January 2 2013

New Year's Resolution: Eat More?

Julie Gunlock

You might want to hold off on that New Year’s resolution to lose a couple of pounds. Turns out: overweight individuals live longer than thinner people.

Now where'd I hide that pecan pie... 

The Independent reports: 

It sounds too good to be true, coming at the end of the season of excess, but after one of the largest reviews of research ever conducted, doctors say that carrying a few extra pounds may actually reduce the risk of premature death. Experts have repeatedly warned that obesity would soon exact a greater toll than smoking and the current generation could be the first to die before their parents.

Only yesterday, the Royal College of Physicians called for more to be done to tackle the UK's obesity epidemic, criticising the NHS's "patchy" services and inadequate leadership on the issue. However, the new study shows that people who are modestly overweight have a 6 per cent lower rate of premature death from all causes than people of ideal, "healthy" weight, while even those who are mildly obese have no increased risk. Overweight is defined as a body mass index above 25 but below 30. For a man of 5ft 9in, that is between 12 stone 4lb and 14 stone 6lb, or for a woman of 5ft 6in, it is between 11 stone 3 lb and 13 stone 4lb. Ideal, healthy weight is defined as a BMI between 18.5 and 25.

Mild obesity (those with a BMI between 30 and 34.9) brings a 5 per cent lower premature death rate, according to the study. Although this was not statistically significant, it suggests there is no increased risk of premature death attached to that weight range.

Let's take a moment to contemplate this news.  Because this is big news, particularly when you consider what the American public has been told recently.

For years, we've heard public health officials, government regulators, nutrition and food activists; even the First Lady moan and groan about the horrors of fat Americans. Americans have been told they are members of the first generation who will not outlive their parents. The hyperbole surrounding obesity reached such outlandish heights during the first Obama Administration that HHS Secretary Kathleen Sibelius famously called obesity worse than cancer (good grief!) and the First Lady (and her staffer Sam Kass) called obesity our biggest national security risk. That statement was particularly embarrassing for the First Lady since, as IWF Senior Fellow Lisa Schiffren brilliantly pointed out, she made this statement as a mob of Libyan Islamists were murdering U.S. diplomats in Benghazi, Libya. 

Yes, the alarm bells have been ringing loudly about obesity.

It’s important to understand that there’s a method to this madness. By created panic and fear about obesity, Americans are more willing to acquiesce to government regulation of the food industry. The narrative goes like this: Obesity is an epidemic that will lead to millions of deaths; It must be stopped; The government must step in to solve the obesity problem.

Who wouldn’t get behind efforts to stem the obesity epidemic?

And it's happened. We've seen soda taxes proposed, restaurants and vending machine companies regulated, bans on certain sized beverages, as well promised regulations on certain ingredients like salt and trans-fats.  And the demand for regulations has continued with renewed calls to regulate food marketing, alcohol, and sugar. In fact, don’t expect this latest news to change the minds of the activists and regulators who benefit from a DEFCON-1 alert posture on obesity. They will continue to demand regulations, taxes and food bans. 

But reasonable people will find this information useful for several reasons. While this new study shouldn’t encourage bad behavior, it should reassure people that carrying a few extra pounds isn’t a death sentence. Perhaps more importantly, it might make people a little less willing to support government anti-obesity efforts.

 

 

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