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Wed Jan 2, 2013, 02:46 PM

Weight, Health, Life Expectancy: "It's Complicated"

http://www.nytimes.com/2013/01/02/health/study-suggests-lower-death-risk-for-the-overweight.html?_r=0

Yet another "breakthrough study" on the relationship between weight, health, and life expectancy. Number 9,726 in an apparently endless series.

I'm encouraged, though. Many of the recent items of reportage on this topic have pointed out a key concept that's often missed in the cultural dialog, which is:

It's complicated.

Fifty years ago the conventional wisdom was that we had cracked the nutrition code. We knew everything important about how food, weight, and health interrelated. The components of food could be broken down into three major groups: fats, carbohydrates, proteins; and a handful of trace elements such as vitamins and amino acids, all required by our bodies in order to function.

Research then moved on to determining the exact ratio of these elements in the health-optimal diet. All we needed to do is determine the precise ratio of fats to proteins to carbs, and the precise balance of vitamins and amino acids, required for the optimal weight/health relationship. Then ensure that everyone understood the magic formula and based their diet on it.

Conventional wisdom and popular consciousness remain largely stuck at that stage, exacerbated by the needs of our consumer-based culture and economy to sell lots and lots and lots of food products, diet and supplement products, clothes and beauty products, and other health-related products. Establishing an ideal that never quite settles but always remains fluctuating at a level largely unobtainable for a majority of the population optimizes the function (read: profit) of that consumer-dependent economy. A set of "simple" rules, standards, beliefs about what will enable a consumer to attain the ideal gives the Marketing Dept something to work with.

So it's not at all surprising that the growing body of research that concludes that, yes, the relationship between food, weight, health, body function, life expectancy is not just complex, but very complex, gets cherry-picked, oversimplified, or not reported at all.

Granted, science related to the impact of mitochondrial DNA on metabolic patterns, the relationship of molecular variants in food components to digestive and metabolic processes, and other abstruse and not-easily-classifiable variables, is not exactly Reader's Digest fodder. Discussing complex interactions between non-food-related endocrinological processes, and how an individual's body metabolizes food, begs a lot of questions and in the absence of simple answers, may be better left unexplored by the Junk Science Press.

(Yes, your body processes calories differently when you are under various types of stress. And different individuals are differently affected by stress hormones, creating more variables in that equation.)

All of which is to say that as a general working understanding, using the food pyramid as a guide for "healthy eating" is probably adequate for the vast majority of us. Avoiding extremes of obesity and skinniness, ditto. Reasonable levels of physical activity, ditto.

But now we're learning more. And one particular thing that is beginning to emerge poses a major threat to the vast consumer economic machine. Expect it to be ignored, and when it doesn't go away, watch it get repeatedly "debunked," "refuted," "contradicted," questioned, have doubt cast upon it, etc. Because it's really, really scary to those whose vast wealth depends on us feeling inadequate and insecure about our looks and our health.

So what is it, this scary, scary thing?

It's the growing awareness that our body works best and is healthiest when we feel happy with how we look and feel, generally. (Yes, happy people do tend to live longer-- who'd-a thunk it? But our economy depends on us needing to buy stuff to be happy. Work it out.) And also, that changes in our metabolic function should be slow, gradual, incrementally tiny, and based on a variety of factors much greater than calorie consumption and expenditure via exercise. And when we start trying to consciously alter our metabolism at an unnaturally fast pace, based only on those two factors, we risk throwing sand into a delicate mechanism we don't really understand. And a messed-up metabolism will do us more damage than being a few pounds over or underweight over the long haul.

So, yeah, it's complicated. The "good thing" about the complexity is that it keeps the consumer machine well-oiled with excuses to update the Magic Formula! New!! Improved!! Anti-oxidants are so last week, people! This week, buy our new, improved, gluten-free Sweet Tarts(c) or apple juice!

The "bad thing" about the complexity is that it keeps us focused on finding magic bullet after magic bullet, vulnerable to the Marketing Dept's conditioning about how we should look or feel in order to be sexy, happy, vibrant, socially acceptable, powerful, young, fulfilled consumers.

The next-to-the-next-to-the-last thing they want is for us to grab the admittedly simple, big picture truth of Michael Pollan's healthy eating formula: "Eat food. Not too much. Mainly vegetables."

The next-to-the-last thing they want is for us to internalize the realization that industrially-produced, highly-engineered foodlike substances manufactured from a few highly-processed organic compounds that started life as food, do not actually comprise "eating food" in the sense of fueling our bodies to maintain healthy metabolic processes.

And the last thing they want is for us to realize that health and happiness have no intrinsic relationship to what we buy.

Yet those three simple realizations are the real fundamental, cut-through-the-Gordian-knot Magic Formula for achieving an ideal weight, a healthy body, and a long, happy life.

We're doomed.

Doomed, I tellya...

pessimistically,
Bright

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Reply Weight, Health, Life Expectancy: "It's Complicated" (Original post)
TygrBright Jan 2013 OP
hobbit709 Jan 2013 #1
NMDemDist2 Jan 2013 #2
Autumn Colors Jan 2013 #3
MADem Jan 2013 #4

Response to TygrBright (Original post)

Wed Jan 2, 2013, 02:49 PM

1. I always liked the bumper sticker: "Eat right, stay fit, die anyhow"

I'm a firm believer that genetics has a lot more to do with it thnt what most people think.

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Response to TygrBright (Original post)

Wed Jan 2, 2013, 02:53 PM

2. "eat less, move more"

a friend summed it up for me and it's a work in progress

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Response to TygrBright (Original post)

Wed Jan 2, 2013, 03:05 PM

3. You really should read this blog entry

 

Since last March, Michael Moore (yes, that one) has been walking 30 minutes a day and had people all over the world "walking with him" via #IWalkWithMike on Twitter.

He finally "came clean" about the reason for doing it ... and it originally started just from a comment someone made to him on Twitter.

Read what he wrote (you don't need to be a facebook member to see link) ... it almost goes hand in hand with your OP.

http://www.facebook.com/mmflint/posts/10151165307981857

PS: Not included in the blog entry, but he mentioned it elsewhere is that during this time, when he stopped dieting and "thinking about" his weight ... and going for the walks ... he lost 60 pounds.

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Response to TygrBright (Original post)

Wed Jan 2, 2013, 03:08 PM

4. I had a skinny grandmother. She lived to almost a hundred.

My other grandmother was a normal weight, and didn't make it to eighty--but she smoked. It was heart, not lungs, that got her.

I had a fat--I am telling you, she was a "didn't move out of the chair, sat-on-her-ass, bossed-her-husband-around" FAT great grandmother. She was quite massive, and quite cheery, too. She lived to 96 or so (might have been more, she was vain and lied about her age). In her youth, she was very tiny but I only saw pictures of her in her slim years.

I had another great grandmother who was "fit." She worked hard all her life, and was neither fat nor thin. She scrubbed the floor, cooked the food, worked, worked, worked--never sat down. She had huge bosoms that made her look bigger than I think she was. She lived to 95 or so--but she might have been a year older because the records weren't too accurate.

All these women have one thing in common--they outlived their close-in-age husbands by anything from twenty to forty five years!

The other thing is, they ate stuff they felt they needed. One of 'em would eat liver every so often--not all the time, but every so often as they had a craving. They also weren't afraid of butter or cream but they didn't eat a lot of any one thing.

They didn't worry about "self esteem" or things of that nature--their entire focus was their families (even the one who sat around bossing her husband all day!). They came up in a different time, when people were less judgmental about others and getting old was just expected and normal and part of the process--not something to pretend to deny. And yeah, they were all pretty happy, and free of envy. They didn't let the little things get to them at all...

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