jaimee (deadpainter) wrote in ed_ucate,

Some overweight people have lower risk of death, study finds

I have always argued with my nutritionist (::cough:: patrol officer of four years to be exact) that I can be healthy for my body at my weight, despite the fact that it is low and statistically "unhealthy." I read the following article today in the newspaper. While I agree with it to an extent, my mind refuses to accept a normal weight as being acceptable for me. Does anyone know of any opposing information to support the idea that it can be ok to be at a lower than average or anorexic BMI?


Some overweight people have lower risk of death, study finds

By Jonathan Bor
And Frank Roylance Baltimore Sun
Posted April 20 2005

Government analysts Tuesday downgraded the annual death toll from obesity in a study that is certain to bewilder a public already obsessed with dieting and nutrition.

In fact, they inexplicably found that people who weigh a few pounds more than the ideal are actually less likely to die than those who weigh a few pounds less.
Taken together, the findings will undoubtedly leave scientists and consumers arguing over obesity's actual role in mortality -- though no one argues that being overweight is good for you.

The latest report by scientists with the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention estimates that obesity kills about
112,000 people a year, only a third of the number estimated just four months ago.

But Dr. Kathleen Flegal, who led the study reported in today's Journal of the American Medical Association, said the lower death estimate should not make consumers complacent about their expanding waistlines. The study looked at death only, she said -- not the role that girth plays in triggering illness or lowering a person's quality of life.

"I'm not sure what the public should take from it," said Flegal, who is with the CDC's National Center for Health Statistics. "I don't see it as the final answer to anything."

In a second study, CDC scientists report that people across all weight categories suffer less from high cholesterol and high blood pressure and smoke less than they did 30 and 40 years ago.

Obese people still suffer more from these diseases, but less so than before because of new treatments such as anti-hypertensives and cholesterol lowering drugs.

Flegal said she did not set out to lower the CDC's controversial 2004 estimate that obesity kills 400,000 people annually -- a figure the agency lowered to 350,000 after discovering a calculation error.

She said she had spent years developing a new statistical method that more closely reflects the health of the general population and teases out the competing forces that age, smoking, drinking and obesity can bring to bear on mortality. When she applied the new methodology, she said, the estimate simply came out lower.

The study, which mines data from three national health surveys spanning the 1970s through 2000, also found that people who are slightly overweight actually have a lower chance of dying than people who weigh a few pounds less. The same cannot be said for people who are truly obese, who face a greater risk the more weight they gain.
Tuesday's announcement heartened critics who have argued that government agencies have inflated obesity's death toll.

"A lot of the so-called health risks associated with being overweight have been oversold and overstated," said Glenn Gaesser, a University of Virginia physiologist and critic of the earlier studies.

He said previous estimates failed to control for fat people who increased their risks by "yo-yo" dieting, taking diet pills or not exercising.

Gaesser said people should focus instead on things that are known to contribute to longevity -- balanced, healthy diets and regular exercise.

The Baltimore Sun is a Tribune Co. newspaper.


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