Since my job is to write about consumer-driven health care, I monitor a lot of health studies.
A lot of them are pretty cut and dry. For example, cigarettes=bad; cardio=good.
But looking over others, I feel like I’m solving some sort of intense riddle. Coffee can you keep the Grim Reaper away! Too much coffee can kill you! Wine helps your heart! Wine causes breast cancer!
And then there’s the whole weight issue, which becomes—well, weighty. Just when I thought we had it all figured out about obesity being bad, new light is being shed on extra pounds.
Turns out, researchers have been gathering data that indicates being overweight or mildly obese isn’t associated with an increased risk for premature death.
So instead of envying my skinny pals, I can laugh. In spite of New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg, I can justify downing soda throughout the day, and I don’t have to worry about sticking to an ultra-healthy diet.
The study—cited in the July/August issue of The Journal of American Board of Family Medicine—followed the health of nearly 51,000 participants, categorized by body mass index, over six years. It says that even the morbidly obese escaped an early demise—if you discount the folks with diabetes and hypertension.
And this study joins a growing trend in research concluding that obesity isn’t a death sentence.
As another researcher—Mark Hamer, a principal research associate at University College London who worked on another study regarding obesity and heart disease—puts it, “The people really at risk are the ones who have obesity in combination with other metabolic health risk factors.”
This just brings up more stipulation: It’s no secret that hypertension and diabetes are often married to obesity. Plus, obesity can have an effect on other medical problems, which results in a hefty price tag.
But people of normal, “healthy” weight get those diseases, too. And even more, the study finds that a type 2 diabetes patient of normal weight was more likely to die of any cause during the six-year study period than was a type 2 diabetes patient who was overweight or—yes—obese. And the super skinny? Underweight folks have the biggest risk of anybody of kicking the bucket early.
So what does this all mean? That nothing is easy to conclude, apparently. And, of course, that it’s OK to go back for seconds.
I’m sure this isn’t the last of it, but this week I’ll believe this study. It’s really the only way to justify the milkshake, cookie, pizza and burger diet I’ve been on this week. Next week, I’ll be sure to return to the gym—as long as I read a study suggesting I do so.