Most will agree that being fat is unhealthy. Anyone overweight should strive to lose their excess bulk. Government and health agencies support the view that children are at risk of having a less healthy and shorter life than their parents if excess weight is not lost. Some consider obesity a disease.
Up to 70 percent of Canadians, according to some studies, will suffer from obesity by 2040 if nothing is done to avert this crisis.
Is there really a crisis? Dennis Raphael, an expert on how living conditions affect health, is a professor in York University’s School of Health Policy and Management. His review of research on the impact of being overweight offers unexpected insights.
Being overweight does not appear to shorten one’s lifespan. One study of 1.8 million people found those considered overweight had the highest life expectancy. Those with the lowest life expectancy had the least fat. Studies throughout the world have found that having excess fat protects health regardless of exercise.
It may be counterintuitive that there is no link between being overweight and any cause of death, and that physical fitness has no impact on longevity. It is more likely that efforts to eliminate obesity may be causing harm. Rapidly gaining and losing weight is unhealthy and can cause health problems.
Mr. Raphael’s research does not address quality of life or health issues during a lifetime.