05 February, 2008
Water onto the Fire
There should now be less fuel for the war on obesity, with the publication of this article "Lifetime Medical Costs of Obesity: Prevention No Cure for Increasing Health Expenditure" in the Public Library of Science Medicine journal. They found that health-care costs for fat people were lower, over the course of a person's lifetime. Please note that this conclusion isn't quite as clear-cut as it looks, there are some subtleties, like most statements people try and assert about obesity.
So in this research, what happened was that some Dutch researchers used population data from the Netherlands to create a model of estimated health-care costs. They used three different groups in their model: thin (BMI <30) non-smokers, thin smokers, and fat non-smokers. In the model, the yearly health costs were greatest for the fat non-smokers up for younger and middle-aged people, but in old age, the yearly costs were worse for the thin smokers group. Over a whole lifetime, however, the estimated costs were greater for the thin non-smokers group, because of a longer life expectancy of this group.
Now obviously, since it was a model, these are just estimates. They can't know what will/won't happen in the future, although the researchers did try out several different scenarios and got the same relative results that fat people have lower life-time health-care costs than the thin non-smokers group (thin smokers had even lower life-time health-care costs).
This one bit of research won't stop the War on Obesity, but hopefully this will help prevent the use of their "but fat people COST US so much!" weapon. It's not the best reason to stop the war, but I fear that anti-obesity crusaders are more likely to listen to their wallets than complaints from fat people fed up of being treated like second-class citizens.