Monday, August 31, 2009

The fat girl says, "Uh... derrrr...."

Half a point if you said "Moo," I guess.

According to a study funded by funded by the National Institute on Aging, National Institute of Biomedical Imaging and Bioengineering, National Center for Research Resources, and the American Heart Association,

A new study finds obese people have 8 percent less brain tissue than
normal-weight individuals. Their brains look 16 years older than the brains of
lean individuals, researchers said today... "The brains of obese
people looked 16 years older than the brains of those who were lean, and in
overweight people looked 8 years older," [UCLA professor of neurology Paul]
Thompson said.

(See the article here.)

Now before I start, let me say that I am neither denying that this study is valid, nor am I saying that there is nothing wrong with being at an unhealthy weight. I know that is not true, and although I don't believe the lie that everyone is supposed to be skinny, I do believe that each of us has a healthy weight and we should strive for that. Regardless of if that leaves you wearing a size 6 or 16.

That being said, there are some points that make me believe this study may be flawed. One is the age of the participants. The article says that all participants were over the age of 70. I wonder what the findings would have been had the participants been in their 20s, 30s, 40s... Would the results have been the same, or is it possible that some of the more common causes of dementia and the like in older adults had a hand in the study?

It would also be interesting to know whether or not all of the participants had been smokers, drinkers and/or drug users (prescription or otherwise) at any point in their lives. What effect could these variables have had in the loss of brain tissue? According to various studies, we've been told that drugs and alcohol have a damaging effect on the brain. And from the long list of side effects rattled off at the end of prescription drug commercials-- as well as lawsuits resulting from various illnesses/deaths that have occurred from medicines-- it's not an unreasonable assumption that some medicines can have an adverse effect on the brain. And considering again that these participants were up in age, the chance that they are on at least one sort of medication is pretty high. Was that taken into consideration for this study?

Thirdly, I would like to know whether all of the participants were the same ethnicity. why, you ask? I assume the study used the participants' BMI as the determinant for whether they were obese, overweight, or normal. However, according to this recent article, the Body Mass Index may overestimate obesity in African-Americans. As far as I know, this is still being studied. However, if this is correct and the study used African-Americans in the study as "overweight" or "obese" based on BMI, the results would be skewed. Therefore I think it's important to know the makeup of the group of participants.

As a pretty smart fat girl with no apparent brain impediment, I have to give this new study a skeptical side-eye.

Your thoughts?

No comments: