A new study of 1.5 million people suggests that obesity, even overweight, shortens your lifespan. So says the study - obese people are 44% more likely to die earlier than those in the so called ideal BMI range.
The findings and size of the new study, which was conducted by researchers at the National Cancer Institute and published in the New England Journal of Medicine, should settle the debate over the relationship between excess weight and the risk of early death
So says Ali Mokdad, Ph.D., a professor of global health at the University of Washington, in Seattle.
According to one report on a local TV station:
The latest research was launched after a controversial 2005 study by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention that concluded being overweight didn't raise the risk of death; that report included smokers and those with pre-existing illnesses.
The CDC study was actually a re-examining of existent data and an admission that the wrong conclusions had been drawn. It was only controversial among those advocating diets!
In 2005, the CDC reassessed their data, stated one news article in the Seattle Times, and found that 112,000 people (not 300,000 people) had died from obesity related diseases however, they also added that since people with BMIs in the overweight zone (BMI 25-29) live longer than those in the "normal ranges", one had to subtract 86,000 from the 112,000 and that leaves 26,000 people who die from obesity related disease... less than who die from gunshot accidents!
The new study doesn't settle anything because it made the same mistake pointed out by Dr Stephen Blair, PhD, head of the Cooper Institute.
Seems the folks at the Cooper Institute took 30,000 people and found when they added exercise habits to the equation, that fat people who exercise regularly had no greater risk of sickness or death than slim people who exercise - and people who do not exercise regularly, had the same risk, regardless of size - about 44% greater than the exercisers.
I'm sure the pundits are banking on the fact that the public either has a short memory or else, hasn't seen the Cooper Institute studies.
However, some reports on the new study included the remarks of the lead researcher on the Cooper Institute studies, Stephen Blair, PhD:
University of South Carolina obesity researcher Steven Blair said the results were consistent with other studies and the "massive effort" was commendable. But he said there wasn't enough information available about fitness level or physical activity. A proponent of the "fit and fat" theory, Blair said his research has shown that obese people who are tested and deemed fit did not face increased risks of dying.
"If we want to get to the bottom of the health hazards of overweight and obesity, we have to have better data on physical activity," Blair said. "Until we do that, there's uncertainty of how important BMI is as an important predictor of mortality."
Seemingly coincidental to the release of this new study which looks impressive to the unquestioning eye of the public, the Allergan company has petitioned the FDA to lower the weight limit for obtaining the lap band obesity surgery. Right now, only people who are at a BMI of 40 or higher, or 35 with co-morbidities can have their insurance pay for a lap band. Allergan would like to see that minimum weight lowered to a BMI of 35 or 30 with co-morbidities.
Even CNN remarked on the fact that the head of the FDA committee petitioned to lower this weight requirement, owns stock in the Allergan Company! Not only did she not recuse herself (which she should have done!) but the FDA voted that it was "OK" for her to be on this committee as long as she didn't vote!
The lap band is a much safer surgery than the gastric bypass. It's a band placed around the top of the stomach which can be tightened or loosened and is supposed to limit how much a person can eat and thus cause a weight loss. Of course, what it limits (when it's not swollen i.e. some band patients complain of their stomach swelling shut in the morning) are the good bulky foods like veggies. Milkshakes, ice cream and cake go down beautifully. Although unlike the gastric bypass which is greatly troubled by long term vitamin deficiencies in many patients, the lap band is not without its own set of repercussions. A certain percentage of patients experience the band growing into the stomach, thus requiring removal and/or a gastrectomy. Mostly what I hear lap band patients complain about is discomfort and difficulty in keeping off the weight. The difficulty in keeping off the weight complaint, one hears from gastric bypass patients also.
What science really says is, if you cannot keep off the weight, it's healthier to not lose it in the first place as "weight cycling" or "yo yo dieting" raises the risks for heart attacks significantly.
About 5% of the public born with the obesity gene (according to obesity researcher, Rudy Leibel, size is 40-60% genetically determined) can lose and keep off the weight (7% with weight loss surgery according to the Hebrew U Study for one).
For the rest, it is strongly recommended that they consider following the "Health at Every Size" guidelines - Linda Bacon's book on this is excellent!
A clinical study at USC found that those following the Health at Every Size, guidelines without a focus on weight loss - ended up healthier than those who dieted - this study is highly respected and the cohort was followed for two years. Linda Bacon was one of the researchers and the other researcher was Julie Stern who is a member of the Weight Watchers scientific committee. Undoubtedly, Stern is not opposed to dieting and yet confirmed the results of this study which headlined "Non-dieters more successful at boosting health than dieters, study finds".
Isn't it time to "stop the insanity" and focus on real health which is determined by healthy food choices about 80% of the time and regular aerobic exercise?