Thin May Be In, But Fat’s Where It’s At

In recent days, two different news stories have hit the papers. The first and more popular article indicates that people who are obese to morbidly obese could lose 3 – 10 years off their life because of their weight. The second article, which I’ve only seen appear in the National Post, indicates that the measurement for body mass index (BMI) is not the only indicator of risk (in reality, BMI is complete and utter bullshit and was never designed to be used as the indicator of health or fitness that it currently is), that fat and obese people can be completely healthy with no health risks whatsoever, and that being “overweight” is probably healthier than being normal to underweight, especially if you become ill.

At points, the two articles directly contradict each other.

However, it’s important to note that the “fatties are gonna die” article comes from a UK medical journal called The Lancet. The British government is currently in the midst of a very high-profile fight against obesity, one that looks increasingly paranoid and that could potentially jeopardize the health of its citizens. Especially frightening is the witchhunt against childhood obesity which targets normal weight children as young as toddlers.

The other article is based on studies done by the Canadian Obesity Network – a group that would appear to have a vested interest in encouraging the overweight and obese to be less so. Yet they’re ready to admit the existence of “benign obesity” and acknowledge the fact that someone considered overweight or obese can still be physically active, fit and healthy.

“Obesity was far less common when [benign obesity] was identified, and then obesity became this gigantic epidemic, with just the assumed outcome that everyone is going to be at risk for vascular disease and a whole bunch of other things,” says Rachel Wildman, an assistant professor of epidemiology and population health at Albert Einstein College.

“As it turns out, it seems not to be the case. There is at least a proportion of obese individuals who at this point don’t seem to be at elevated cardiovascular risk.” Not only is their risk fairly minimal, “in some instances it’s better than individuals who are normal weight.”

Yet according to the other piece, “obesity is the new dark horse for public health officials.”

So… which one is right? And more importantly, why is only one of these articles getting picked up by the majority of media outlets?