Beyond the BMI

The Great Weight Debate

Photo Credit: Mandj98

There’s so much attention on the “obesity epidemic” from the media and fitness gurus.  In fact, Halloween is fast approaching along with Thanksgiving so be prepared for the bombardment of what you should eat and stay on track e-mails.  Then January comes around and we know everybody will be jumping up to tell you this is the year to lose those pounds.

Why lose the pounds?  Two reasons they say…

Reason #1: You want to be healthy and live longer right and be less at risk or disease associated with being overweight.

Reason #2: Improved quality of life.

While it’s harder to argue point #2, there is a debate about being just a little overweight.  Does carrying a few extra pounds really put your health at risk?

The Great Weight Debate

Prevention magazine took a look at the great weight debate, specifically obese versus being overweight and if it’s something you need to worry about.  According to the article, many experts disagree on the dangers associated with excess weight, especially in cases where an overweight individual is considered to be healthy on all accounts.  Many studies in regards to disease and overweight have been done on those who are obese and may not apply the same way to those carrying a few extra pounds or just classified as overweight.

As part of the fact finding, the Prevention article cites a report released by the CDC (Centers for Disease Control) and the National Cancer Institute that analyzed the death records of 37,000 adults.

What did the death records show?

Overweight people had no greater risk of dying from cancer or heart disease than normal-weight people!

As you would assume, the report did find a great risk for the individuals classified as obese.  The report even went so far as to suggest that being overweight may protect you against some other diseases.  Critics quickly responded that the study failed to consider quality-of-life issues caused by excess pounds and didn’t appropriately control for unhealthy habits like smoking, which can keep people lean but undeniably raise cancer risk. Still, it added fuel to the ongoing debate of whether losing weight is absolutely necessary to reduce disease risk if you’re not obese.

While one study and one magazine article does not change the fact that striving to be fit is the goal, you have to wonder if the pressure of losing those few extra pounds to become safer from disease is really going to make a difference?  At least in terms of your health.  Granted, the quality of life issues play a role but if both people are fit and one has 15 extra pounds, it may not be such a black and white issue to say the individual who is slightly overweight is at great risk.  That may not be true.

I for one am not debating that weight loss can be one part of an overall disease prevention plan. But is it the most essential first step?

There are several other risk factors that may be more important that simply what the scale says.  Including but not limited to:

  • Family history
  • Waist measurement
  • Fitness levels
  • Cholesterol and inflammation

Personally, from the people I have talked to, the quality of life factors make the choice to shed a few pounds very important.  If it’s not for reducing the risk of disease, the lessened joint pain, the increase mobility and the feeling good about yourself are priceless value-adds of exercise.

Maybe you won’t be at any more risk than your fit friend in terms of disease and maybe you’ll even get some added protection?  But nobody can really argue the quality of life that comes from being healthy and active are more than enough reasons to try and improve your overall fitness and shed those extra pounds anyway.

Prevention article

CDC/NCI study abstract

Marc David
“The NoBull Muscle Guy”

Categories: Current Health News