Monday, July 10, 2006

Dying, literally, for a Big Mac

Much to my amazement, there exists a group of individuals who vehemently deny that obesity is medically risky. They're organized, write books and blogs, and often appear on national news shows claiming that it's all a big myth perpetuated through a combination of bias and capitalism. Should any of them read this blog, I would love their viewpoint on yet another in a never-ending line of well designed medical studies that clearly demonstrate the risks of obesity.

In this weeks Journal of the American Medical Association, Kathleen McTigue et al. looked at death rates and heart disease in 90,185 women following across 40 States for an average of 7 years.

Her results were not in the least bit surprising: The heavier the patient, the higher the death rate. For those with body mass indices between 30-35 death rates increased by 18%; for those with body mass indices between 35-40 death rates increased by 49%; and for those with body mass indices greater than 40 death rates rose by more than 100%.

An easier and far less scientific experiment is for you to think to yourself how many people dramatically overweight people you know who have made it past the age of 75. Speaking for myself and including the literally thousands of patients I used to have when I was working as a GP, along with the thousand or so I saw in stroke rehab, along with my friends and family, I can only think of around 30 over-75-year olds who had BMIs greater than 40, and none of them were living easy, carefree, healthy lives - they all had significant weight related co-morbidities that made their lives very difficult.

I'm all for beating down bias against obesity, and there's no doubt that some folks with significant amounts of weight to lose will lead long healthy lives unaffected by their weights. That being said, some smokers don't die from lung cancer, but of course that doesn't make smoking any healthier.