November 7, 2007

"Being overweight but not obese was associated only with excess mortality from diabetes and kidney disease..."

"Excess mortality"... what a weird phrase. I prefer the locution "insufficient immortality." But I suspect, reading this WaPo article on new research showing it's not that unhealthy to be fat, that all of us — fat, skinny, or just right — have exactly the same mortality and whether it's "excess" is a matter of opinion.

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.

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."
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.

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.


John Foust said...

There's nothing wrong with enjoying good food, (he said, with a mouth full of Lindt 85% bar) but there's also the argument that eating too much and eating poor sources of nutrition is also very expensive. You can save money by eating well, eating less and eating at home.

Maxine Weiss said...

There are plenty of studies that show a moderate amount of liquor ISN'T good for you.

It's people that need their "moderate" liquor fix at night, who refuse to believe this.

People who are addicted to caffeine will go to any length to justify its use.

Creative people that are living on caffeine in the mornings, and "moderate" liquor in the evenings....and then complaining about "writer's block".

Gee, I wonder why that is?


Fen said...

Here it comes - "free" government health care will be run like all federal aid programs to the states: "submit to our model or lose all funding".

Better enjoy the red meat and chocalate while you can. Soon, Hillary will be dictating what you can and cannot consume.

You can save money by eating well, eating less and eating at home.

Agreed. But who should determine that? The government or you?

paul a'barge said...

There are plenty of studies that show a moderate amount of liquor ISN'T good for you

Yes, and Maxine reads them daily. You can visit the entire collection of these stories at the website

Maxine Weiss said...

Paul, you've just proved my point:

Alcoholics, will go to any lengths to justify ...even "moderate" use of liquor.

Anyone who dares question even the most "moderate" of liquor intake is immedately vilified.

Arsenic kills, but it's ok in small amounts.

Mercury is the major ingrediate in nuclear bombs, but it's ok in small amounts.

Poison is toxic, but "moderate" use is ok.

Maxine Weiss said...

Plastic is evil.

Plastic containers and food storage etc..

The plastic leeches onto the food.

Always use glass containers and glass storage. Glass doesn't break down the way plastics do.

Christy said...

I remember reading long ago that early studies on mortality and weight depended upon life insurance data. Unfortunately when early data was accumulated TB was common. The lean were more carefully screened before they were insured because of suspicions that they may already be ill. Thus, the studies were based upon healthy thin people and normal or fat people with all manner of pre-existing conditions. Don't know if it was a valid observation, but it is a thought.

Maxine Weiss said...

I just saw someone drinking liquor out of a plastic cup.....

Instant death.

Maxine Weiss said...

Think of it like this:

If you are a total vegan, cutting anything animal out of your diet....that's the equivalent of riding your bicycle to work.

If you are a casual vegetarian....that's the equivalent of driving a hybrid Pirius.

If you are an arrogant meat-eating carnivore who flaunts it.....that's the equivalent of driving a Hummer.

Stop eating meat and animal products, and you will instantly reduce your carbon footprint, and do your part to reduce global warming.

SGT Ted said...

Obesity is "ONLY" associated with Deaths due to diabetes and kidney thats better than a heart attack.

"It's OK, you ONLY have kidney failure! keep on eating those moon pies, its all good."

I'm not sure what caffeine has to do with any negative health consequences in and of itself, despite claims from the food hysterics.

That it may aggravate existing conditions doesn't equal causing the conditions to begin with.

I thought that the alcohol benefit was only applicable to red wines in moderation.

Maxine, if what you are writing is tongue in cheek, you need to work on your style. If not, you sounds rather alarmist and like a puritan. Or a fanatical twelve stepper who thinks everyones an addict just like them.

Just sayin...

Modern Otter said...

Doesn't "excess mortality" mean dying more than once?

Joe said...

Again, note that the correlation is not causation. There is as much a possibility that diabetes causes one to be obese as the other way around. (One problem with the obesity causes diabetes is that nobody can figure out why. There are much better hypotheses for the reverse.)

ricpic said...

Arrogant meat-eating carnivore here, Maxine, you insufferable holier-than-thou.

The Counterfactualist said...

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.

Yes, but exercise feels good, too. Endorphins and all. You can eat like a glutton and exercise enough to remain at your ideal weight. So people aren't evaluating pleasure versus work; they're just denying pleasure because they're lazy. They're too lazy to enhance their own pleasure, even if the benefits outweigh the costs, both in the short-term and long-run.

Maxine Weiss said...

Meat has dioxins when it's heated.

Of course if you don't heat it to a certain temperature you won't kill the bacteria.

Nothing will kill off mad cow disease.

By the way, those cheap tap-water filters you buy at the five-and-dime are worthless. You need a reverse-osmosis tank, which you install under your sink.

I drink only reverse-osmosis (O2) water which comes out of my tap, and only in glass jars. Never plastic.

And, I'm not kidding. Plastic containers. Plastic water bottles that have sat on store shelves....



Joe said...

Yup, Maxine, all that stuff is so toxic. It must be why our lifespans are getting longer and our general health has never been better than ever in human history. Damn facts.

George M. Spencer said...

Speaking of weird terms and/or euphemisms....


Trooper York said...

When the day comes that Hillary and the commie tofu eating, diet forcing, vegan preaching, health Nazi's start with regulating our food: that's the day I become John Brown. We will go to the mattresses and wipe all these commie hippie tofu kumbaya assholes off the face of the earth. I will personally lead a grand coalition of Bratwurst eaters from Chi town, and sausage and peppers eaters from Brooklyn and barbeque munchers from Texas as we hunt down every vegan Joan Baez, Pete Seeger scumbag who comes between me and my meatball hero. We will make the anti-abortionists look like the girl scouts. Keep pushing the issue and just wait for the response.

George M. Spencer said...

Here're some far-out John Brown facts...

The officer in charge of the troops who captured him was Robert E. Lee.

In the crowd at his hanging was John Wilkes Booth.

Thoreau called him Christ-like.

The wife of one of his secret financiers was Julia Ward Howe, author of the Battle Hymn of the Republic.

John Brown was not noticeably overweight.

Please, Trooper, no Ossawatamies over this issue.

Trooper York said...

Georgie you have no idea. The violence will be truly stunning. Forget waterboarding. We will force feed pizza and ice cream and chocolate cake to every one of these skinny canker sores in reducation camps. The Olsen twins will look like Mama Cass times two. Nicole Richie will be a dead ringer for Shelly Winters. Eat free or die.

halojones-fan said...

The "link" between diabetes and obesity is correlative, not causal.

People get fat because they eat too much. They get diabetes for the same reason--they eat too much. There isn't some weird chemical thing that makes diabetic people get fat.

And, as to that, we're discussing Type 2 diabetes. Type 1 is a different story. Indeed, I kind of wish that all these stories about the horrors of diabetes would include qualifiers about Type 1 versus Type 2 (at least say "insulin-dependent" or "non insulin-dependent".) I'm tired of my grandma forwarding things to me about "new drug for diabetes!" only to find that it's yet another reboxed glucophage.

Beth said...

Things that taste better than being thin feels:
Chicken and sausage gumbo.
Crabs, crawfish, oysters and shrimp--boiled or fried.
Ripe Creole tomato slices topped with lump crabmeat and remoulade.
NY Strip, medium rare.
Southern fried chicken.
Biscuits and white gravy.
Pain perdue with cane syrup.
Pain au chocolate.
Beignets and cafe au lait.
Cochon du lait.
Crawfish bisque.

I could go on for quite awhile, but I've got to get my hands on an oyster po'boy -- on French, with mayo, butter, pickles and hot sauce.

amba said...

how much pleasure in eating we'll give up for the pleasure of looking our best.

That about says it. The trick is to find enough ways of eating that are pleasurable but not irrevocable fattening so you're not totally giving up one pleasure for the other. Mine include:

Large salads
light suppers
chocolate days when I don't eat anything else

PeterP said...

"If music be the food of death..." and so forth.

lurker2209 said...

For the record, Mercury is not a major component of nuclear weapons.

Joan said...

People get fat because they eat too much. They get diabetes for the same reason--they eat too much. There isn't some weird chemical thing that makes diabetic people get fat.

No, people become obese because of fat-storage defects in their metabolism; for the majority, that's related to insulin resistance. There is no empirical evidence that over-eating causes obesity, and many, many studies showing that calorie restriction does not produce weight loss. If it were so easy to lose weight, do you think they'd be so many fat people walking around?


Smilin' Jack said...

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.

Oh, yeah? Obviously you've never felt up Kate Bosworth or Victoria Beckham.

Trooper York said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Trooper York said...

Beth, you are my kind of girl. Unfortunately I know I am not your kind of girl. Not that theres anything wrong with that. So lets meet up at the Old Homestead for a porterhouse with creamed spinach on the side, a few bottles of Shiraz and a chocolate souffle.

Trooper York said...

Aa for Victoria Beckham, I will let Popeye and Bluto fight over her and spend my time with Jennifer Lopez and Tyra Banks.

Original Mike said...

"Excess mortality"... what a weird phrase.

Standard phrase with a well understood meaning; a mortality rate higher than you would expect. Don't you lawyers use technical terms, too? Of course you do.

Dave said...

People who want to lose weight can do so in one of two ways: burn more calories than they consume or else get an infectious disease, such as the flu, which suppresses their appetite. Which is essentially burning more calories than one consumes.

Now, what was it people were saying about how losing weight is not simple? I just provided two very easy ways to lose weight.

Beth said...

Trooper, I'm ready. I'm glad you added a little spinach for our health.

KCFleming said...

Recently, some British nitwits proclaimed obesity a 'pandemic', "as big a threat as global warming".

But then, maybe not.
No matter.
Governments are ready to control your lives to stop this possibly life-extending catastrophe.

For your own good.
Resistance is futile.

Trooper York said...

Beth, I am all about the health. I want only the healthiest and finest Kobe Beef massaged and given happy endings by the most talented geishas available. The finest Shiraz brewed from the sweet nectar created from the healthy stomping of the sensual tootsies of some bonnie lasses from the land down under. And the finest spinach picked by the winsome migrants who carefully nurture the leafy vegetable as they carefully tuck a stray hair under their colorful sombreros. It's natural. It's beautiful. It's what God made for dinner. If James Garner wasn’t having another angioplasty tonight, he would tell you the same thing.

Beth said...

Trooper--James Garner is one of my boy-crushes. I like his big old square head and boyish charm.