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Will losing weight kill you?
I could hardly believe that I was healthier when I was morbidly obese. I feel so much better now that I can run with my daughter without the ground trembling beneath my feet. But I know lay people have a tendency to dismiss studies that just do not feel right, so let's have a look at the research:
- The participants in the study were not obese, only slightly overweight.
- Only 268 people died. That is a small sample size.
For example, the main conclusions are based on the subgroup of those with intent to lose weight who actually lost weight; this group had only 42 deaths, of which ten were violent. Another related difficulty is that this cohort, though overweight, is not drastically obese. The median body mass index (BMI) was 26.7 kg/m2, and fewer than 10% of people had a BMI greater than 30. (Meir Stampfer, professor of epidemiology and nutrition at the Harvard School of Public Health)
- The study did not correct for yo-yoing, or even method of weight loss. I think it is reasonable to assume that there is a difference between a person losing one pound a year for 18 years, by simply removing table sugar from her diet, and a person losing 30 pounds, gaining 20, losing 10 again, gaining 10, and finally losing 30 pounds again, with the help of diet shakes.
- The study does not mention the diet of the participants during and after weight loss.
Even though I think there are some valid criticisms to the study and the way it was presented in the media, there are still important lessons to learn:
- Prevention is better than cure. Watch your weight and that of your children, and take measures before it gets out of hand.
- Eat a healthy diet. It is probable that losing weight is stressful for your body. Nourish it with lots of healthy foods.
- Do not go on a diet, change your lifestyle. Make a commitment and lose the weight once and for all.
March 21, 2006