Strong opinions, weakly held

Yet another reason to lose weight

Seriously, who needs this?

Being fat is bad for your brain.

The New York Times blogger Olivia Judson runs down a ton of scientific evidence documenting the ways that being obese in middle age raises the likelihood of dementia in old age.


  1. wow, you must be kidding. ok, I’ll accept that a failure in the appetite-regulatory system might be an indicator that other systems are prone to failure. but to claim that it’s the weight that’s causing brain systems to fail? logic collapse.

    One study of 60 healthy young adults (in their 20s and 30s) found that the fatter members of the group had significantly lower gray-matter densities in several brain regions, including those involved in the perception of taste and the regulation of eating behavior.

    what’s really the most reasonable first thought in reading this — that obesity must have led to that “damage”, or that differently structured consumption-regulatory regions might just lead to… eating problems?!?

  2. That’s just one of the examples, though. I do agree that there are several instances in the article where there seems to be a chicken and egg issue that ought to be considered.

  3. Yeah, but it should undermines your faith in her ability to understand/summarize/evaluate any of the studies she discusses. A lot of the later stuff is speculative or weakly correlative (leptin could have ill effects (unknown)! obesity is often associated with these actual health problems (heart disease, diabetes) that are bad! maybe fat people eat too much fat!). And yet it’s all rolled together as though a heap of poor conclusions add up to an undeniable case.

    The obvious question is: can obesity-associated brain damage be reversed?

    Her argument is going to be diet-related, because she’s taking the causation as given; it could be that we should be looking for the causes of the brain damage, in order to get insight into obesity (and prevention of both). Nobody’s going to go wrong by eating well and exercising, but the net result of the presentation here is to add to the heap of reasons to feel bad for being overweight, and I don’t think that the science actually supports that (and there are plenty of reasons to think that weight-loss-dieting is a bad idea).

    Anyway, just not impressed. Intrigued by the possibilities in her last paragraph, but otherwise this is just another Societal Norms Proven Correct piece, always a media favorite. (See Women Really Are Different, episodes 1-400000, e.g.)

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