The “Obesity Paradox”

Have you ever heard of this?  Go ahead and “google” or “yahoo” or even “bing” it.  You’ll find a lot of articles on this issue.  Basically the “obesity” paradox is the circumstance where a fat person is healthy.  Why this should be considered a paradox just shows you how screwed up the perception of fatness is within the medical community.

However, while being fat is considered a risk factor for many conditions (type 2 diabetes, hypertension, heart disease), fat people with these diseases tend to live longer than their average weight counterparts.  Mostly it has been studied in relation to congestive heart failure where it is clear that being fat gives you a better prognosis.

Why is this so?  So far, nobody knows.  Like many things related to the human body, the relationship between fat and health does not fit into one neat, predictable package. 

One size does not fit all when it comes to health and body size.

Until the medical community admits that a person can be fat for many many reasons, that long term weight loss is the exception not the rule, and that being fat does not necessarily equal unhealthy, fat people will continue to meet discrimination in healthcare. 

It is so bizarre to me that the healthcare community, which should be firmly based in science, is so obstinate about accepting what science now tells us about treating the fat patient.

It seems to me that every medical school should have a curriculum that includes the science of human fatness; as well as some kind of course addressing fat phobia/fat bigotry – especially in the medical community.  Sort of like how all continuing education for lawyers in California includes a certain number of hours on ethics, substance abuse, and elimination of bias in the legal profession.  If lawyers can admit they have problems, why can’t healthcare professionals?


3 thoughts on “The “Obesity Paradox”

  1. Yes. Like I said on Lesley’s post ‘Real Quick: FDA murders obesity drug research, shows no remorse’; It really is a staggering concept when you think about it: Despite the truly massive potential for earnings that lie in a diet pill that actually works, the industry cannot create one. How can anyone take that in, and still think all fat people are fat because of the same, simple reason.

  2. Thanks so much for this reminder. I’ve been so cynical about all this for so long that I’ve not actually fully investigated the ‘paradox’ except to say “Well duh-uh!” when it is mentioned-note how rare that is when you consider how much of an issue weight has become.

    It’s occured that it is the missing ‘other side’ of the unhinged bias about fatness and probably a truer reflection of its role in the body-often it is about preventing something bad happening or situations worsening.

    This is as ignored as it is resented as it doesn’t fit the ‘obesity’ agenda.

  3. I’m annoyed by the fact that it’s called a ‘paradox’. Fat and health are not mutually exclusive! It’s not a mystery or miracle, it’s (mostly) just good luck.

    I went in for my physical this year and the results came back great. Now if I were thin, the doc would’ve said “Good job! Keep it up!” But since I am fat she said “Everything looks good now, but you still need to lose X pounds. It will catch up with you.” Hello vague future health threat.

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