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Topic 9 - Is It Unhealthy To Be Fat?

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Old 07-04-2007, 07:19 PM   #16
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I came across a blurb...can't remember where or how....but they were talking about fewer fat people die from heart attacks and strokes than do thin people.

Taken out of context one might draw a conclusion to eat, drink, and be merry. However, what is interesting is that they did not give any statistics on how they came to that conclusion.

I can think of several scenarios where the facts wouldn't support the conclusions.... however, in the interest of making money.... figures don't lie, but liars figure!! (That means, anyone can skew statistics to show what ever they way to show.) As was previously stated.... maybe a fuller figure is healthier than the twiggies of this world.... but for the truely obese.... poor health is their number one concern. (else we would all weigh about 1000 pounds and be proud of it!!!)
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Old 07-05-2007, 02:01 AM   #17
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Moxiesd -- Do you remember about "how fat exactly" what you read was talking, if it did? I'm curious, because in our world where being a size 6 is apparently already being fat, I wouldn't be surprised if this involved people who are just 10-20 lbs overweight compared to the 'standards', and really not more. In which case it's indeed very possible and even likely to be in pretty good health and shape in spite of the extra layer of fat.
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Old 07-05-2007, 02:11 AM   #18
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Shortly after the news was carrying the story about how " being a little overweight is better for your health", I read a follow-up in the news that once the study was corrected by taking out people who were at lower weights due to illnesses, etc, that the study data clearly showed lower mortality in people who were not overweight. I guess that news wasn't as satisfying to report or remember.

In any case, here's a link to an insurance company article, discussing the relative and absolute risks of obesity. It would be great to have you experts in interpreting studies have a look at it:

This one's a PDF, with lots of charts and graphs:
http://www.swissre.com/INTERNET/pwsfilpr.nsf/vwFilebyIDKEYLu/ULUR-7279WV/$FILE/Publ04_Obesity_en.pdf

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Old 07-05-2007, 09:04 AM   #19
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I'll see if I can take a closer look at that link, but one of the problems with interpreting this research is the question: Who were the participants?

If I remember right, this is one of the questions that was addressed in Kolata's book. With work like this, we need to know if the results can apply to everyone -- or to whom they can be applied.

For example, the very famous "nurses study" has followed a large sample of nurses over many years as the women provided a lot of information about their lifestyles. But can the results of this study apply to people who are NOT like these nurses? Is there something about the nurses that make them different from other people? Probably, though knowing WHAT that is -- who knows? They may be smarter, or more detail oriented, or be different in any number of ways...

The only way to have results that are generalizable to a larger population is to draw a sample of people from a group in such a way that EVERYONE IN THE POPULATION HAS AN EQUAL CHANCE OF BEING IN THE STUDY. This is called random sampling or representative sampling.

I don't know if that sounds easy, but it's not. Think about a population such as all the students in a school. You could get a random sample of that population by taking a list of ALL students (this is important), and then sampling a certain number of them. Again, it has to be in a way such that everyone has an equal chance to be picked. Like dumping all names in a hat and picking so many of them.

But you can't get a random sample of a population if you don't have a way to get a list of everyone...

Without a random sample, it's hard to say how the results generalize beyond that sample, because there may be something that makes them different from others. For example, if you collect data at a mall, the people there are all capable of leaving their homes and willing to spend money and at the mall at a certain time. They may be different from the population as a whole in a number of ways: wealthier, mobile, unemployed? Who knows.

So, look at the studies discussed in Kolata's book and her discussion of the participants -- who was taken OUT of the studies and for what reasons? That's an important issue.

I'm sorry to go on and on... I have no idea if this is of interest to anyone and don't want to blather on if not!!
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Old 07-05-2007, 09:14 AM   #20
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Heather, blather on! I think it's absolutely essential for us to be able to evaluate all the conflicting information we get about weight loss and maintenance. So any light that you or anyone else can shed on how to interpret studies is most welcome!
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Old 07-05-2007, 11:30 AM   #21
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Thanks, Meg. I have to be careful when I get into "teaching mode" sometimes. Though, unlike my students, you guys can ignore everything, and not worry that it will be on a test!

Of course, in some respects, you all may be MORE interested, motivated, as we are discussing issues that are important to us. Our test is real life!
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Old 07-05-2007, 11:42 AM   #22
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Quote:
Originally Posted by wyllenn View Post
Our test is real life!
I like that! It's so true, this isn't theory for us. It's practice and it's just about as important as can be.
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Old 07-05-2007, 02:31 PM   #23
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Sorry..but this seems like the typical "if a little is good more must be better"

Yes the super rail thin are unhealthy, I was certainly healthier at 150 than an anorexic, probably even at 180, but that doesnt mean more is better

Am I healthier now than at 150? I dont know. But I know for a fact that I am healthier than I was at 180.

There are SOOOO many ways those statistics can be skewed...take for example the study on the hospitals in our area. My local community hospital had a heart attack and stroke mortality rate DOUBLE the bigger city hospitals.

What wasnt mentioned in the report is that my town is a retirement home mecca. Our population is extremely skewed with almost 40% of the population being over 65. A significant # who die at the retirement homes are transported by ambulance to the ER and then pronounced. Technically they "died at the hospital" because they were pronounced at the hospital.
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Old 07-05-2007, 03:49 PM   #24
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ennay, that's a great example.

I like to say not that statistics are always skewed, but that they are often misinterpreted. That is, people don't take into account all the factors (like the example above) when they try to put them into context.

I wish students learned how to interpret science and research studies more in the public schools! I think we are often scientifically illiterate in many ways because people don't teach us the right questions to ask! So many of us just get frustrated and decide that all research is meaningless, because it seems so confusing! It IS confusing, I agree, but I think we expect "truth" and "answers" and science moves very slowly to give those.

Take the question of this thread: "Is it Unhealthy to be Fat?"

I don't think we know the full answer to that question, not by a longshot. But I'm willing to bet the answer is something like this:

"Well, when you look at people at the extremes, really really skinny, or really really fat, that as a whole they tend to suffer more of this and that and die sooner than people in the middle. Now, as for those in the middle, yes, as weight increases there are increased tendencies to experience this and that problem, but one must also take into account other lifestyle issues. For example, regular exercise plays an important role in reducing x, y and z diseases. And don't forget nutrition! To complicate matters further, people who are deemed overweight may be more likely to experience q and r than "normal weight" people, but they tend to be protected from s and t."

And that isn't concise and doesn't fit on a headline of a news report!
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Old 07-05-2007, 05:08 PM   #25
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I think it would be funny if they did a study of overweight people and found that they were healthier than normal weight people, and it turned out the overweight people were overweight from eating too many vegetables and too much whole wheat bread, while the normal weight people subsisted on a diet of french fries and milkshakes.
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Old 07-06-2007, 05:43 PM   #26
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I'm not sure how I feel about this question.

I've often been troubled by the idea that seems popular that excess weight *causes* health issues like heart disease, high blood pressure, etc. It seems more likely to me that the behaviours that cause excess weight cause the heart disease & other issues. It's a small distinction, but an important one because it means that theoretically, if one was as Jessica suggested, one could have extra weight due to overeating healthy foods and still be healthy.

There's the question of degree too though, as others have suggested. 15-20 lbs overweight is one thing, 100+ is different. Being obese would put strain on your heart muscles, knees, respitory system, everything. I can see that it would be hard to be considered healthy & be obese.

At 170 lbs, I'm technically overweight, but my blood profiles are excellent, I run 3-4 times a week, weight train, don't smoke, I'm not a workaholic, I eat healthily and sleep well. Do I think the 11 lbs I'm overweight according to the BMI index necessarily means I'm less healthy than my junk food eating, smoking, never exercises, works too hard sister who happens to fall within a normal weight BMI? No. You can't convince me that by virtue of those 11 lbs only, I'm less healthy than she is.
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Old 07-06-2007, 08:23 PM   #27
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I think for the most part if you are talking morbidly obese, to deny the link is ludicrous. If you are talking obese......well, then fitness, nutrition may balance it some. If you are talking "overweight" well, then I do submit that at some point BMI is only a rough approximation and while you can make assumptions about the "overweight population as a whole" you absolutely cant about individuals. Lifestyle factors are absolutely more than weight.

BUT.....and this is small samples so not statistically significant at all, from my own observation there is ALSO a point at which the morbidly obese (note I say obese, not overweight) seem to also struggle from illnesses that are not technically lifestyle diseases. For example, I have 2 very close morbidly obese friends. In the past year they have both been hospitalized for things that are not technically due to their weight. BUT whether its from difficulty of care, stress on the immune system, or maybe flat out shoddy care from prejudiced doctors (I do firmly believe that the obese receive a lower standard of care overall) the fact remains that they are ill more often than most people, have more complications when they are ill, and are ill far more often than when they were merely obese.

Will EVERY obese person become ill, of course not. Just as every smoker doesnt get lung cancer and every sun goddess doesnt get skin cancer.

But I do NOT believe that the CDC is part of a "conspiracy" with the diet industry.

I'm sorry, of all the chapters this is the most ludicrous. Conspiracy theory?

I think health is a complicated curve and of course there are multiple factors, but I think there is pretty overwhelming evidence. Her "you cant trust THOSE statistics, but here, trust MINE" argument is pretty laughable.

What next? Type II Diabetes is just a sign of the burgeoning health of our youth?
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Old 07-06-2007, 08:31 PM   #28
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Quote:
As populations grew healthier they grew taller and fatter [There are] higher death rates at the lowest and highest body mass indexes. And the best weights for health consistently included ones in the overweight range. Could that mean that the obesity epidemic is actually a good thing, with height increasing because of better nutrition and freedom from disease, with weights increasing too, to allow the average person the best possible health? (p 209)
I still dont see how the logical premise of "And the best weights for health consistently included ones in the overweight range. " leads to the conclusion "Could that mean that the obesity epidemic is actually a good thing,"

This is a CLASSIC logical fallacy tactic... take a statement about one group of people (the overweight) and make a conclusion that applies to a second group of people (the obese) as if the groups were the same. (politicians do it all the time)

It would be the same as concluding that because moderate drinkers of alcohol have better heart factors than teetotallers, therefore alcoholics must be even healthier.

I am willing to concede that the definition of healthy weight and overweight may be a little ....imprecise. I wasnt magically healthier the day I went from 142 to 141.
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Old 07-07-2007, 01:39 AM   #29
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oooh.. great point, ennay, about confounding these definitions. If we're going to use "overweight" and "obese" and give them different definitions (as we have) then we have to be sure to take care with how we use them.

[blather]This is another issue I talk about in my classes a lot when discussing research: How did you measure it? We typically use BMI to "measure" levels of obesity, but there's general consensus this measurement is flawed. It only looks at height and weight.

I wonder if the results of these studies would be different if they used percentage of body fat? Of course, the problem there is that it is harder to measure than BMI. BMI is easy to assess, but may be meaningless. BF% is harder to measure, but may be more meaningful.

But it makes me wonder if a lot of the people who fall into the overweight category on the BMI are actually lower in BF, but higher in muscle. And THAT group might be healthy.

So, the sample (who the participants are) makes a difference, and how we measure things makes a difference. When you boil it down, these two issues are what I tell my students to look for in every study they read about. There are more issues to examine, sure, but these are relatively easy to start asking questions about!! [/blather]
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Old 07-07-2007, 03:07 PM   #30
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I love your blathering, Heather! It makes so much sense. Where were you when I was in college? Oh, yeah, probably in grade school. . . Anyway, I'd wager to say that many of the folks here at 3FC fall in the "fat but fit" category, esp as they work their way down in their weight loss. Certainly the majority of people who lose significant amounts of weight have an exercise component to their weight loss. There are exceptions, of course. (Just saw a thread called Lost 105 lbs without exercise, or somthing like that) Ah, wherever I was going with this before the phone rang has escaped me. I'll just close and get dressed and on with my day.
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