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Health Benefits of Being Overweight


Stashed in: #health, Science!, @oprah, Awesome, Fat!, Health Studies, Retirement, Healthcare!

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Solid explanations for this paradoxical effect. The whole concept of health is not as straightforward as we like to imagine... so being thin and exercising a lot is the best as long as you don't get sick -- but if anything goes wrong, you'll almost certainly be better off having a few extra pounds. I learned this the hard way myself, when my father almost died from being too skinny during an extended stay in the hospital.

People in hospitals definitely benefit from reserves.

Interesting that Oprah magazine would re-publish the Journal of the AMA finding that being overweight lowered a person's risk of dying from any cause by 6 percent. Oprah herself has struggled with weight issues for much of her life. 

The article also distinguishes between longevity and quality of life. 

Living longer may not mean living better. A separate CDC study showed that the heavier the person, the more likely she is to be on prescription drugs for certain chronic ailments. While medication can increase longevity, the findings didn't look at the price paid in quality of life—and that's ultimately a cost worth weighing.

OK not to always be the science skeptic, but this one is a case where the data may not support the conclusion.

For one thing, people get heavier as they get OLDER until about age 65 (and then the remaining elderly generally lose a little bit of weight until age 75). But if you say "people under 30 are less likely to be on prescription drugs for chronic ailments than people over 55"... gee, suddenly it just seems like a "no duh" instead of a conclusion about declining quality of life for the overweight.

For another thing, weight and social class are inversely correlated in this society. So if I rewrote this to say "poor people are less likely to be able to pay for liposuction or personal trainers, but more likely to get Medicaid benefits for certain chronic health conditions"... again, a big "no duh" right? Also I believe there is some research showing that people in higher social classes prefer DEATH to DISABILITY far more than people in lower social classes.

Finally, the whole argument could be circular. If I said "thin people tend to die in hospital more often, so they don't need drugs to control chronic conditions for as long as fat people"... well yes, that makes sense. Again, does that truly mean longer life isn't worth living?

You're right that there's layers of nuance here.

If this were easy to figure out we would know what an ideal weight for each person is.

But we don't know. At best we're guessing.

It does make sense to me to have some reserves in case you get sick.

And it also makes sense to me that quality of life matters more than quantity of years.

I think it's important to acknowledge that "looking great in a bikini weight" is not necessarily the same as "surviving in the hospital with cancer weight". As you get older, let's face it... the latter is gonna be more important than the former.

Also it's important to realize that "hanging out with friends eating pie" is a really important goal in life that seems to help people live longer. The media are always telling us that being thin and exercising a lot is the ultimate health move... but actually socializing with friends might be far more important in the long run.

That's a recurrent theme in Eric Barker's work.

It's better for our health to eat pie with friends than to avoid the calories alone. 

Because friends make us healthier than having less weight. 

That again speaks to quality of life. 

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