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A1) How healthy or unhealthy is fat really?


This article is from the Big Folks Health FAQ, by sharon@ecs.ox.ac.uk (Sharon Curtis) with numerous contributions by others.

A1) How healthy or unhealthy is fat really?

In short, it's very difficult to tell. Filtering out what is real
risk or benefit from the over-exaggeration and prejudice is tough.

For example, there is the common view that going to the gym and lifting
weights is healthy, but when considering fat people who do this
permanently, the common attitude is that it is unhealthy. It's
difficult to see objectively the health benefits of being fat against
the health risks, and these may vary a lot with the individual.

Being fat does *not* automatically mean that one is unhealthy.

A clearer way to examine the risks is to look at the research. Even then,
care must be exercised. There are many studies that show correlations
(positive and negative) between many diseases and obesity. But correlation
is not the same as cause. Obesity may cause disease X or disease X may
cause obesity, or a third factor could be causing them both.
Obesity may exacerbate or hurry the onset of an illness that would have
happened anyway.

To examine how healthy it is for you to be at a certain weight, don't
just consider what health risks you may have at that weight, but also
consider the effort (and mental happiness) required to change weight,
and the effort required to maintain that new weight, the probability
that you will rebound to your original weight, the health risks included
in the weight change and possible rebound, and the health risks at
the new weight (if you manage to stay there - it's difficult to maintain
a weight larger or smaller than your body naturally wants to stay at).
You might well conclude that you'd be happier and healthier not concentrating
energies on weight change.

It is unproven that losing weight increase longevity.

One anecdote from a.s.b-f even mentions how being fat saved one guy's
life. He was on his bike, hit by a car, and thrown some distance into
the street. Passersby thought he was dead, but he had only bruises, and
it was his fat that saved his life.

"But I've heard that obesity gives you a 1200% greater risk of dying!"
No, everyone has a 100% chance of dying. The figure comes from a study
where 200 obese men were put on a diet for two years, and regained the
weight. The number of men in the 25-34 age group who died during the
follow-up period was 12 times the expected number for men of this age.
Draw your own conclusions as to what the risk was - the reference is
in the Research FAQ, [DBSJ].

See the new Research FAQ for relevance references about obesity and


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