The obesity paradox

Jamie Oliver, chef-champion of the British waistline, is taking his healthy-eating campaign to the US. We’ll see the results next year, when the six-part series is due to be broadcast. Meanwhile, in the UK, public health adverts feature small girls eating fairy cakes under the slogan: “is a premature death so tempting?” Guilt is ladled on everywhere.

Obesity is discouraged by doctors, and in many ways, this is quite right. Research has linked obesity to serious conditions such as cardiac disease and diabetes; an obese person’s quality of life is also badly compromised. After carrying my smallest child for half an hour, I am reminded that an extra stone in weight slows you down, wears the joints and tires you out. Never mind the effects of obesity on self-esteem.

But in certain conditions, obesity has been found to have advantages. Some people have dubbed this the “obesity paradox”: patients who you might think would fare worse because of their corpulence actually do better than those of normal weight.

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Links to abstract of AHJ study: http://www.ahjonline.com/article/S0002-8703(06)00827-1/abstract

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Margaret McCartney is a Glasgow-based GP and FT Weekend columnist. She started writing for the Life and Arts section in 2005 and moved to the magazine in 2008. She also has her own blog: www.margaretmccartney.com/blog

Clive Cookson has been a science journalist for the whole of his working life. He joined the FT in 1987. Clive, the FT's science editor, picks out the research that everyone should know about. He also discusses key policy issues, from R&D funding to science education.

Andrew Jack is pharmaceuticals correspondent, covering the industry and public health issues. He has been a journalist with the FT for 19 years, based in London, Paris and Moscow

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