Obesity - what does science REALLY say?

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Current information on obesity is very misleading.  What studies have shown is that the deciding factor for longevity seems to be more dependent on whether the person exercises, what food choices the person makes and even heredity.  Everything BUT size!

From what I can gather, the longevity risks of clinical obesity (over BMI 40) are that it, if you don't exercise, can shorten your life by 5-7 years.  A statistical study reasoned that having a gastric bypass will "only" shorten your life, 2-4 years (instead of the 5-7 years if you stay fat).[15] This study was computed so is a rosy estimate which isn't very encouraging as far as having surgery which "cripples your digestive tract" (in the words of Dr Ross Fox, WLS surgeon) and/or caused "surgically induced bulimia" (in the words of Dr Matheis Fobi, WLS surgeon).   Exercising daily, 30 minutes or more of moderate activity, appears to cut down the risks greatly, in any size person.

To note: 50 percent of gastric bypass patients gain all or most of the weight back eventually. (16)

also: 34% of gastric bypass patients with a starting BMI over 34, regain all or most of the weight within 10 years (17)

Following are some interesting points research reveals:

1. "300,000 die of obesity each year". This figure was based on a 1993 study by Michael McGinnis and William Foege which appeared in JAMA, the Journal of the American Medical Association. What McGinnis and Foege actually calculated was that "dietary factors and activity patterns that are too sedentary" contributed to 300,000 deaths a year. (JAMA 270 - Nov 10, 1993 pp 2207-2212)

These same scientists later complained that the media had BADLY MISQUOTED their results. (NEJ 338, Ap 16, 1998 p. 1157)
In Jan 2005, the CDC which had previously published the 300, 000 deaths per year figure, retracted this and stated that a "critical assessment of the data" revealed that only 110,000 deaths per year could be connected to "obesity related diseases" and that "the link was probably weak".
2. The results of the one study which found that rats fed less calories lived longer than rats allowed their fill, have never been repeated. The other researchers who tried this study, found that rats fed less food, died earlier and got sick before dying. In other words, the no feeding rats studies only proved that underfed rats lived longer than overfed, under-exercised rats! (ref: Stewart, Douglas: "Solving the Aging Puzzle" reference to the studies of Dr Stephen Austad, "Smithsonian Magazine", vol 28, no. 10 Jan 10, 1998)

Latest statistics from the CDC state that people with BMIs from 26-35 live longer than people with BMI's in the so called "normal ranges" (BMI 22-25) They theorized that overweight and obese people are likely better nourished than many in the so called normal weight ranges and also more able to exercise.  They also stated that this might suggest that the BMI "normal range" is really "underweight" for most people.
3. The Metlife Insurance charts were made from a mathematical formula and not representative of their studies. They found, for example, that the 5' 5" woman most likely to live the longest weighed 194 lbs! (ref: Met life build study, Idem, tables D19 and D21, pp 150, 152)

4. BMI (body mass index) was first computed in the mid 1800's and revived recently. It doesn't take bone structure or amount of muscle, gender or age into consideration. Hence, most athletes are classified as 'obese' or "severely obese" by BMI standards.

5. To maintain the currently fashionable (super slim) female physique, most women have to eat less than 900 calories a day. ("Society's standard of beauty is an image that is literally, just short of starvation for most women" Hansen & Goodman)
A major research project found that more than 20% of the women aged 70 and older were dieting, even though higher weight poses a very low risk for death at that age, and weight loss may actually be harmful.[14,15]

6. 95 percent of women do not get enough calcium and are high risk for osteoporosis. Osteoporosis is extremely crippling and painful.

7. Fat people have 40 percent less chance of getting cancer than do thin people according to several research studies. (Gaesser)

A 2006 study reported on in the American Journal of Physiology (Dr Spurlock, Purdue U)-Jan 2004, found that fat tissue in pigs is actually protective against cancer

8. Heavier and fatter people appear to be as LESS risk for osteoporosis than slim people. (Gaesser and others)

9. The Cooper Institute studies of 20,000 men found that early death was linked with lack of exercise. Both fat and thin men who were active and exercised, lived about the same lifespan.
A new study published in the June 2002 "Obesity Research" journal, followed a group of 9,925 women an average age of 43 years for 11.4 years. It was found that having a moderate to high level of cardio-respiratory fitness (i.e. from exercise) resulted in a 43 to 52 percent reduced risk of death in all women regardless of BMI.
10. According to Gaesser's research, the hypertension (high blood pressure) found in fat people is most often, the type which is caused by the heart working harder rather than the (dangerous) type caused by clogged blood vessels. Included in his research was a study which include an autopsy on 12 morbidly obese people. Their veins had no more plaque than the average slender person autopsied. (ibid)
Note: if your blood pressure goes down when you lose weight, it was not caused by clogged arteries

11. Dr Rudy Leibel, obesity researcher stated on a Discovery Health program that body size is 40-80 percent genetically controlled.
Dr Leibel also stated in a speech available on the NIH that although it probably is an advantage to be of "normal weight", there is NO EVIDENCE that this advantage is enjoyed by people who are forcing their weight to a lower figure than their body wants.
12. A clinical study (clinical means the members of the cohort were actually examined from time to time) conducted at the U of C comparing dieters to non dieters (the latter who followed a healthy program of good food choices and regular exercise) showed that the non dieters ended up more healthy, better self image and did not gain weight. The dieters lost weight at first but by the second year had gained it all back, had stopped exercising and were not as healthy as the non dieters. Also the dieters were suffering depression because of their failure to keep the weight off. The non dieters remained healthy and in their exercise programs even after 2 years.  (13) (18)

>>>>NOTE: this study was funded by the NIH (not the diet industry!)


1. Gaesser, Glenn, PhD: BIG FAT LIES (CA, 2002)
3. Colles, Lisa: FAT - EXPLODING THE MYTHS (London, 1998)
4. Hanson & Goodman: THE SEVEN SECRETS OF SLIM PEOPLE (NY, 1997)
5. Vogal: THE SKINNY ON FAT (NY, 1999)
6. Stewart, Douglas: "Solving the Aging Puzzle" reference to the studies of Dr Stephen Austad, "Smithsonian Magazine", vol 28, no. 10 Jan 10, 1998
7. Fraser, Laura: LOSING IT (NY, 1998)
8. Journal of the American Medical Assn (JAMA)

JAMA 270 - Nov 10, 1993 pp 2207-2212
NEJ 338, Ap 16, 1998 p. 1157

9. Met life build study, Idem, tables D19 and D21, pp 150, 152
10. abstract of McGinnis-Foege Study
11. More on calorie restriction and the rat study which found that calorie deprived rats lived longer

12. New Cooper study on women: The Cooper Institute

13. Pat Bailey,
University of California - Davis


14.  Clarke LH. Older women's perceptions of ideal body weights: the tensions between health and appearance motivations for weight loss. Ageing and Society. 2002;22:751-73.

15. Third Report on Nutrition Monitoring in the US, Vol 1-2, Dec, 1995. National Center for Health Statistics, NHANES III. Life Sciences Research Office, Interagency Board for Nutrition Monitoring and Related Research, US Dept. of Health and Human Services, US Dept of Agriculture.

16. Kolata, Gina: RETHINKING THIN, NY, 2008)

17. Annals of Surgery. 244(5):734-740, November 2006. Christou, Nicolas V. MD, PhD; Look, Didier MD; MacLean, Lloyd D. MD, PhD on the web at: PubMed

18. Bacon,Linda, PhD: HAES - HEALTH AT EVERY SIZE - on the web: http://www.lindabacon.org

19. Campos, Paul, PhD: THE DIET MYTH (NY,2007)

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