Saturday, May 03, 2003

Does Being Overweight Significantly Increase Your Risk of Cancer?

Apparently not, according to this rebuttal of recent reports of a weight / cancer link. This is par for the course for this sort of research. Typically, a study is released which indicates that your risk of some horrific health problem is increased by being overweight, the media picks up on it and widely publicizes it as proof that being fat is bad for you, regardless of what you eat, or how much you exercise; subsequently, it is discovered that the researchers didn't control for lifestyle or activity level, and that there is a slight correlation, but little indication of causation.

What is this obsession with forcing everyone to be skeletal? People are born with different frames, different "set points" for their weights, and different body types. Trying to reduce health down to one number (weight) is useless, especially when you consider that muscle weighs more than fat. The less sensationalized studies have indicated over and over again that the most important thing you can do for your long term health is lead an active lifestyle and eat a variety of healthy food in moderation. If you do this, you shouldn't have to obsess about how much you weigh or what size clothes you wear - you will be a healthy person.

Yes, a woman who is 4'11", weights 250 lbs, never exercises, lives on steak and icecream, and drinks a fifth of scotch and smokes 2 packs of cigarettes a day is in poor health. But this kind of research would have you believe that her risk is similar to that of a woman who is 4'11", weighs 150 lbs, exercises regularly, eats a healthy diet, drinks in moderation and doesn't smoke.

By the way, height and weight charts vary drastically on what they consider "ideal weight." In my quick google, I found figures ranging from 93 lbs. to 134 lbs for 4'11" woman (apparently 148 lbs. is "obese" for a woman of this height). Many of these charts give ranges based on "frame size" but there's no consistent standard of what constitutes a small, medium or large frame.


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