[Paleopsych] NYT: Why Thin Is Fine, but Thinner Can Kill
checker at panix.com
Sun Apr 24 20:10:10 UTC 2005
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Date: Sun, 24 Apr 2005 11:53:40 -0400 (EDT)
From: Premise Checker <checker at panix.com>
To: World Transhumanist Ass. <wta-talk at transhumanism.org>
Subject: NYT: Why Thin Is Fine, but Thinner Can Kill
Why Thin Is Fine, but Thinner Can Kill
April 24, 2005
By GINA KOLATA
IT turns out that the Duchess of Windsor was, at best, only half
right when she said a woman couldn't be too rich or too thin. In fact,
researchers from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and
the National Cancer Institute, in a paper about body weight and health
risks published last week, concluded that the very thin run about the
same risk of early death as the very fat. Their study showed that
33,000 deaths a year could be avoided if the thinnest 2 percent of
Americans were of normal weight.
That result was a shock; scientists thought they had proved that thin
was best, at least for healthy animals. And it was widely held that
eating one-third less than the recommended amount for any individual
could extend life.
Almost as intriguing as the study's result is the fact that no one can
explain it. Were the thin people in the study, with a body mass index
below 18.5 (a 5-foot-3 woman weighing 104 pounds, for example) simply
very ill, unable to eat?
Not likely, said Dr. Katherine Flegal, a statistician at the National
Center for Health Statistics and the paper's lead author. She and her
colleagues looked at thin people whose weight was stable for at least
three years, for at least five years and for at least 10 years. The
effect persisted. They looked at thin smokers and thin nonsmokers. The
Dr. Flegal admits she is baffled. "We just don't know the whole
story," she said. But she speculates that very thin people have no
reserves to tap if they fall ill, making them more likely to die than
those with a layer of fat to nourish them.
Among other things scientists don't know, said Richard Weindruch, a
researcher at the University of Wisconsin, is why the people in the
study were thin: whether they ate little, for example, or were
genetically predisposed to be skinny. Still, the study does suggest
that the practice of deliberately starving oneself to live longer,
called caloric restriction, might actually have the opposite effect in
"If you take lean people and put caloric restriction on them, it will
kill them," said Dr. Nir Barzilai, of the institute for aging research
at Albert Einstein College of Medicine. And while he said it may be
safer for the overweight to reduce calories, there is no evidence that
it will prolong life.
Meanwhile, Dr. Huber Warner, the director of the biology-of-aging
department at the National Institute on Aging, said the new findings
are just science at work.
"Whenever you think you've proved something," he said, "more data
comes up and says maybe it isn't so good for you after all."
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