Does Overweight = Unhealthy?

Certainly weight loss and health are closely related. Many extra pounds on the human body increases the likelihood of serious health issues at some point in an individual’s life. The negative possibilities are endless, from struggling internal organs surrounded by fat, an over-taxed liver, arteries so clogged with fat that the heart cannot function properly or alarmingly high sugar content in the body leading to diabetes with its complications of blindness and even gangrene. Prevention is certainly easier than cure and weight loss is a hugely positive step towards increased health and mobility.

However, our culture is obsessed with thinness and we often indulge in harmful methods in our desperation to lose weight. A prime example is the most famous diet of all time – extreme calorie restriction. The human body needs a certain number of calories each day just to maintain its primary functions and permanent damage can result from what is actually starvation even if it is in the name of beauty.

There are many methods of weight loss that rely on wildly unbalanced diets. The original Atkins diet is a prime example. There were thin Atkins aficionados who survived for years on only meat, eggs, butter and cheese. A huge volume of research has clearly proven the human need for the phytonutrients in plants especially because they help to protect the body from four of our biggest killers: diabetes, hypertension, cancer and cardiovascular ailments. The Atkins folks were devoid of this protection.

The most famous diet drug disaster in recent American history was the Fen Phen (Fenfluramine) craze. Featured on a 1996 cover of Time magazine as the “hot new diet pill”, millions of women and men downed the drug on a daily basis, even though it was supposedly only for the seriously obese. In a relatively short time, it was discovered that Fen Phen was responsible for heart valve problems and primary pulmonary hypertension. This statement from the Mayo Clinic website neatly sums up the value of drugs: “When combined with a low-calorie diet and regular exercise, weight-loss drugs produce an average weight loss of 5 to 10 percent of total body weight within a year.” [http://www.mayoclinic.com/health/weight-loss-drugs/WT00013] Proper eating and regular exercise will easily reduce the body this much, so why assume the risks of drug use?

Just because a person is thin does not automatically mean they are healthy nor does the fact that they are moderately overweight necessarily translate into ill health.

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