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Why fat people live longer

ST ILLUSTRATION: LUIS MISTADES

Publication Date : 07-01-2013

 

A US National Centers for Disease Control and Prevention study shows being overweight does not lead to early death as previously thought

 

I must say that I want to run around the room yelling "I told you so" at everyone but since it is the new year, I shan't. Also, my back hurts and I don't feel like running around. Also, I didn't actually tell anyone so it would be a lie.

But I assure you that I have been thinking it the whole time. And if you had asked me if fat people live longer than skinny people, I most certainly would have told you so. So there.

In case you do not know what I am going on about, let me fill you in on the most exciting medical discovery since the invention of Panadol.

Last week, the US National Centers for Disease Control and Prevention concluded that being slightly overweight does not actually lead you to an early grave as previously thought.

In fact, they found that people who were just overweight, with a Body Mass Index of between 25 and 29.9, actually live longer than people of normal weight. (Normal is defined as having a BMI of between 18.5 and 24.9)

And we're not talking about some fly- by-night study sponsored by the neighbourhood char kway teow man.

This was one of the largest reviews of research ever conducted. It covered nearly 3 million people and pooled data from 97 studies in the United States, Canada, Europe, Australia, China and Taiwan.

This was serious stuff. And they came to a conclusion that flies in the face of everything your doctor or mother ever told you about the subject.

To be fair, this contradiction is not that surprising. The health industry has a long history of contradicting itself when it comes to weight and health.

These days, people would consider anyone without visible stomach muscles fat but back then, someone with my robust body shape would be considered perfect for a role in a superhero movie.

Watch early versions of the Superman or Batman TV shows and you would notice zero visible stomach muscles. But it did not appear to hamper their ability to fight bad guys. George Reeves (Superman) and Adam West (Batman) both looked like they were just as adept at putting away criminals as they were at putting away cheeseburgers.

With that image in mind, everybody bulked up so they could look like these model specimens. But what do you know? Someone went and changed the definition of healthy.

Suddenly, in order to be fit, you could no longer look like 1950s Superman. You had to be much, much smaller.

And the health industry couldn't even agree on what the best way was to get much, much smaller. At first, some people thought the best way to do it was to eat less and exercise a lot.

But other people came along and said: "That's a lousy way to lose weight. We can lose weight much faster by eating anything we want, except carbohydrates."

Suddenly people were wolfing down hunks of steak and bacon but they wouldn't touch a single grain of rice.

Then some other people came and said that these no-carbohydrate people were idiots and that they were damaging their health. The correct way to lose weight was to eat only Subway sandwiches.

Then came the people who believe in surgical procedures; the people who believe in pills; the people who believe in having only beverages; the people who believe in eating only organic things; the people who believe in Zumba; and of course, the people who believe in exercise equipment bought off television that have the word "master" or "buster" somewhere in its name, like the "flabmasterbuster 2000".

And guess what? After we've gone through all those phases, they came out last week and said that we might be better off just continuing to look like 1950s Superman. I swear this is some sort of cruel prank just to see how much they can get us to do.

I mean, if you were to sit down and think about it carefully, it would become clear quickly that having a bit of excess fat on you might prolong your life. You don't want so much more fat that your risk of heart disease increases, but a little bit can be good.

For instance, being fat is a well established kidnapping deterrent. Ask any kidnapper and he will readily tell you that fat kids are harder to snatch and shove into the van.

Then there is the matter of buoyancy. Even someone with an elementary understanding of science will know that fat is more buoyant than muscle. Therefore, if you are unfortunate enough to have been shipwrecked, it only makes sense that the fatter non-swimmers are more likely to survive than the slimmer ones.

Along the same lines, a fatter person can survive a larger number of piranha bites before suffering damage to any major organs. You might think that this presents only a marginal difference, but in a situation where the piranhas are only a little bit hungry, this marginal difference could be the line between life and death.

It also thus stands to reason that a fatter person is slightly more bulletproof than a slimmer one.

And this is just a small sampling of the many ways a little fat can be a life-saver. Now, I want to make it clear for legal purposes that all this is just a bit of fun and I am by no way advocating you start stuffing yourself.

You should consult a healthcare professional before starting any sort of diet, especially if it is a diet made up entirely of cheesecake.

I would certainly be thrilled if I knew for a fact that fat people lived longer. I would give up exercise today.

But you just never know when the health industry is going to change its mind. Again.

 

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