    at the minute but I have bookmarked it and also added in your RSS feeds, so when I have time I will be back to read a lot more,
    Please do keep up the fantastic work.

  22. Hello this is somewhat of off topic but I was wondering if blogs use WYSIWYG editors or
    if you have to manually code with HTML. I’m starting a blog soon but have no coding expertise so
    I wanted to get guidance from someone with experience.
    Any help would be enormously appreciated!

  23. Les paul vs strat. Which is better? Whichever the player prefers.
    If I had to choose I’d go for a Strat but that’s just because I’m much more used
    to Fender-style guitars, not because I think it’s “better” (my first choice would
    actually be a Tele). When I play a Les Paul it doesn’t quite feel “right” to
    me. But, like I say, it’s because I’m not used to it.
    This is a generalisation – you can play any kind of music on any
    guitar – but I’d say a Strat is more suited than a Les Paul to brighter, cleaner sounds – country, funk and folk rock.
    Probably someone playing jazz would probably prefer the warmer, smoother sound of a
    Les Paul. Of course, with a Strat you get the vibrato bridge and the “in between” sounds with the selector switch.

Leave a Comment

Share This