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Causes of Death Linked To Weight 385

An anonymous reader writes to mention that while a couple of years ago researchers found that overweight people have a lower death rate than people with a normal weight, it may be more complicated than that. "Now, investigating further, they found out which diseases are more likely to lead to death in each weight group. Linking, for the first time, causes of death to specific weights, they report that overweight people have a lower death rate because they are much less likely to die from a grab bag of diseases that includes Alzheimer's and Parkinson's, infections and lung disease. And that lower risk is not counteracted by increased risks of dying from any other disease, including cancer, diabetes or heart disease."
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Causes of Death Linked To Weight

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  • The whole study is a joke because it assumes that body mass index is a valid measure of obesity, and it isn't. The only real way to tell how fat you are is to measure your body fat percentage, usually with calipers although some new scales claim to be able to do it electrically.

    I lift weights, and I'm at the higher side of the BMI because I've got a bit more muscle mass. Yet, according to that study, I'd be "fat". And I'm not even particularly big. If you got a man who was lifting since their teens into middle age, he could easily have 20 - 40 pounds more muscle than the average joe.

    It's wrong to teach BMI in schools. It's wrong to use it as a measure. If you want to know fat, break out the calipers. Anything less, is wrong, and anything based on it, is absurd.
  • by foobsr ( 693224 ) * on Wednesday November 07, 2007 @04:02PM (#21271595) Homepage Journal
    In 2005: "Obesity Threatens to Cut U.S. Life Expectancy, New Analysis Suggests"

    Besides, being underweight, I don't buy into it anyway.

  • by coyote-san ( 38515 ) on Wednesday November 07, 2007 @04:25PM (#21271953)
    It's also an issue if you're tall or short. Weight goes up as the cube of your size, but the BMI only goes up by the square. So somebody who's 10% taller than average (say a bit under 6" for a guy) should naturally have a BMI range about 10% larger as well. Shoehorning him into BMI 25 is roughly akin to demanding the average guy get under BMI 22.5.

    (This is all approximate, of course, but so's the BMI in general. The bottom line is that a single BMI for all heights is the cleanest public health message, but it should be tempered when you're talking about individuals.)

    Shorter people have the opposite problem. They might think they're well within the recommended range at BMI 25, but in fact they should be staying under BMI 22.5. This gives them a false sense of security.

    BTW, I've seen a similiar message come into vogue recently. Men should have a waist under 40" (by some experts), or under 35" (by the guys who wrote "You on a Diet".) I understand and accept the general premise, but the guy at 5'7" is going to still be a little chubby while I (at 6'2") would be showing some serious ribs.
  • by NerveGas ( 168686 ) on Wednesday November 07, 2007 @04:30PM (#21272021)
    If you look at the graphs, being overweight reduced your chances... but being obese looked like it greatly INCREASED your chances of dying.
  • Re:I'm not... (Score:5, Informative)

    by Knuckles ( 8964 ) <knuckles@d a n t i> on Wednesday November 07, 2007 @04:39PM (#21272171)
    I'm fairly certain that I have read many times over the years that accidents at home create more costs for insurance companies than any other activity. That is, people are more likely to fall down their stairs than having a car or mountaineering accident. In fact, whenever I read/heard about this it was in the context of insurance companies' campaigns to reduce home risks, like "don't stack a chair onto a table to reach to the ceiling."

    Dunno if there is a correlation between home accidents and weight, though.
  • by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday November 07, 2007 @04:39PM (#21272179)
    Joseph Addai - Overweight, borderline obese
    Shawn Alexander - Obese
    Mike Alstott - Morbidly Obese
    Marion Barber - Obese
    Ray Lewis - Morbidly Obese
    Ladanian Tomlinson - Obese
    Lance Armstrong - Overweight
  • by arete ( 170676 ) <> on Wednesday November 07, 2007 @04:51PM (#21272353) Homepage
    You may be "informative" but you're also wrong, unless you're using some fancy definition of "more" like including all the people that never see a car.

    Cars are EXTREMELY dangerous, and that we let all of us idiots drive such powerful death machines with such little regulation is frightening.

    If you want some pseudomath - the insurance company premiums are directly related to their costs, at least if you assume a semicompetitive market. Housing insurance is annually lower than car insurance - even with extremely inexpensive car insurance - everywhere I've seen. And that's for cars costing substantially LESS than the house...

  • by DCheesi ( 150068 ) on Wednesday November 07, 2007 @05:04PM (#21272511) Homepage
    From TFA: "The researchers caution that a study like theirs cannot speak to cause and effect. They do not yet know, precisely, what it is about being underweight, for instance, that increases the death rate from everything except heart disease and cancer. Researchers tried to rule out those who were thin, because they might have been already sick. They also ruled out smokers, and the results did not change."
  • by sentientbrendan ( 316150 ) on Wednesday November 07, 2007 @08:00PM (#21274895)
    It's true that obesity kills, but there are 4 categories the article identifies

    1. underweight
    2. at weight
    3. overweight
    4. obese

    The article seems to indicate that the best categories to be in are 2 or 3, which shouldn't be that surprising. Being obese is horrible for your health, but there is a fairly wide range of weight around normal weight which remains healthy.

    One thing that the article makes clear is that being *underweight* is pretty bad for you, and has much more problems associated with it than being overweight (but not obese). Again, this shouldn't be surprising. Being overweight just means that you are carrying around some excess fat, but is not an indication of malnutrition. Being underweight means that your body is nutrition deprived enough that it hasn't been able to build up a fat store. It also means, that since you don't have a significant fat store, your body starts to cannibalize muscle tissue whenever you go for a while without eating.

    In general, good nutrition is the key thing. Either overeating *or* dieting when you don't need to will damage your body and lower your life span. Remember, also you need some fat on your body for doing things like cushioning your heart, and for when you go a while without eating anything nutritious, which many people do without realizing it.
  • Re:I'm not... (Score:3, Informative)

    by ceoyoyo ( 59147 ) on Wednesday November 07, 2007 @09:18PM (#21275783)
    The summary is a bit misleading. Overweight people have a lower mortality rate but obese people have a HIGHER mortality rate.

    The overweight category is a bit sketchy. BMI is a really simple measurement and it's perfectly possible (even likely) for a fit person to get slotted into the overweight category simply due to muscle mass.

    It's been shown that a better metric than BMI is waist to hip ratio. The beer belly is also where the more dangerous fat that builds up around internal organs tends to show up most clearly.

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