Blog dedicated primarily to randomly selected news items; comments reflecting personal perceptions

Sunday, March 30, 2014

Rail Thin? or Pleasingly Plump...

In the socially elite crowd of British and North American aristocrats and royalty among whom the Duchess of Windsor, (Wallis Simpson) moved, one could never be thin enough to achieve that look of
wealth, cosmopolitan sophistication and ennui that so characterized the women of her class. The expensive couturier clothing and jewels she wore simply emphasized the glamour she was acclaimed to exemplify. Hers was the world of the demi-monde; elegant beyond question, with a touch of moral ambiguity. No beauty she, but bearing a certain charismatic, louche attraction that led a monarch to choose life with her rather than a life without her, since a divorced woman could never be accepted as a consort for King Edward VIII.
Glamorous: The Duke and Duchess of Windsor in Miami in 1941
Glamorous: The Duke and Duchess of Windsor in Miami in 1941

Now it's not just the aristocracy and royalty that are celebrated for their lifestyle and social position; their celebrity is shared by sport figures, entertainers, actors and the wealthy who have both inherited position and wealth, and those who have achieved wealth alternately through diligent enterpreneurial skill. Where once a well-fed robust physical presence personified personal wealth, because only the rich could afford to eat well and as much as they wished to, the situation has been now reversed in our time.

Where food, particularly food that has been processed to contain high levels of fat, sugar and salt, is readily available, inexpensive and popular, leading to weight gain among society's lower classes, the working poor, the lower middle-classes, people reliant on not whole food, but food products that have undergone such alterations from their original state that their nutrient content is questionable, and the harmful substances they contain are injurious to human health, depressing quality of life leading to obesity which itself leads to early death through diabetes onset to which maladies such as stroke, heart attack, neuropathy, kidney failure, and blindness are attributed.

Oh, and of course, the unattractiveness of being overweight, sometimes hugely overweight, morbidly obese, in fact. While society admires the svelte figure and is envious of those who are casually and proudly slim, on whose forms any kind of clothing looks good, another type of illness develops in the desire to become fashionably trim. Bulimia and anorexia are addictive and unpleasant pathological conditions affecting mind and body when women in particular, as well as impressionable teens seek to severely restrict food intake in a slenderizing process that can have extremely serious health results, even leading to death.

And then, there are people who are aware of good nutrition, and avoid a sedentary lifestyle; who make an effort to lead a moderate lifestyle incorporating whole foods and physical activity into their daily routines, who are not concerned with being elegantly thin, but rather muscularly fit. These are people who may work out regularly to ensure they don't put on additional weight, retaining an ideal weight; still looking physically attractive, but not catwalk-strutting thin, nor the reverse.

Martyna Budna exposes her tiny frame on the catwalk during Mark Fast's autumn/winter 2011 collection at London Fashion Week.
Martyna Budna exposes her tiny frame on the catwalk during Mark Fast's autumn/winter 2011 collection at London Fashion Week. Photo: Rex
Now comes the results of new research out of St. Michael's Hospital in Toronto, lead by Dr. Joel Ray, a physician and researcher at the hospital, whose team of researchers analyzed 51 studies on links between body mass index and death from any cause. Their research concluded that those categorized as underweight harbour the highest risk of premature death.

Daria Werbowy and another skinny high-fashion model.

Underweight adults with a body-mass index of less than 18.5 have a 1.8 times greater risk of perishing prematurely than those with a normal BMI of 18.5 to 24.9, according to the results of their study. On the other hand, people classed as obese (BMI of 30 to 34.9) were 1.2 times likelier to die during a minimum five years of follow-up as compared to people bearing a normal weight. For the severely obese; those with a BMI of 35 or over, the risk rose to 1.3 times higher.

How's that for overturning common wisdom that had it that the obese and severely obese suffered because of the weight pressing in on their viscera (interior organs), and the weight they carried distributed over their body and within the cavity of their midsection causing too great a strain leading to early death. Dr. Ray agrees that the problems associated with obesity are real, but he is concerned that the worries over rising obesity rates in society risks creating an "epidemic" of underweight adults.

"Our focus as a society has been on overweight, obese and very obese, and there's no problem in our focus. It's an important public health and individual health issue. But in the process we've neglected the influence of being underweight on mortality."
"We also know that it also has the risk of potentially affecting people who are already sufficiently healthy in size, or who are so slightly overweight that it's irrelevant -- their risk of dying or diabetes isn't important."
"It's those individuals who become unintended victims of the campaign [aimed at curbing obesity]."

Being severely underweight places people at increased risk of diseases that include lung disease, cardiovascular disease such as heart failure, and falls and injuries from poor fitness and insufficient muscle mass.

Celebrity Weight Fluctuations: Stars With Ever-Changing Bodies
Credit: Ethan Miller/Getty Images; Jason Merritt/Getty Images; George Pimentel/WireImage

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