Being fat is bad for you, while slimmer people are happier and healthier. Everyone knows that.
Just ask Jamie Oliver, who this week revealed that he’d shed two stone by cutting back on meat and consuming a “rainbow” of vegetables. He’s in better shape than any food-obsessed father-of-four has any right to be, and he can’t stop smiling.
On the flip side, there are currently more headlines about how the NHS is groaning under the weight of Britain’s obesity epidemic than most of us have had hot dinners.
And yet, every once in a while, along comes a snippet of research which proclaims that being bulky carries a hidden and entirely unexpected health boon.
Several studies of the recent past have suggested that adiposity is, if not the solution to some of our most damaging bodily disorders and conditions, certainly a surprising benefit. From arthritis to premature ejaculation, the asserted health boosts are numerous.
So stock up on the pork pies, loosen your gastric band and prepare yourself for the five most surprising health benefits of being overweight. Just remember to take them all with a pinch (or several tablespoons) of salt. Not to mention sugar, alcohol and hydrogenated fats.
1. Being overweight carries a reduced risk of rheumatoid arthritis
Today heralds the news that the higher your Body Mass Index (BMI), the lower your chances of developing chronic arthritis. Curiously, the research – published in a journal named Rheumatology – identifies this particular perk of plumpness as being limited to the male of the species, condemning women to a life of both stiff joints and irredeemable podginess.
“To our knowledge, this is the first nested case-control study to investigate this issue in men,” said Carl Turesson, lead author of the study and professor of Medicine at Lund University in Sweden. The professor surveyed 383 patients, and found from the data gathered that overweight and obese men were up to 63 per cent less likely to develop the musculoskeletal disorder.
Turesson believes that excess visceral fat in the abdomen is what helps to combats the condition, and that despite the common belief that added bulk increases pressure on joints, added weight can actually help prevent arthritis. The study uncovered a connection between high BMI readings and an excess of specific hormones; where metabolic pathways related to the adipose tissue create a protective barrier against the onset of the condition.
So, if your knees and knuckles begin to develop pains, make sure you eat your dessert. For, if you want to take this study at face value; the answer to aches could be cakes.
2. Being overweight means you’re less likely to develop dementia
Before this year, being overweight was thought to increase your chances of developing dementia. However, the publication of a study in April turned this assumption on its head, instead proposing that second helpings actually defended against senility.
Published in The Lancet Diabetes & Endocrinology, the research was conducted on an unprecedented scale, and the scientists behind the study remain convinced of their results’ validity.
“Our results should open new avenues for research for protective factors for dementia,” said lead researcher Dr. Nawab Qizilbash. “They may be used to provide insight to looking for a mechanism and developing new treatments for dementia. In addition, doctors, public health scientists and policy makers may need to rethink how to identify who is at high risk for dementia.”
Cleary if you are morbidly overweight, you are less likely to reach the average age of onset anyway. But if by some metaphorical stroke of luck your body remains physically stroke-free, you will reportedly be 25 per cent less likely to encounter the symptoms of dementia on your journey through the twilight years.
3. Being overweight can mean a stronger immune system
If one is to believe a group of Chicagoan cytologists, the deep layers of fat around an obese individual’s organs (called omentum fat for those biologically-minded amongst you) can interact on a cellular level with your immune system. Aiding in the regulation of your immune system’s response, this fat essentially calms down the body’s biological defence mechanism and prevents it overcompensating or causing collateral damage.
Additionally, the study – entitled Cellular Basis of Tissue Regeneration by Omentum – also sings the praises of mesenchymal stem cells: specialised cells that are found in abdominal fat and can repair tissue so quickly that you’ll never even notice any damage to begin with.
To be Falstaffian is to protect your body from possible harm, rendering potential problems harmless even before their incursion.
To explain on a slightly more plain level, the cytologists are proposing that your extra bulk works like a blubbery barrier. Indeed, big men Danny Ross(who was stabbed 38 times and survived), Gerhard Steiner (who fell 20 feet unharmed) and Lawrence Bell (whose heft absorbed 8 bullets) are portly poster boys for the defensive qualities of flab.
4. Being overweight is linked to increased longevity and recovery time
If a couple of germs, infections or .38 bullets do make it past your bloated bulwark, fat comes to the rescue once again when it’s time to convalesce.
“When you’re sick, your body may require more energy to heal properly,” paediatrician Dr Brian Kit tells the scientifically-reliable Oprah Magazine. “To some extent, extra fat can provide a crucial boost so you can bounce back faster.”
Kit notes that fat tissue, as well as the hormones it releases, improves bodily defence mechanisms by providing vital energy reserves and anti-inflammatory agents. As a result, despite overweight individuals being more susceptible to serious health issues to begin with, they are less likely to die from them than those with underweight or even healthy BMIs.
Heart disease, for example, is four times more likely to claim the life of somebody with a ‘healthy’ BMI than an individual considered overweight. An interesting observation, but probably not a convincing enough reason to start approaching every meal like an all-you-can-eat buffet.
5. Being overweight can mean you’re better in the bedroom
Those lithe gym-goers amongst you may find this hard to believe, but your corpulent counterparts have verifiably better stamina than you between the sheets.
The extra mass of the rotund affords them an average 7.3 minutes more game time per steamy session, with larger proportions of those in the healthy and underweight BMI groups suffering from the emasculating blight of premature ejaculation.
And scientific proof incredibly supports this outlandish claim. A female hormone called Estradiol, which can be found, once again, in that miracle abdominal ‘spare tyre’ of many men, is known to inhibit the male orgasm.
Now obviously obesity is not a physical characteristic to be encouraged, but if you do find yourself breaking that third pair of bathroom scales, you may find consolation in the fact that you’re less likely to catch a cold than the average man. Dementia is probably not around the corner, arthritis is less likely to come knocking and your all-over airbag body will likely protect your important organs in the event of attacks or accidents.
So, (double) chin up – it’s not all bad.