Thursday, November 15, 2007

The obesity paradox, redux

In the category of why-is-this-so-hard-to-believe, Reuters reports that the effects of the so-called "obesity paradox" have prevailed in yet another study, this one on people with heart disease and high blood pressure.

The results substantiate earlier results showing the now-famous J-shaped mortality curve described by Dr. Katherine Flegal, wherein overall mortality rates are highest at either end of the spectrum and lowest in those in the "overweight" category. What's significant about this study is that it concentrated on people with heart disease--who are, if you listen to the media at all on this subject, in imminent danger of death if they carry even a couple of "extra" pounds.

This study of 22,576 people with high blood pressure and coronary artery disease found that

compared to normal-weight subjects with a BMI between 20 and 25, the risk of death, heart attack, or stroke was lower in subjects who were overweight (BMI 25 to 30), and in those with class I obesity (BMI 30 to 35) and class II-III obesity (BMI 35 or greater).

The article is accompanied by--what else?--the obligatory shot of headless fatties. And its wrap-up leaves something to be desired:

In a commentary, Dr. Carl J. Lavie and colleagues of the Ochsner Medical Center, New Orleans caution that while improved outcomes appear to be consistently associated with increased BMI, "one should not conclude that weight reduction is detrimental in overweight populations."

I'm not sure what we should be concluding then, except that the media coverage on this subject is, as usual, beyond biased.


Susan B said...

Gah. Some people just can't pull their head out of their dominant paradigm.

Carrie Arnold said...

Alternatively, you could say that people can't pull their heads out of their thin-entitled asses.

Not that I'm suggesting anything... :)

As a journalist, I kind of understand the need for a "fair and balanced" story, which can mean quoting fat-o-phobic doctors. It's a matter of showing plenty of other facts with it.

The headless fatty photos are, however, totally unnecessary and degrading. They don't show headless anorexics on articles about eating disorders. Fat people are...people! They are just people who are fat. It's not *who you are*. In the slightest.

::steps off soapbox::

Isaac said...

Dr. Lavie says that one should not conclude such a thing because it is not supported by the (or probably any) evidence. The research doesn't have to do the apparent risks associated with weight loss in general, but regarding people with heart disease.

Harriet said...

And who, pray tell, is Dr. Lavie?