[Paleopsych] NYT: Why Thin Is Fine, but Thinner Can Kill

Premise Checker 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


    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
    effect remained.

    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
    some people.

    "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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