Fat Shaming Causes Disease… But It Doesn’t Have To

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Fat shaming (not obesity itself!) directly increases a person’s risk for metabolic syndrome and subsequent health issues, a new study finds.

 

And why is there fat shaming in the first place?

As I will go over below, there is an incredible wealth of medical research showing that having a higher BMI is actually advantageous to longevity, so there really is no need for our society to have an obesity bias to start with!

Certainly dropping this attitude and reducing the internalized stress associated with weight will decrease diabetes risk, heart disease risk and the rate of metabolic disease in general, as shown in this study published Jan 26, 2017 in Obesity.

 

The Study:

  • 159 patients with an average BMI of 41.1 kg/m2 were clinically assessed through blood pressure, waist circumference, fasting glucose, trigycerides, HDL cholesterol at baseline, and treatment for hypertension, dyslipdemia and prediabetes.
  • 32% of study participants were found to have metabolic syndrome
  • Patients were assessed using the Weight Bias Internalization Scale and Patient Health Quesstionnaires to determine how much each patient internalized weight related stigma.

 

The Results:

  • Researchers found that participants who internalized stress from weight-related stigma were over 40% more likely to have metabolic syndrome than participants who did not internalize stigma.
  • These results were independent of the actual degree of obesity and other confounding issues such as depression.
  • Weight stigma was found to cause a direct physiological stress response in the body, elevating blood pressure and increasing the body’s inflammation.
  • Researchers conclude that weight stigma alone is a form of chronic stress that creates physical disease when internalized.

 

These results show it is not the weight itself, but rather the stress that our society places on larger sized individuals and their internalization of that stress, that increases the risk of metabolic syndrome and puts them at higher cardiovascular risk than they would otherwise have.

This is totally unnecessary.

If the stress of being overweight was reduced, so would the disease burden.  

 

And not only that, but having a larger Body Mass Index (BMI) has been shown to actually be advantageous to longevity, allowing folks to survive everything from life threatening infections to some forms of cancer better than counterparts with a lower BMI.

And now an even more recent study reveals that older people in excellent physical health — called the “well-derly” — actually have higher smoking rates and higher BMI’s than expected.

 

That’s right — a study (presented March 3, 2017 at the 10th Future of Genomic Medicine Conference) focusing specifically on people 80 years old and older who are free of all common chronic diseases and in excellent health…

…found that they smoked more than the general public and that many had higher BMIs as well!

 

 

Hallelujah — finally a medical study trying to figure out what people do *right* to preserve excellent health for a lifetime, instead of looking at what they are doing wrong.

When you turn it around to look at survival and why some folks are disease free well into their ninth decade of life and beyond, you get some very interesting and important answers.

Part of an ongoing study called the Healthspan Project (which I will absolutely keep you updated on because I am all about positive, uplifting health guidance!) researchers looked at healthy elders and analyzed them for genetic markers of disease.

What they found is that the elderly who were healthy had the exact same rates of genetic markers that would predict disease as the rest of the population.

 

In other words, it’s not that the “well-derly” didn’t have BRCA mutations and other genetic markers of disease, but in fact, they have the same genetic mutations at the same rate as the general population are just are not actually manifesting disease expression.

 

Studies like these are so important, because it’s not just longevity but actually healthspan — how long someone lives in optimal health — that give us the most important clues on how to support our innate health potential.

This study showed that healthy elderly participants had the same rates of genetic risk factors for diabetes, cancers and stroke as the general population, yet remained disease free.

And when looking at why, the results were just as surprising, because when compared with the general population, the smoking rates were actually higher for men (61% smokers as opposed to 54% in general population) and equivalent for women (42% vs 43%.)

 

 

The well-derly did exercise more (67% exercised compared to 44% of the general population) but their BMI was not uniformly lower — there were many wellderly with a BMI of 30 kg/m2 or higher.

Why?

 

I’ve blogged in the past about several important studies that show that having a larger Body Mass Index (BMI) can actually be advantageous to longevity…

…allowing folks to survive everything from life threatening infections to some forms of cancer… better than counterparts with a lower BMI.

Researchers looked at two very large databases, examining body mass (Body Mass Index — BMI) and metastatic renal (kidney) cancer survival rates. (published Oct 2016 in the Journal Of Clinical Oncology)

They found that obesity actually predicted improved survival in metastatic cancer… improving both the progression free survival rate and the over all survival rate!

Researchers looked at over 1,900 patients from the International Metastatic Renal Cell Carcinoma Database Consortium and another 4,600 + patients from kidney cancer clinical trials over a ten year period… from 2003 to 2013 (over 6,500 patients total!) Patients in the higher BMI category survived approximately 38% longer and had longer remissions than those with lower BMIs.  Surviving almost 40% longer, especially with metastatic cancer, is a very big deal.  Stage 4 (metastatic) renal cancer carries a 5 year survival rate of only 8%.  Extending survival by up to 40% is more than any single chemotheraputic agent has ever been able to do with this disease.

 

The Bottom Line:

Higher BMI patients have markedly better survival rates for metastatic renal cancer than lower BMI patients.

 

 

The fact that obese patients have better outcomes in metastatic cancer is a real thing — these studies have large patient numbers, are reproducible in different cohorts, and are statistically significant.

Of course, anything that shows there is a WIDE diversity to what is considered a “healthy weight” is totally hidden by the media.

That makes sense, as the weight loss industry is a 20 BILLION dollar industry IN THE UNITED STATES ALONE!!!  So, of course the media wouldn’t want you to actually feel good about your current weight or feel there was any advantage in the slightest to having a higher BMI.

But the truth is, this isn’t the only medical study to show survival advantages in having a higher body mass index.

 

Published in August 2014 in Critical Care Medicine, an important medical study proves mildly obese patients have yet another survival advantage:  surviving lift threatening infections.

 

The researchers looked at the date of over 1,400 elderly people hospitalized with severe sepsis (requiring ICU care) and compared their body mass index (BMI) with clinical outcome 1 year after discharge.

The results revealed a 25% improved mortality rate in severely obese, obese and overweight patients compared to normal weight patients… proving that heavier weight allows the body to survive overwhelming bacterial infections, even at advanced age.

 

The bottom line:

Obesity seems to have a survival advantage in advanced age, trauma, and serious illness…

…and even in metastatic cancer.

 

Researchers further acknowledge that “small excess amounts of adipose tissue may provide needed energy reserves during acute catabolic illnesses, have beneficial mechanical effects with some types of traumatic injuries, and convey other salutary effects that need to be investigated.”

Effects like surviving cancer, surviving infections… and surviving in general.

Because here is another medical study you are unlikely to have heard about, but it is true.

 

Published January 2, 2013 in JAMA:  

After looking at data on almost 3 MILLION people, researchers found that if you are overweight you actually have LESS over all risk for dying then someone in the “normal” weight category.

 

And even if you are mildly obese, up to BMI of 35%, you have a death rate that is exactly the same as people in the “ideal weight” category (check out the chart below to figure out where you fall.)  Only severe obesity was associated with an increased risk for death.

This study was a meta-analysis of 97 different published studies that included more than 2.88 million participants. 

Compared to ideal weight individuals, overweight individuals had LOWER mortality rates than ideal weight participants, and those with Grade 1 obesity had no increased risk (having roughly identical death rates as the ideal weight participants.)

Only participants who had a BMI of 35 kg/m2 or HIGHER (significantly into the pink zone on the chart below) had significantly higher mortality rates:

 

BMI Chart created by Vertex42.com. Used with permission.

 

So… if losing those last 10 pounds isn’t actually going to help you live longer… what defines your “ideal weight”?

What defines your ideal weight is how you *feel* wearing the body you wear each day:

your energy level,

your flexibility,

your capacity to get around,

to get outside,

and to enjoy the things you want to enjoy each day.

 

When you are in balance energetically your body will choose the weight range that is ideal for you, so purposefully trying to gain weight into the overweight range or lose weight into the underweight range doesn’t support your energetic health best, unless this range is your natural balance.

 

The take home message here is that if you are told you are overweight, this does not mean you should be focusing on losing weight.

 

The real focus should ALWAYS BE on feeling as healthy and vibrant as possible.

 

This means focusing on muscle tone.

On heart strength.

On endurance.

On lung capacity. 

On bone mass. 

On energy levels. 

On restorative sleep at night. 

On happiness. 

On quality time with loved ones. 

On meaningful relationships. 

On spiritual strength.

 

 

This is what the Wellderly are focusing on and what we should be focusing on too.

 So my recommendation is NO ONE should be focusing exclusively on weight…

…and now you have the science to back that up.

xoxox, Laura