Tom Naughton deconstructs the “obesity epidemic” at his blog Fat Head:
But what I found most interesting was the data on who’s “overweight” and by how much. Here are the numbers:
- More than 50 pounds overweight: 6%
- 21-50 pounds overweight: 17%
- 11-20 pounds overweight: 15%
- 1-10 pounds overweight: 24%
- At ideal weight: 18%
- 1-10 pounds underweight: 7%
- 11-20 pounds underweight: 3%
- More than 20 pounds underweight: 1%
- Undesignated: 9%
As we noted in our post Does Being Overweight Harm Your Health, all-cause mortality studies show that you have a 17% less chance of dying if you are in the “overweight” BMI (as compared to being “normal weight”). Even being “obese” was statistically even with being “normal weight” in these studies. The absolute worse thing you can do is be “underweight”, with a stunning 73% greater risk of dying than a “normal” weight person.
We have also noted our belief that individuals have to assess their own health needs and identify their individual risk factors, rather than focusing on a “society wide goal”. If your risk factors lean more towards developing diabetes II, then controlling blood sugar levels may be more important than being within 10 pounds of some goal weight. And as McNaughton notes, adult onset diabetes is at epidemic levels:
A different Gallup poll underscores another point I made in the film: there is a genuine epidemic out there, and it’s called diabetes. More than 11% percent of Americans adults have diabetes now, and more than 90% of those have type 2 diabetes, which is mostly preventable. The rate has more than doubled in the last decade alone. Among senior citizens, the numbers are even more harrowing: nearly one-quarter have diabetes. Just think of all the physical damage that’s causing. And even those numbers don’t count the pre-diabetics.
Nutritionists tend to focus on the weight end of the scale (so to speak), but they are missing the point. You can’t push a string. People are overweight because of their blood sugar levels (i.e., hyperinsulinemia, insulin resistance and related disorders leading to diabetes). They are not suffering from high blood sugar levels because of their weight. As Naughton sums it up:
The constant drumbeat about the obesity epidemic and the emphasis on losing weight is sending the wrong message. We need to tell people to get their blood sugar checked and keep it under control with the proper diet. If we do that, the 10 pounds will take care of itself. And if it doesn’t, well … so what? A bit of belly won’t kill you if it’s not the result of high blood sugar.
If your blood sugar is elevated, the way to get it under control is by adopting a low carb eating lifestyle. You will lose weight, but the most important thing is that you will live longer. And living longer is the goal.