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Previously we heard that obesity increased your risk of dementia. Now a new study contradicts these former findings and suggests that increased body size is correlated with a decreased risk for dementia. I say correlated with, because no causal link has yet been found. And we don’t want to go the way of those finger pointers who say that being fat “causes” sickness by saying being fat “prevents” sickness. We simply don’t know that much yet.
However, this new study does seem to indicate that there is a strong correlation between low body weight and dementia in middle aged people. The study reviewed statistics for nearly 2 Million people from the United Kingdom Clinical Practice Research Datalink (CPRD). The CPRD data included people over 40 who had their BMI measured between 1992 and 2007. (The median age for those measured was 55.)
The study found that compared to those of a “healthy weight” (heavy airquotes here) those who were underweight (BMI less than 20) had a 34% higher risk for dementia. As people got fatter, their risk for dementia decreased–with the fattest people (BMI over 40) experiencing a 29 percent lower risk of dementia than those with “healthy weight”.
Cue the inevitable articles about the “obesity paradox”. This is the title given to the fact that fat people are at lower risk for certain conditions than skinny people, despite the medical establishment’s insistence that this shouldn’t be the case. This is the label given to the fact that overall, “overweight” people live longer than “healthy weight” people. It really makes me wonder when they are finally going to do away with the “healthy weight” label, since in many cases, other weights are healthier than the healthy weight level. And it also makes me wonder when they are going to stop calling something a paradox, when it clearly isn’t one. Some weight ranges come with higher risks in some areas and lower risks in other areas. And maybe we will come to realize that there isn’t one healthy weight, but rather a range of risks that slide around in various places on the BMI chart.
As reported by the BBC (LINK WARNING, HEADLESS FATTY PHOTOS GALORE) Alzheimer’s Society’s Dr Doug Brown said: “People should make positive lifestyle choices to keep their brains healthy by taking regular exercise, not smoking and following a healthy balanced diet.” This seems sound HAES oriented advice to me. Naturally, despite the fact that this study is much larger and more detailed than previous studies that claimed that obesity increased the risk for dementia, there’s a lot of head scratching and backpedaling going on. The article is careful to point out that there is no clear causal link yet evident (hence the opening of this blog post). If you have the sanity points to spare, you can click on that BBC link earlier in this paragraph to read things like, “Sure you’ll be less likely to get dementia if you live long enough.” and “This is no excuse to sit on the couch and eat an extra piece of cake.” Because somehow, no matter what the evidence shows, some medical professionals just have to get their jab in at the fatties.
I am just hopelessly naive enough to imagine a day when the “healthy weight” category is called something else. I imagine that over time we will find more and more evidence that being fat has risks, being skinny has risks and being midsized has risks. After all, being alive has risks, for people of all sizes. Maybe we can finally focus on living the best, most productive, most joyful and healthiest life in the bodies we have right now.
Food for thought.
Jeanette DePatie (AKA The Fat Chick)