A fat lotta good

 
 

As the western world grows fatter by the day, is there any good reason for choosing to be overweight? asks Luke Dillon.

The battle against obesity could be the great health struggle of our times. There are well known associations between obesity and cardiovascular disease, diabetes and other metabolic diseases. More recently, dementia and certain cancers have been added to that list.

These diseases place a huge and preventable strain on hospital care and on our national health budget. Not to mention the burden on patients themselves. A quarter of our population is affected by clinical obesity and according to Dr Donal O’Shea of St Vincent’s Hospital, by 2030 that figure could climb to an astronomical 50 per cent.

At a time when battle lines are being drawn, and the case against obesity grows steadily stronger, is it wrong to ask what, if any, are the benefits of being obese?

A US government study in 2007 suggests that being just slightly overweight, 15 to 25 pounds, can be beneficial in fighting pnemonia, emphysema and other infections. Considering the number of mortalities linked to obesity-related conditions, the subsequent outrage over publication of those results is somewhat understandable.

It is evident however, that obesity can play an advantageous role in specific cases. In developing countries mortality from tuberculosis is reduced by obesity. Since obesity is essentially a large store of energy, its protective effect might be due to an increased ability to cope with the excess metabolic demands of serious infection.

Advantages for food lovers include increased appetite and volume of intake. People who do conquer obesity often comment in retrospect that food is the one thing they miss about their old life.

A thick layer of fat under the skin can act to insulate the body from cold weather, a phenomenon which eskimos put to good use. Fat is also useful to cushion areas of pressure when sitting. These again are two of the most missed comforts of the formerly overweight.

From an aesthetic point of view, subcutanous fat deposits and distention of the skin can prolong the onset of wrinkles. But while on the outside one may appear to be aging well, irreversible damage could be taking place inside.

In political life, obesity has advantages too. Simply, more people might trust you if you’re big. Forget all the hype about Obama being the first black president, the real history being made is he could be the first fit president. In fact, a cursory glance indicates that portly people seem to make up the bulk of world leaders, not to mention many of our domestic ones.

The battle against obesity could be the great health struggle of our times. There are well known associations between obesity and cardiovascular disease, diabetes and other metabolic diseases. More recently, dementia and certain cancers have been added to that list.

These diseases place a huge and preventable strain on hospital care and on our national health budget. Not to mention the burden on patients themselves. A quarter of our population is affected by clinical obesity and according to Dr Donal O’Shea of St Vincent’s Hospital, by 2030 that figure could climb to an astronomical 50 per cent.

At a time when battle lines are being drawn, and the case against obesity grows steadily stronger, is it wrong to ask what, if any, are the benefits of being obese?

A US government study in 2007 suggests that being just slightly overweight, 15 to 25 pounds, can be beneficial in fighting pnemonia, emphysema and other infections. Considering the number of mortalities linked to obesity-related conditions, the subsequent outrage over publication of those results is somewhat understandable.

It is evident however, that obesity can play an advantageous role in specific cases. In developing countries mortality from tuberculosis is reduced by obesity. Since obesity is essentially a large store of energy, its protective effect might be due to an increased ability to cope with the excess metabolic demands of serious infection.

Advantages for food lovers include increased appetite and volume of intake. People who do conquer obesity often comment in retrospect that food is the one thing they miss about their old life.

A thick layer of fat under the skin can act to insulate the body from cold weather, a phenomenon which eskimos put to good use. Fat is also useful to cushion areas of pressure when sitting. These again are two of the most missed comforts of the formerly overweight.

From an aesthetic point of view, subcutanous fat deposits and distention of the skin can prolong the onset of wrinkles. But while on the outside one may appear to be aging well, irreversible damage could be taking place inside.

In political life, obesity has advantages too. Simply, more people might trust you if you’re big. Forget all the hype about Obama being the first black president, the real history being made is he could be the first fit president. In fact, a cursory glance indicates that portly people seem to make up the bulk of world leaders, not to mention many of our domestic ones.

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