You may recall a study from a few years ago about how certain healthy habits — consumption of ≥5 fruits or vegetable/day, regular exercise >12 times/month, moderate alcohol consumption, and not smoking — decreased mortality risk regardless of weight.
You may not have seen this part:
The results of this study reinforce the association between healthy lifestyle habits and decreased mortality risk regardless of baseline BMI. This finding is of great importance to both patients and health care providers, whose perceptions about BMI may lead them to believe only obese and/or overweight patients require regular counseling about lifestyle adjustments. Although the evidence suggests that patients across the BMI spectrum should adhere to a healthy lifestyle to optimize health, many patients with a normal-weight BMI may believe exercise and healthy eating, for example, are less important for them as long as they maintain a low BMI.
I’ve mentioned before that the emphasis on fat often leads thin people to assume they’re healthy. Not necessarily — something the authors called out.
In the pooled analysis that included all individuals in the cohort (normal weight, overweight, and obese), the adoption of each additional healthy habit decreased all-cause mortality between 29% and 85% (Table 2). To put this in perspective, statins decrease all-cause mortality by 12% in individuals at high risk for cardiovascular disease. Given the tremendous benefits of a healthy lifestyle, policies and programs that encourage adherence to healthy lifestyles should be encouraged both locally and at a national level.
What can be done about this? Encouraging moderate exercise & use of alcohol, abstaining from smoking, and eating more fruits and veggies. The study authors also note that when primary care providers take the time to urge things things, it can be “effective in decreasing smoking, increasing fruit and vegetable consumption, moderating alcohol consumption, and increasing exercise frequency.” (That’s more than they can say for weight loss.)
PS: I see references to statins a lot. They make money, despite side effects. Not smoking? Doesn’t make money. Exercise can make money, as can selling more fruits & vegetables — but not as much as a drug. Hm.