Magazine article Science News

Vision: The Risks of Being Too Fat or Too Tall

Magazine article Science News

Vision: The Risks of Being Too Fat or Too Tall

Article excerpt

When it comes to cataracts, a major new study finds, body size can make a difference--a potentially blinding one. "This is more bad news for fat people" and especially disheartening at the close of holidays marked by gustatory overindulgence, notes Albert Stunkard of the University of Pennsylvania's Weight and Eating Disorders Program in Philadelphia.

He's referring to data from an ongoing study, begun in 1982, of more than 20,000 male physicians. Spurred by inconclusive reports, researchers at Harvard University's Medical School and School of Public Health, both in Boston, have been investigating whether cataract incidence climbs with increasing weight.

From annual self-reported health questionnaires, the scientists computed each man's heaviness as gauged by body-mass index (BMI)--weight in kilograms divided by the square of height in meters. Physicians with a BMI over 27.8 faced a 30 percent greater cataract risk than those with a BMI under 22, notes study coauthor Debra A. Schaumberg and her colleagues in the December 2000 AMERICAN JOURNAL OF CLINICAL NUTRITION.

However, BMI does not distinguish between apple-shaped people, who carry most of their excess at the waist, and pear-shaped people, who tend to deposit it at the hips. The former population faces a greater risk of heart and other problems than the latter group does, probably because abdominal fat triggers hormone changes. So, Schaumberg's team computed waist-to-hip ratios, also.

"We found that among overweight men, apple shapes faced an . …

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