For the longest time, doctors have been warning us of the dangers of being overweight. It can lead to all sorts of problems, including diabetes and cardio-vascular problems, we were told.
Now it seems that it's not that simple. A new study has found that the number of deaths associated with obesity is far lower than previously believed, and people who were dramatically underweight faced the same health risks.
The new study, from the Centers for Disease Control (CDC), reckons that 112,000 Americans died as a direct result of their obesity in 2000. This is a far cry from another study, for the same year, that estimated the obesity death rate as 414,000, and the 280,000 estimated for 1991.
Another study seems to reinforce the change of heart. Other researchers from the CDC tell us that "although obese people still have higher risk factor levels than lean persons, the levels of these risk factors are much lower than in previous decades."
So what could possibly have happened to make obesity suddenly a safer thing? Has the nature of fatness become more benign? Or could this be yet another example that we must take with an enormous pinch of salt the dire warnings of our medical guardians?