A review article in the Journal of the American Medical Association which was published on the 2nd January caused a lot of excitement in the press/
The excitement came because the scientists involved claimed to have found evidence, based on 97 studies involving nearly 2.9 million people, that people with a Body Mass Index (BMI) of between 25 and 30 (which officially makes them overweight) are 6% less likely to die than people considered to have a healthy BMI ie 18.5 to 25.
So is “Being overweight OK”, as some headlines claimed? I’m not convinced, and nor were most obesity experts. The criticisms were vigorous and in some cases vitriolic
Professor John Wass, vice-president of the Royal College of Physicians, said: “Have you ever seen a 100-year-old human being who is overweight? The answer is you probably haven’t”, while Dr Walter Willett, from the Harvard School of Public Health said: “This is an even greater pile of rubbish” than a study conducted by the same group in 2005.
The main criticisms were:
- Confounding factors. The people regarded as “normal weight” may have previously been overweight, then lost weight through ill health
- Mortality is not everything (though it is, of course, pretty important). What this study didn’t reveal was whether the overweight lived that extra 6% longer in good health or in hospital with drips in them. Living longer is not the same as living better. We know obesity is a strong predictor of diabetes and diabetes can lead to serious and unpleasant health problems
- BMI is probably not the best measure that can be used to measure obesity. A tape measure may be a better predictor of future health. Gut fat is extremely unhealthy, but it is not clear that fat on your bottom or thighs is quite as bad. It is all about distribution, not quantity.
I certainly am not going to allow the pounds to creep back up in the hope this will allow me to live 6% longer. I like being slimmer, feel much better on it and all the tests I’ve done to date suggest that I have extended my healthy life, not shortened it.