Health Hazards Of The Obese
( Originally Published 1929 )
FAT, like the devil, is entitled to its just due. A certain amount of fat operates as a safeguard against ill-health. It is a reserve on which one can draw during illness.
But a person who is very much over-weight is actually beset by real enemies. For although obesity as a general rule does not kill, it nevertheless predisposes the obese person to many serious troubles. Actually, therefore, the condition of the fat man or woman is fraught with many dangers. Only the uninformed will deny the peculiar vulnerability of the obese. Among those who are over-weight the death rate from cancer, for ex-ample, is materially higher. The greater the excess in weight the higher the death rate.
Insurance companies have discovered the truth. Their selections are made on a scientific basis born of actual experience. The reason they are unwilling to accept excessively fat people as standard risks but demand additional premiums or reject the obese applicant absolutely is because the obese person succumbs more readily than the average to illness, overcomes bodily accidents more slowly and is a poorer surgical risk.
A booklet issued by the Metropolitan Life Insurance Company says:
"About one-fifth of the American people are burdened with over-weight. This amount of excess weight is a real impediment to active, vigorous life and a threat to health and longevity. . . .
"Only in very recent years has science come to realize the dangers of excessive fat, and there is good reason to believe that in this matter, as in all other medical matters, prevention is far better than the cure.
"There are certain diseases that have long been known to be associated with over-weight. So definite has been this association that life insurance companies have been reluctant to place standard insurance on people with more than moderate over-weight, and where it is excessive, insurance has been refused altogether. This practice of the insurance companies shows that they consider over-weight as a very serious disability, and indeed treat it as though it were a disease. The records of the insurance companies show that the length of life is seriously reduced in people with marked over-weight, and where this over-weight is excessive the loss in years of expected life may be as many as ten. .
"Diabetes is present in the members of the family of over-weight individuals to a much greater extent than is the case with persons of normal weight. This is significant both in the tendency to the hereditary transmission of diabetes and because diabetes is such a constant companion to obesity. .
"It is well known that mortality in patients with certain diseases, especially pneumonia, is vastly higher among those over-weight."
This company also states on the basis of its great mass of statistics:
"In a table giving the percentage of cases showing high blood pressure readings classified as to impairment or hygienic defect, the largest percentage--15.7 per centówas in the class which showed twenty per cent or more over-weight."
An increase in weight of from thirty to forty pounds between the ages of forty and fifty produces a mortality handicap as great as a moderate cirrhosis of the liver or a chronic valvular disease of the heart.
Sir James Paget remarked that after forty we tend to become either thin or fat, and the former are usually happier and live longer.
In a report of the United States Public Health Service it is pointed out that:
"Among short men less than five feet seven inches in height an excess of twenty per cent involves an added mortality of thirty per cent above normal. A forty per cent excess adds eighty per cent to the mortality.
"Among tall men from five feet ten inches, ages twenty to forty-four, a twenty per cent excess in weight carries a forty per cent increase in mortality. A forty per cent excess doubles the mortality."