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Wednesday, August 17, 2011

Everyone Is Doing It!

Between the tender age of 20 and the ripe old age of 65 some will lose their hair, some their eye sight and others their mind but all of us will gain weight. The normal aging process takes a lot from us but leaves us well supplied with the proverbial spare tire or two in the middle. The question is why.

Theories posited by those in the health establishment range from hormonal imbalance to loss of muscle tissue to being less physically active. Some scientists and researchers admit however that the true reason for the phenomenon is elusive. Given that fact it could be plausible to assert that weight gain is a natural part of the aging process. Even those who remain physically active and health conscious in their retirement years still weigh more than they did in high school.

One of the hallmarks of true science is the ability to accurately predict things that occur. Medical science for example banks on the idea of predicting how the body will react to pathogens and medicines. Therefore if it is accurately predictable that we gain weight as we age then that should be referred to as a natural phenomenon. Yet the lion’s share of information disseminated by the health establishment is to lose weight. In fact strict guidelines have been set in place to guide us toward maintaining a thinner frame. Is science fighting against nature in this case?

Anyone who has cared for an elderly person knows instinctively that weight loss is one of the tell tale signs of a problem. When my grandmother was ill some years ago she began to lose weight rapidly. Her doctor instructed that she immediately be put on a high fat high calorie diet for rapid weight gain. She put back those pounds, plumped back up and did much better. Weight loss is not a panacea of good health.

During my clinical work there was a patient in his mid sixties with a rather serious illness. After several surgeries he spent a number of weeks in intensive care on a ventilator. Prior to his illness he was a big man who by current standards would have been considered overweight and perhaps obese. During rounds one day the doctor attending his case noted that he might not have made it if he hadn’t been such a big fellow to start with. During a serious illness such as this the body uses its reserves rapidly so the more you have the better you will be in such cases. This is a good example of how weight can be beneficial.

Extremely obese individuals may experience health issues related to weight but they account for only about 5% of the cases of so called obesity. The rest of us non skinny people may have a spare tire but are not impaired from engaging in an active life.

Could it be that all of the talk of maintaining a certain weight to be able to have a certain level of health and vitality is overblown? If it is natural to gain weight as we age then to try and go against that seems illogical for the purposes of improving health.  

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