→Fuel for the Fat Fire←
So, here’s a recipe for blatant misinterpretation:
Ingredient #1 – A research study that looks at a controversial issue
Ingredient #2 – The Media and their “Headlines”
Ingredient #3 – People who seek out any reason to justify something, when the only reason that thing needs to be justified for them, and anyone who will listen, is because there is usually more evidence supporting the side of the argument that isn’t their own.
This brings us to a study done by a PhD from the Department of Epidemiology and Population Health, Albert Einstein College of Medicine.
Let’s look at some of the headlines from the articles that talk about this study, then we’ll see what the study was about.
This study looked at the data from over 5,000 adults of all ages and sizes that participated in National Health and Nutrition Examination Surveys administered over a five year period.
It wanted to find out if there are any correlations in the percentages of normal-weight people, and overweight/obese people, that have cardiometabolic abnormalities. Those abnormalities include; elevated blood pressure, elevated levels of triglycerides, fasting plasma glucose, C-reactive protein, elevated homeostasis model assessment of insulin resistance value, and low high-density lipoprotein cholesterol level.
This is what the result of the study says:
Among US adults 20 years and older, 23.5% (approximately 16.3 million adults) of normal-weight adults were metabolically abnormal, whereas 51.3% (approximately 35.9 million adults) of overweight adults and 31.7% (approximately 19.5 million adults) of obese adults were metabolically healthy.”
First off, I’m going to have to point out that the wording of these results is horrible. It makes it sound to me as if the author of the study has a bias.
The way the study results were worded compared the numbers of unhealthy thin people, to healthy fat people. This makes the results misleading in their interpretation by the casual observer, because the percentages of healthy fat people are both larger than the percentages of unhealthy thin people. They should have compared unhealthy to unhealthy, and healthy to healthy.
It should be worded like this:
- 23.5% of normal-weight adults were metabolically abnormal, whereas 48.7% of overweight adults and 68.3% of obese adults were metabolically abnormal.
Do you see the difference?
All research jargon aside, 1 out of 4 thin people are unhealthy (according to their parameters), 2 out of 4 overweight people are unhealthy, and 2.7 out of 4 obese people are unhealthy.
Want another way to say it? If you are overweight, you are 200% more likely to have cardiometabolic abnormalities than thin people. If you are obese, 300%.
Not much to argue with there.
Oh, but wait. Remember Ingredient #3 in this recipe? The people that try to justify, being fat? Perhaps because the results were worded the way they were, it was easy for our Fatophile friends to extrapolate the fact that NOT ALL FAT PEOPLE ARE UNHEALTHY, DAMN IT! ONLY… MOST!
Their reason for focusing on this fact, and the fact that there are of course thin people that are unhealthy too, is to draw attention away from themselves. Attention that originates both from other people, and from themselves. Attention that likes to point out to them that the evidence is overwhelming that while if you are overweight, you MAY not be “unhealthy” (depending on which parameters you choose to go by), but YOU ARE MORE LIKELY TO BE, AND STUDIES SHOW THAT MORE OF YOU ARE UNHEALTHY THAN PEOPLE THAT ARE NOT OVERWEIGHT!!!
I’d like to give you a few quotes from the study and the articles that are interpreting the results, that a lot of people have chosen to ignore:
Study co-author Judith Wylie-Rosett emphasized that the study shouldn’t send the message “that we don’t need to worry about weight.” That’s because half of overweight people do face elevated risks for heart disease.
The results underscore how important exercise is for staying healthy, even for people of healthy weight.
The authors noted that fat tissue releases hormones and other substances that affect things like blood vessels, cholesterol and blood sugar.
The results also add to mounting evidence that thick waists are linked with heart risks.
Among people of healthy weight in the study, elevated blood pressure, cholesterol and other factors were more common for people with larger waists or potbellies. This often signals internal fat deposits surrounding abdominal organs, which previous research has shown can be especially risky.
Similarly, among overweight and obese adults, those in the “healthy” category tended to have smaller waists than those with at least two risk factors.
The articles I mentioned point out that because not all overweight people have cardiometabolic abnormalities, these millions of people are “defying the stereotypes”.
Lets look at some awesome quotes from people that completely misinterpreted the results of this study. These are in the comments section of the New York Times Health Blog. Check them out.
All I can say, is “finally”!!!! some common sense.
I have been telling my patients and my family this same thing for years. Now I can show them the objective proof.
So when the anti-fat crowd get all self righteous about how its just about our health its a lie. It is because of the beauty myth. Nothing more. Nothing less. Prescribing that all fat people are unhealthy is simply imposing a beauty standard by stealth.
Just call me, Ninja Bloggy.
These are examples of what I mean when I say that this study was Fuel for the Fat Fire. Fatophiles everywhere see an article like this, and assume that they are among the percentage of overweight people that are not yet unhealthy. I say “not yet unhealthy” because the study points out that no matter what size you are, you are more likely to develop health problems from excess fat as you get older.
Do yourself an amusing favor. Look for a very popular “Fat Acceptance” blog, Shapely Prose that talks about this same study. Notice how not one of the 100+ comments points out that this study has one clear conclusion: That overweight people have more occurrences of health problems than non-overweight people. They only focus on the point that you can’t always tell if a person is healthy or not just by looking at them. Well, according to this study, I would say that you could make a pretty confident assumption.
What does this study tell us? It tells us that not 100% of overweight people are unhealthy. No shit. But, an overweight person is significantly more likely to be unhealthy than someone who isn’t. That’s a good enough reason for me to eat well and exercise with the goal of maintaining a healthy body fat percentage. If you are overweight, and want to play the odds and have that second helping of dessert, and stay sitting on the couch to watch that re-run of Seinfeld you’ve already seen, then go right ahead.
Does this study tell us that I, Bloggy McBloggenstein, should stop focusing on fat people that have poor lifestyles, when clearly ALL sizes of people can benefit from an improved diet and increased activity level?