Shock research: Humans now fatter than pigs

Pigging out: Modern farming methods explain the pigs’ dramatic weight loss.

Is it wrong to be fat and lazy? Many of us now have more body fat than pigs, scientists said yesterday. But for most of history, being plump and idle was regarded as the goal of a good life.

For the first time in history, humans are becoming fatter than pigs, a new study has disclosed.

Changes in the way pigs are bred and reared are producing a significantly leaner animal, with only 16% fat by weight compared with well over 20% two decades ago.

Humans have been heading in the opposite direction. The body of a typical middle-aged man with the national average BMI (body mass index) of 27.5 now comprises 21% to 25% fat by weight. For women, the figure is 33% to 38%.

As long as a person is not clinically obese (defined as fat in a way that is dangerous to health), is there anything wrong with being plump?

Beauty has always been highly subjective: the “ideal body type” has changed countless times throughout history.

Aphrodite, the ancient Greek goddess of love and beauty, was portrayed by sculptors as curvy and round. Up until the 18th Century, most artists depicted the “perfect woman” as voluptuous and reclining luxuriously.

Today, opinions around the world about fatness differ enormously. While Western fashion magazines are traditionally focused on thin runway models, in Mauritania, for example, obesity has long been considered the ideal standard of beauty, signalling wealth and prosperity in a land plagued by drought.

So, is it wrong to be plump?

As fat as a pig

Yes, say some. As long as we are not too thin, then there are many studies that suggest eating less helps us live longer. And a dynamic person who makes the most of every day is far more appealing than a lazy person.

No, say others. The Western world is in the grip of an epidemic of anxiety. The truth is that being healthy, happy, fat, and lazy is not a contradiction in terms. We need to chill out and admit it – being fatter than a modern pig is great!

You Decide

  1. Is the word “fat” offensive?

Activities

  1. Keep a record this week recording your “lazy time”. At the end of the week, consider: did you feel better or worse on the days when you were most lazy?

Some People Say...

“Idleness for me is not a giving up on life, but a spirited grabbing hold of it.”

Tom Hodgkinson, British journalist and editor of the Idler magazine

What do you think?

Q & A

What do we know?
It is generally agreed that it is unhealthy to be either very overweight or underweight. In the UK, the NHS suggests that having a Body Mass Index (BMI) of between 18.5 and 24.9 is considered healthy for adults. A BMI of above 30 is considered to be a marker of obesity. BMI is a measure of body fat based on height and weight.
What do we not know?
Whether BMI is still a useful tool. Not everyone believes it is a good calculation of how healthy a person is. It is easy to work out, but it cannot distinguish between weight from fat and weight from muscle or bone. As a result, it sometimes wrongly characterises fit people as being overweight – for example, athletes often weigh more than other people of the same height due to extra muscle growth.

Word Watch

Subjective
Influenced by personal feelings and opinions, rather than factual evidence.
Voluptuous
Curvy or rounded body (usually to describe a woman).
Mauritania
A country in northwest Africa. In 2018, Mauritania’s worst drought in recent years affected 600,000 people.

PDF Download

Please click on "Print view" at the top of the page to see a print friendly version of the article.