- The Washington Times - Tuesday, November 22, 2005

This Thanksgiving, pass the gravy — and the potatoes and an extra helping of turkey. We knew that being a little overweight is no huge deal. But this year, a team of scientists quantified it — proving that tomorrow, everyone should relax a little and be true to the spirit of Thanksgiving.

The study — published earlier this year in the Journal of the American Medical Association — suggests that it might even be beneficial to be a little overweight. Looking at underweight, overweight and obese populations and the U.S. mortality data for the year 2000 (and controlling for things like smoking and age), the scientists found 33,746 excess deaths among underweight people. By contrast, being overweight doesn’t appear to bring any particular dangers.

“Risks in the overweight category are not much different from those in the normal weight category,” wrote the authors, led by Katherine M. Flegal of the CDC’s National Center for Health Statistics.

It’s still quite dangerous to be obese. The study found nearly four times as many excess deaths among the obese as among the underweight.

The backdrop to all this, of course, is not just the medical community’s efforts to make people believe the obesity “epidemic” is real, but also the culture’s obsession with being thin. Certainly Americans are fatter than they used to be, and in some respects that is problematic. The country could save billions on health-care spending if at-risk populations exercised more and are healthier.

But this is Thanksgiving, the ideal time for Americans, including those who are overweight, to be themselves at the table. They should celebrate this uniquely American holiday with an extra serving (or two).

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