Childhood Obesity and Early Death


A study of ?Pima and Tohono O'odham Indians, reported today in The New England Journal of Medicine, found that the subjects who were fattest as children were more than twice as likely as those who were thinnest to die before age 55 from "endogenous causes" (disease or self-injury). The lead author says this finding "suggests that obesity in children, even prepubescent children, may have very serious long-term health effects through midlife—that there is something serious being set in motion by obesity at early ages." Or, as the New York Times headline puts it, "Child Obesity Risks Death at Early Age."

That may be true, but the details of the study complicate the casual equation of fatness with poor health. While children who were in the fourth (highest) quartile for body mass index were 2.3 times as likely to die early as children in the first (lowest) quartile, the death rates in the second and third quartiles were statistically indistinguishable from the death rate in the first quartile. Those results are consistent with other research indicating that the health risks associated with high BMI are concentrated among the very obese, while the medical profile of people who are merely "overweight" is either not much different or somewhat better than that of people in the weight range that the government considers ideal.

Even among the subjects in the highest quartile, the risk factor for premature death shrank from 2.3 to 1.4 when the researchers controlled for baseline glucose level, cholesterol level, and blood pressure. Furthermore, while some of the deaths were due to causes, such as cancer and diabetes, that may be related to obesity (or the diet associated with it), others are less plausibly blamed on overeating. Sixty-eight of the 166 deaths were caused by alcohol abuse or drug overdose, for instance, while another 33 were due to unspecified "other causes." In short, it's not clear to what extent the association between obesity and premature death was due to excess weight per se, which is a general problem with research on the health implications of BMI.

Yesterday Nick Gillespie noted Michelle Obama's campaign against childhood obesity.

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  1. If I consume a few hundred extra calories a day in alcohol, I will be both sick and fat?

    I had no idea.

  2. If you skip dinner, not only do you make up the calories, but you can get drunker faster.

    1. JL, that is a perfect description of my friends and my total, holistic approach to our high school years.

  3. Any chance of either the OMG-obesity-epidemic control freaks or the Fat Acceptance* control freaks chilling out any time soon?

    *For a good time, click here.

  4. BMI is bullshit, it means nothing. also being fat/overweight does not mean you are not healthy or malnourished. and one more problem, we aren’t all ?Pima and Tohono O’odham Indians.

  5. Gather round me, people, and a story I will tell
    About a brave young Indian you should remember well
    From the tribe of Pima Indians, a proud and a peaceful band,
    They farmed the Phoenix valley in Arizona land.
    Down their ditches for a thousand years the sparkling water rushed,
    Till the white man stole their water rights and the running water hushed.
    Now Ira’s folks were hungry, and their farms grew crops of weeds.
    But when war came, he volunteered and forgot the white man’s greed.
    Call him drunken Ira Hayes
    He won’t answer anymore,
    Not the whiskey-drinking Indian
    Or the Marine who went to war.

    1. Sphincter

      I hope my good old asshole holds out
      60 years it’s been mostly OK
      Tho in Bolivia a fissure operation
      survived the altiplano hospital–
      a little blood, no polyps, occasionally
      a small hemorrhoid
      active, eager, receptive to phallus
      coke bottle, candle, carrot
      banana & fingers –
      Now AIDS makes it shy, but still
      eager to serve –
      out with the dumps, in with the condom’d
      orgasmic friend –
      still rubbery muscular,
      unashamed wide open for joy
      But another 20 years who knows,
      old folks got troubles everywhere –
      necks, prostates, stomachs, joints–
      Hope the old hole stays young
      till death, relax

      1. Into My Own

        One of my wishes is that those dark trees,
        So old and firm they scarcely show the breeze,
        Were not, as ’twere, the merest mask of gloom,
        But stretched away unto the edge of doom.

        I should not be withheld but that some day
        Into their vastness I should steal away,
        Fearless of ever finding open land,
        Or highway where the slow wheel pours the sand.

        I do not see why I should e’er turn back,
        Or those should not set forth upon my track
        To overtake me, who should miss me here
        And long to know if still I held them dear.

        They would not find me changed from him they knew–
        Only more sure of all I thought was true.

        1. Frost is gayer than Ginsberg.

  6. Quasi-Threadjack

    Bill Clinton is being operated on in a healthcare system he once wanted to have destroyed.

    I say Quasi because it at least keeps with the health theme.

    1. That bot is a straight-up racist!

  7. The BMI is an awful way to assess obesity and health. The BMI calculation is just a bit outdated, given it was created in 1850! Body fat % is a much better indicator.

    1. Hey! I was created in 1795! My point is that the mere age of a system is not a reason to discount it. If you are going to argue against a system of measure use arguments of efficacy, not age.

      1. Except the metric system is about units of measurement that are useful BECAUSE they don’t change. BMI is a scientific interpretation that has lost its predictive value. It needs to be backed up by CURRENT observations.

  8. fattest as children were more than twice as likely as those who were thinnest to die before age 55

    As a seriously skinny kid who has finally grown a beer gut, i should be fine then, right?

    12-beers/day diet aside…

    1. You’re just training your pancreas. Pretty soon, it’ll rip its way out of your gut and go on a shooting rampage, dude.

  9. Aren’t Native Americans genetically more prone to diabetes? http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Diabetes#Screening

  10. Everyone’s missing the obvious implication here: obese kids dying sooner can solve the pension crisis and stop Social Security from going bankrupt. Progressives should be urging federal subsidies for junk food, and the mandatory placement of vending machines in all schools.

    1. …plus it would create jobs in the mortuary, flower and gravestone businesses. I like it.

  11. I think Michele Obama shoul lose a few pounds before she opens her pie hole about this anymore.

  12. They died from drug overdoses because they were teased about being fat. Obviously there is a causal relationship. Only an anti-differently sized-ite could not see that.

  13. You people are unbelievable. Of course BMI has been around since before 1850 and so has BF%. Do you know why? Because the Establishment and the Big Fat Money Makers knew the benefits of watching these things and not advertising them to the public. Most of you (except 1) sound like you would be anit- Big Fat Money Maker and anti- Establishment. Yet, you are supporting Big Fat Money Maker just as Establishment does. Big Fat Money Maker has added refined sugars, glucose, starch, chemicals, pesticides , etc to the food you consume. They do this to make it taste sweeter and more palletable while giving it a longer shelf life without concern for your health. Yet, Big Fat Money Maker and the Establishment rarely eat this crapp. Look at your politicians and the Wall Street Guru’s and Fast/Junk Food Inventors. They are not FAT but their bank accounts are as fat as the American Public. They are greatful that you are willing to die young so that they can maintain their fat bank accounts even during a recession and they are greatful because with your willingness to die you there will be plenty of social security to add to their bank accounts with you out of the way. So, here’s to you – Eat fat, drink sorosis, live a lonely short life and die young.

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