Have you heard the news reports about
the recent study publicized in the Journal of the American
Medical Association (JAMA) that seemed to suggest it might
be okay, after all, to be overweight? With all the conflicting
information weve had about the subject, could this
possibly be true?
The researchers in the study analyzed
national data and came up with the following conclusions:
Obesity can be linked to approximately
112,000 deaths annually in the U.S. That number was cited
as far less than any previous estimates. The real shocker
was the finding that people who are moderately overweight
but not obese, may have a lower death rate than those who
are considered to be of normal weight. (Stay tuned for more
studies about this one!)
The ramifications of these findings sparked
all sorts of self-serving responses from different sectors
of society everything from fast-food industry ad
campaigns aimed at clearing a bad reputation for contributing
to obesity, to articles lampooning overzealous health nuts.
A closer look: How do we sort through
this kind of information and find the most healthful path?
The real crux of the matter is, what is normal, what is
overweight, and what is obese? There is a long-standing
debate about the definition of these terms. The body mass
index, (BMI,) is a weight-to-height formula that has been
the predominant model for defining weight issues. Some studies
suggest that the range that is labeled today as normal in
the BMI may be questionable.
If the findings of the JAMA study is correct,
fewer Americans are succumbing to diseases that are attributable
to obesity. Another study cited in the JAMA found that Americans,
especially those who are overweight or obese, are at a much
lower risk for cardiovascular disease than they were in
the past. This could be simply a result of the new medications
available for lowering blood pressure and controlling cholesterol.
Better diet and much lower smoking rates could also be a
big factor in the reduced numbers.
What the study didnt say:
Although headlines about this subject may make people think
its not so bad to carry extra pounds, there are some
things to consider before giving up the fight. There is
no question that obesity increases the likelihood of strokes,
heart attacks and other diseases. Diabetes is on the rise.
The confusion increases when you consider that the study
in question didnt address the lifestyle impairment
that obese individuals experience and the cost of medical
treatment for their illnesses.
Where do we go from here? Although
difficult to sort out, its clear that we still dont
know for certain how many people die each year of obesity.
Its a pretty sure bet though, that if you have borderline
high blood pressure, high cholesterol levels, diabetes,
or a family history of premature heart disease, it is very
beneficial to lose weight, exercise regularly, and stop
Want to know more about BMI? Go
and they will compute your BMI for you. Use of the BMI may
still be somewhat arguable for research purposes, but they
can be a ballpark indicator of where youre headed
with your weight. At least you can make a more educated
choice about what goals to set on diet, health and fitness