What is going on with obesity? For a long time now I have been walking around thinking that our modern society has some serious negative consequences in terms of diet. Our evolved preference for foods rich in fat and sugars together with fast food chains and supermarkets which put the candy where you cannot avoid it, should naturally result in an increased consumption of such foods and in consequence more obesity. Indeed this seems to be the case. Since the 1970s obesity levels have been steadily rising. However, the interesting question to ask is "what effects this increase in the average BMI (body mass index) has on our health?"
When I lived in California I was constantly exposed to commercials in which you would view pictures from a childhood where the protagonist ate way to much sweet stuff. Following these pictures a man would say something like, because of what I ate in my childhood my life has been shortened by five years. I believed this, just like I believed that obesity was indeed a dangerous epidemic, why should I not believe it?
Now I think I know better though, all thanks to a professor at Berkeley who's lectures I have been following via Berkeley's webcast (which I can warmly recommend by the way). In her lectures she presents apparently uncontroversial data showing clearly that the deaths due to diabetes have not increased one bit in the past 40 years or so. What is even more interesting, and indeed more concealed, is the fact that obesity is not associated with an increased risk of dying. In fact, if you have a BMI between 25-30, which is considered overweight, then you have the best possible prognosis. If you are underweight on the other hand (BMI less than 18.5), then your chance of dying increase substantially! Have anyone heard of an underweight epidemic? I certainly haven't! Yet, an underweight epidemic is what we should really be worrying about since it is, unlike overweight, claiming quite a few deaths in our modern society (and in developed countries as well of). Of course it should be mentioned that severe obesity, that is when BMI gets above 30, is associated with increase health problems as well.
In the light of this information I think that it is insane, the way that overweight/obese people are treated in today's society. To have some fat reserves is good. To not have any reserves is dangerous. Yet those with the more healthy bodies are dragged into shame exactly because of their bodies.