Popular television shows often tap into current affairs for storylines. Last night’s episode of Boston Legal was no exception. This summer, a study claimed that people could “catch” obesity in the same way they can catch a cold. And last night, the show highlighted the absurdity of this idea when a partner in a fictional law firm fired another lawyer on the grounds that she was fat. The justification: “I had to let her go. I can’t risk catching ‘the fat.’”
Luckily, not all studies provide fodder for primetime sitcoms. This week the CDC published a study in the Journal of the American Medical Association illustrating that a little extra weight (roughly 25 pounds) actually has a protective effect against chronic disease. So even if people could catch “the fat,” it works to their advantage. The study’s lead researcher Katherine M. Flegal—who previously debunked the CDC’s inflated obesity death toll—summed up the findings in today’s Washington Post:
The take-home message is that the relationship between fat and mortality is more complicated than we tend to think. It’s not a cookie-cutter, one-size-fits-all situation where excess weight just increases your mortality risk for any and all causes of death.