Health: Do chubby people live longer?

You still may not look great in a swimsuit, said Gina Kolata in The New York Times, but it seems those few extra pounds may not kill you after all. Medical experts—not to mention magazine covers—have spent decades convincing us that we’re healthy only if we’re rail-thin, with washboard abs and buns of steel. But now a new study from the Centers for Disease Control suggests that Grandma was right—it’s better to have “a little meat on those bones.” The study found that both the obese and the underweight had elevated mortality rates, while the lowest mortality rate of any group was among the third of Americans classified as “overweight.” These are folks who might be described as pleasantly “chubby,” up to 25 pounds over the so-called ideal weight. A little extra weight, researchers theorize, may give people reserves that help them fight off infections and survive accidents and diseases. Here we go again, said Max Pemberton in the London Daily Telegraph. Hardly a day goes by “when some activity, foodstuff, or other lifestyle choice isn’t linked to death and disease.” And then, allowing a decent interval for us to totally rearrange our lives, “research is published that completely contradicts this advice.” We’re told to avoid the sun so as not to get skin cancer, but then warned we need it to produce vitamin D; we’re told to drink wine to avoid heart disease, but then that it raises a woman’s risk of cancer; and even cigarettes have now been shown to lower your risk of Alzheimer’s. It was only a matter of time before fat turned out to be good for you, too. When are “self-indulgent scientists” going to stop trumpeting their latest discoveries from the rooftops “without any appreciation of their effect on the public”? Not any time soon, said Jeff Stier in the New York Post. Some public health “experts” immediately denounced the CDC study, arguing that it might mislead people into thinking there was nothing wrong with overeating. Confused? Don’t be. The high priests of medicine, you see, are “less concerned with helping us live longer, healthier lives than with promoting a lifestyle they think is ‘right,’ facts be damned.” But look at the bright side, said The Austin American-Statesman in an editorial. This latest study, though contradicting dozens that preceded it, comes at the perfect time. On Thanksgiving, you’ll be able to tuck into a second, heaping helping of turkey and stuffing, while you tell everyone around the table: Just following the doctor’s orders.

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