Rockin’ My World

February 8, 2008 at 5:03 am 1 comment

Two reports rocked my happy diet-and-exercise-loving world today.

First, I learned that the inclination to be overweight is largely – no pun intended here – genetic.  An American Journal of Clinical Nutrition study of 5,000 identical and non-identical twins “found that differences in body mass index and waist size were 77% governed by genes.” 77%! Talk about a hurdle to overcome if you’re trying to lose weight and get fit.

Then, I learned that living a long, healthy life actually costs our healthcare system more than being sick and dying early does.  The Netherlands’ National Institute for Public Health and the Environment just released a study that thin, healthy adults are more expensive than obese folks or smokers. Fat people aged 20 to 56 were the priciest consumers of healthcare, but because they died sooner, their treatment cost less in the long run.

“Ultimately, the thin and healthy group cost the most, about $417,000, from age 20 on. The cost of care for obese people was $371,000, and for smokers, about $326,000.”

“This throws a bucket of cold water onto the idea that obesity is going to cost trillions of dollars,” said Patrick Basham, a professor of health politics at Johns Hopkins University who was unconnected to the study. He said that government projections about obesity costs are frequently based on guesswork, political agendas, and changing science.

Yowsa! I felt like the universe had suddenly tilted at a crazy angle, and I was just trying to hold on.

If we only control 30% of our tendency to be overweight and being overweight actually costs less in healthcare over the long haul than being thin and healthy, why are we struggling day-in and day-out to lose weight and work out? We might as well be sprawled in the recliner, munching on ruffled potato chips and onion dip (yum!) while watching TV!

I’m not breaking out snacks just yet, though.

There’s still a lot we can do if we’re born with fat-friendly genes. As Tam Fry, from the Child Growth Foundation, says, “Even if someone has a gene which predisposes them to obesity, it doesn’t mean they will become obese if they work hard to eat healthily, and take more exercise to burn off those calories.”

And, although being healthy and living longer might cost our medical system slightly more, the quality of life we have as healthy people is more than worth it. I’m willing to spend a few more dollars on my health insurance to enjoy my life as fully as possible as I age, to not suffer the trial and tribulations a serious illness inevitably inflicts, not just on me, but also on my loved ones.

Okay, so some of the tenets of lose-weight-get-healthy movement have been shaken. I’m still on board with it. The benefits of my lifestyle change still far outweigh – again, no pun intended! – the negatives. I’ve been rocked, but I haven’t been knocked off the wagon yet. J


Entry filed under: health, news around the blogosphere, science. Tags: , , , , , , .

It’s a Numbers Game How to Stay Up All Night Without Blowing Your Diet

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