No doubt you’ve heard all the buzz about the recent study suggesting that overweight people have a longevity advantage. The researchers performed a meta-analysis of 97 studies, which included nearly 3 million subjects. They looked at body mass index (BMI) and mortality and found that those in the overweight category—BMI of 25 to 35—had a 5 to 6 percent lower mortality rate. Only at a BMI of 35 or above did mortality risk start to rise.
While it’s not the final word on the relationship between weight and health (no single study, no matter how large and well-conducted, is the final word on anything) it’s one more piece of data that helps to broaden perspective on this issue. An editorial accompanying the study noted that BMI is known to be an imperfect predictor of disease risk. People with higher BMIs can be healthy. And not everyone whose BMI is higher than “ideal” needs to lose weight.
The perspective that is gaining support is one that points away from the scale, and toward healthy habits that are sustainable—that is, habits that not only support health, but that also don’t leave you feeling hungry and deprived.
We vegans have some definite advantages in this regard, and my first article for the new Our Hen House online magazine explores some of the reasons why. I’m so excited to be a part of the Our Hen House project; I love their focus on creating real change for animals in positive ways. One of the most positive things you can do is trade in weight loss efforts for healthy habits and a lifestyle based on compassion. If the weight comes off, that’s great. If it doesn’t—it’s still great.
Here is my OHH article Moving Beyond the Scale for a Happy, Healthy 2013. It’s accompanied by a fabulous recipe for Cinnamon Walnut Banana Bread from my pal JL Fields. And, if you are a member of the Our Hen House flock, you’ll have access to some bonus tips on eating to maximize satiety.
My BMI right now is about is around 31, down from near 34 at its peak. I plan to continue to lose weight.
While this new analysis suggests my current BMI might be okay in terms of things like heart disease and other potentially fatal conditions, it’s also worth considering non-fatal conditions.
I have a lot of joint pain in my knees, and intermittent back problems. It seems likely that losing weight will help reduce this. I’m sure there are plenty of other non-fatal health issues that are exacerbated by weight as well.
Yeah, I’m not actually sure what my BMI is (I’m afraid to know!), I know that in the past I’ve felt best around a BMI of 24, even though my hunger cues seem to want my body to be in the 25+ world. When I’m lighter I breathe easier, can easily achieve any of my fitness goals, and can generally keep up my energy and pace in a way that I want to be able to. I’m not all that worried about heart disease and diabetes – I don’t have any family risk for these things. I’m not even that worried about longevity – my relatives live well into their nineties whether they’re fat or thin (mostly they’re obese). I’m worried about my quality of life right now, and that seems to go up when my weight goes down.
Greetings! I think it’s protective to have a little extra fat. Especially as we age. Certainly we need to eat healthy food and get in our exercise – and after that, you are the size you are. Be glad!
Ginny, nice way to put the whole thing in perspective.
I trust you noticed something else the meta-analysis revealed: what a politicized joke so much of nutrition research is. Willett (a hero of this movement, as I recall), among others, aggressively dismissed the result without offering a shred of actual scientific criticism. They just didn’t like how it might affect their activism. While nutrition researcher-activists are not perverting the science quite as badly as anti-tobacco and anti-alcohol (as I mentioned in my last comment on this blog), they are close and getting closer. They have definitely become a part of the anti-food movement.
Congrats on becoming part of the Our Hen House online magazine! That’s terrific and well deserved!
I became vegan almost two years ago and your book was such a big help in helping me sort our the nutritional aspects of my new diet. It amazes me how much better I feel now. In fact, I had my dental cleaning yesterday and my hygienist, who’s only known me since I went vegan, said she loves working on my teeth because they are so clean and healthy. Before going vegan, though, they were a mess. I had had a lifetime of root canals. But now they are problem free!
I’m not an expert or a physician, and I’ve heard from more than a few physicians that scientific research does support that once weight in the form of fat (not muscle) exceeds 23% of the body weight, bad things begin to happen with the estrogen levels and testosterone levels that dramatically increases the chances of certain estrogen and testosterone related cancer development. Between how this taxes the body to lug around extra weight on the joints and bones, and the implications on reproductive hormones, can obesity really be healthy?
Intuition says not. I’m not in a hurry to jump on that bandwagon.
I can’t help but think–and I am not a medical expert–that the reason a higher BMI is helpful is not because a person has more fat, but because a person who has a higher BMI also has more muscle. It’s the loss of muscle that makes an elderly person become weak and frail. I am watching my mother turn into a little old lady right before my eyes and she is only 66. Her two heart attacks at 50 and 52 started a decade and a half of decline. I keep encouraging her to (with professional guidance) start lifting weights, but she will not.
Didn’t I just read that 98% of Americans don’t get even the RDI of potassium? Or that the the reason it will be hard to get the Vitamin C
RDI cranked up to 200mg(should be 500) is because most Americans don`t even meet the (pitiful) existing standard! Or that the average American(t.a.A) gets 8-12 grams of fibre per day, should be at least 30, and 50 would be better. Or……… the list goes on and on.
Suggests the idea that t.a.A. is so deficient in so many dietary components that eating more food (and getting more of those components) is more important to health than modest excess weights. The counter argument is that t.a.A. is then eating 4X the RDI of protein instead of 3, and 3X the max sodium instead of 2,5X, etc.
Seems to me t.a.A is so far from nutritional optimum that any study including a significant proportion of t.a.A would be worthless.