Does Obesity Really Kill?

The propaganda surrounding the obesity crisis is fueled by one belief: obesity kills. We are so frightened by fat weight because we are continually told that even ten extra pounds can put our life in danger. We are under the impression that fat weight causes disease. This, however, is a big fat myth.

But wait. Doesn't obesity cause hypertension, heart disease, diabetes and cancer? Doesn't obesity cause hundreds of thousands of deaths each year? The answer is no. Here is some interesting information regarding obesity, death and disease:

  • In 2005, researchers reported in the Journal of the American Medical Association that, despite having spent months analyzing countless records, they failed to show that even severe obesity increases mortality risk.

  • To quote Linda Bacon from Health at Every Size on a study of 1.7 million Norwegians: "In this, the largest epidemiological study ever conducted, the highest life expectancy is among individuals who are overweight by our current standards and the lowest life expectancy is among those defined as underweight. What's more, individuals who fit into what is deemed the ideal weight range had a lower life expectancy than some of those who were obese."

  • Research has demonstrated that obese people who are physically fit have mortality rates as low as people who are lean and fit. In fact, overweight and obese people who are fit will most likely live longer than someone who is lean but unfit.

  • Angiographic studies have shown that obesity has no relationship to the development or progression of heart disease. Some studies have indicated that being overweight or obese may actually decrease your risk of dying from a heart attack or stroke.

  • Some researchers claim there is a link between obesity and cancer. The truth is, most studies fail to find an association between weight and cancer mortality. In fact, for every study you can find that claims an association between obesity and cancer, you can find another one that shows obesity is actually protective against cancer.

  • Although we have been led to believe that obesity is a leading cause of diabetes, research indicates that insulin resistance appears before weight gain. Insulin resistance is causing weight gain and diabetes. Weight gain is not causing insulin resistance and diabetes.

  • Conditions such as hypertension, heart disease and diabetes can all be improved in overweight and obese individuals through dietary and lifestyle habits, regardless of whether weight is lost or not.

Clearly there are some discrepancies when it comes to the information fed to the masses about obesity and health. The biggest problem with propagating this misinformation is that it places the focus on weight alone rather than on diet and lifestyle habits.

Consider this: if fat weight was really the cause of health problems and even death, why aren't we all rushing out to get liposuction? Because we all know that's ridiculous! Then why do we think that losing fat will solve all of our health problems? The fact is that it won't.  

Lifestyle trumps weight. Eat real food that nourishes your body. Be active because it energizes you. Give your body the rest it needs. Be a part of something that gives you joy and fulfillment. If these things lead you to weight loss, that's wonderful. If not, that doesn't mean you haven't greatly improved your health and quality of life in the meantime. The exaggerated focus on weight is an arbitrary distraction, so don't let it distract you from what's really important when it comes to your health and happiness. 

Further Reading On This Subject:

Health At Every Size: The Surprising Truth About Your Weight by Linda Bacon

Rethinking Thin: The New Science of Weight Loss by Gina Kolata

The Diet Cure by Julia Ross

Fat Politics: The Real Story behind America's Obesity Epidemic by J. Eric Oliver

Big Fat Lies: The Truth about Your Weight and Your Health by Glenn A. Gaesser

This post is part of Real Food Wednesday hosted by Kelly the Kitchen Kop.

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