Laurie Toby Edison

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Fat Heart-Attack Patients Live Longer

Laurie and Debbie say

Sadly enough, we feel like we can almost predict exactly how stories like this will be written.

1) A major study (16,000 people over 37 countries) shows a health, or a survival, or a quality of life benefit from being fat. In this case, they found that one year after a heart attack, the death rate for normal-weight patients was 4.3 percent. For obese patients, it was just 2.2 percent. (In other words, fat people have a 50% likelihood of increased longevity after a heart attack.) This story, like all “fat can be good for you” stories, gets a lot less press than the 13-person studies which say fat is bad for you. Also, of course, any study that shows the slightest advantage to being thin gets front-page ink all over the place.

2) The researchers doing that study rush to deny that they might somehow be suggesting that it’s okay to be fat, while simultaneously trying to defend their results. This game of science Twister results in quotations from the scientists that sound like this:

“We really don’t want people to think that they should put on a bit of weight to have a better chance with their bypass surgery,” said Dr. Gerald Fletcher, a cardiologist at the Mayo Clinic in Florida and a spokesman for the American Heart Association. “These results do not mean it’s OK to be fat. Being fat is still dangerous to your health for lots of other reasons,” Fletcher said.

One of these days, we’re going to compile a list of all the “other reasons,” and list a study that debunks each one. Remember what happened when the CDC reduced the number of deaths per year attributable to fat by 90%?

Then the journalists pick up the tone of the scientists.

But experts say it is important to better understand the fat-thin paradox so doctors can provide better treatment.

Some suggested that fat people who have heart attacks can markedly improve their survival odds if they make some major lifestyle changes, an option that normal-weight patients may not have.

Here’s a perfect example of similar scientist/journalist patterns from a couple of years ago.

These days, however, it gets a little better.

3) Once the journalists have piled their Twister complications on top of the scientific ones, someone smart and devoid of anti-fat bias, in this case Paul at Big Fat Blog, comes in and cuts through the bullshit.

And the whole sentiment of the article – from it being “luck” (even though it’s in a study, and studies usually don’t count on luck, Doctor) to “indulge” to “you’re going to get (insert disease here)” – is one of fear….

Irresponsible, shoddy reporting and fear mongering.

We found this through keryx.

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2 Responses to “Fat Heart-Attack Patients Live Longer”

  1. Lisa Hirsch Says:

    The information you put in parens in this paragraph is difficult to understand:

    A major study (16,000 people over 37 countries) shows a health, or a survival, or a quality of life benefit from being fat. In this case, they found that one year after a heart attack, the death rate for normal-weight patients was 4.3 percent. For obese patients, it was just 2.2 percent. (In other words, fat people have a 50% likelihood of increased longevity after a heart attack.)

    I believe what you mean is “…One year after a heart attack, obese patients have died at about half the rate of normal-weight patients” or, alternatively, “have twice the survival rate of normal-weight patients.”

  2. Lisa Hirsch Says:

    My second suggestion is wrong, wrong, wrong. Obese people’s survival rate is 97.8 percent vs. 95.7 percent for normal weight people. “Thin people are almost twice as likely to die” would be correct. Sorry!

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