The obesity paradox: column

Jamie Oliver, chef-champion of the British waistline, is taking his healthy-eating campaign to the US. We’ll see the results next year, when the six-part series is due to be broadcast. Meanwhile, in the UK, public health adverts feature small girls eating fairy cakes under the slogan: “is a premature death so tempting?” Guilt is ladled on everywhere.

Obesity is discouraged by doctors, and in many ways, this is quite right. Research has linked obesity to serious conditions such as cardiac disease and diabetes; an obese person’s quality of life is also badly compromised. After carrying my smallest child for half an hour, I am reminded that an extra stone in weight slows you down, wears the joints and tires you out. Never mind the effects of obesity on self-esteem.

But in certain conditions, obesity has been found to have advantages. Some people have dubbed this the “obesity paradox”: patients who you might think would fare worse because of their corpulence actually do better than those of normal weight.

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Links to abstract of AHJ study:

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