But the article is not about whether it would be good to live forever. It's about whether we're going to die sooner if we're fat.
The researchers calculated that in 2004, obesity was associated with as many as 112,000 excess deaths from heart disease and more than 45,000 deaths from diabetes and kidney disease. Obesity was not, however, associated with an overall excess in cancer deaths, though it was linked to as many as 19,000 excess deaths from malignancies commonly blamed on fat, including breast, uterine, ovarian, kidney, colon, esophageal and pancreatic cancer.This is similar to those studies that show a moderate amount of drinking is good for you (though heavy drinking isn't). People who disapprove of drinkers or fat people want to believe it's also very unhealthy. They are collecting more arguments for what they already think. Those who are modern and liberal don't want to express old-fashioned moral disapproval, so they won't say drinking or eating too much is self-indulgent and gluttonous. Pleasure-seeking is quite all right these days. And they want to be able to think of themselves as good people, so they can't just say they hate the way you look if you're fat. They have to believe they're actually concerned for your well-being.
The most surprising finding was that being overweight but not obese was associated only with excess mortality from diabetes and kidney disease -- not from cancer or heart disease. Moreover, the researchers found an apparent protective effect against all other causes of death, such as tuberculosis, emphysema, pneumonia, Alzheimer's disease and injuries. An association between excess weight and nearly 16,000 deaths from diabetes and kidney disease was overshadowed by a reduction of as many as 133,000 deaths from all other deaths unrelated to cancer or heart disease. Even moderately obese people appeared less likely to die of those causes.
Although the study did not examine why being overweight might guard against dying from some diseases, [Katherine M. Flegal, a senior research scientist at the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention in Atlanta] said other research has suggested that extra heft might supply the body with vital reserves to draw upon to fight illness and aid recovery.
"You may not just have more fat. You may also have more lean mass -- more bone and muscle," Flegal said. "If you are in an adverse situation, that could be good for you."
But we all know we'd look better at our ideal weight. Each of us needs to make a personal decision about how much pleasure in eating we'll give up for the pleasure of looking our best. The anorexics love the dictum: Nothing tastes as good as thin feels. But that's a matter of opinion. Some chocolates and pasta dishes and deep-fried things taste as good as thin feels. But maybe no oversized portion of anything feels good enough to outweigh how bad fat feels. Make up your own mind.