Junkfood Science: Obesity Paradox #3

January 12, 2007

Obesity Paradox #3

The third edition in our collection of Obesity Paradoxes addresses the leading cause of death in the United States: heart disease. The CDC reports we’re most likely to die of heart disease than anything else.

But research just published in the American Heart Journal found you are 2 1/2 times less likely to die of acute heart failure if you are obese when you’re hospitalized than if you are “normal weight!”

UCLA researchers analyzed the Acute Decompensated Heart Failure National Registry and the more than 108,000 cases of acute heart failure that had been hospitalized in 263 hospitals across the country from October 2001 through December 2004. Despite adjusting for every contributing factor, age, gender, lab work and other health indice, they found that for every 5 unit increase in body mass index (BMI) the risk of dying dropped by 10 percent.

Actual mortality rates for the “normal” weight patients was 6.3 compared with 2.4 for the most “obese.” This is not a fluke finding, as the researchers specifically note that “prior studies on chronic heart failure have demonstrated that body mass index is inversely associated with mortality, the so-called obesity paradox.”

One television station soundbyte said: “Researchers are not sure why, but they stress that maintaining a healthy weight is still important, since obesity is a contributor for developing heart disease.”

They are finding it harder to find a “why” for mandating everyone have “healthy” BMIs of 20-24.9! And repeating the myth "obesity contributes to heart disease" cannot negate the decades of clinical, experimental and epidemiological evidence that has soundly disproven it, as was discussed in Obesity Paradox #1 and Obesity Paradox #2.

As “obesity” rates increase in our Nation, heart disease death rates have been dropping for more than five decades — a whopping 22.1% just between 1993 and 2003.

The obesity paradox isn’t really a paradox at all. The fact it’s believed to be a paradox is the true paradox. No amount of evidence has slowed the war on obesity. For example, the American Medical Association continues its “leadership role in collaborating with other interested organizations to find ways to fund the study, prevention and treatment of obesity, as well as health and medical programs to serve vulnerable populations” to address the “obesity epidemic.” This trade group has been active in the war on obesity since being paid by the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation to create a 10-part physician clinical practice guideline, “Assessment and Management of Adult Obesity: A Primer for Physicians,” in 2003. RWJF partnered with the U.S. Dept. of Health and Human Services in 2003 to support Secretary Tommy Thompson’s obesity initiatives and AMA press releases have noted that its clinical guidelines were written in collaboration with HHS to support the government’s Healthy People 2010, Steps to a Healthier US and other anti-obesity initiatives. RWJF has given more than $50 million to the AMA and its interests in lobbying efforts to make obesity a disease, and pharmaceutical and bariatric treatments eligible for reimbursement and payment, are well known.

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