Whoever said, “You can never be too rich, or too thin,” was wrong — at least on the latter point. Turns out that even though it goes against conventional wisdom, being overweight might be healthier than being thin or slim. Several studies have shown in recent years that while obesity is linked with a number of negative health outcomes, being overweight, as defined by the government’s BMI indexes actually reduces your mortality. The benefit is small — only about 6 percent — but it's statistically significant. The study, published in JAMA, looked at about 3 million people and mortality, relied on data from previous studies.

Evolutionarily, it makes sense that most of us would carry a "bit extra"; throughout human history, those who were able to make the most efficient use of scarce calories would have had a better chance of surviving starvation and severe diseases. But the ability to store calories (aka fat) efficiently is today generally seen as a negative. How many of us in the developed world have thought, “If only we could eat all we wanted and never gain weight!” Well, if that were true, our genes would have died out long ago when the first crops failed. Plenty of our ancestors lived through lean times by relying on stored body fat. Being able to eat more calories than you need without gaining weight is true for a small minority of people. 

So while obesity is linked with negative health outcomes and diseases, being 10 pounds over your ideal weight may not be (especially if you are otherwise eating healthfully and exercising), and may even be slightly protective.

Fats are making a comeback in other areas too.  

Turns out that the same is true for skin and hair; the recent craze of using oils in natural and high-end skin care has surprised many of us who cover beauty as part of our areas of expertise. Healthy, natural oils like sesame, coconut, shea, safflower, jojoba and almond are great for skin and hair, reversing years of "oil-free" labels on skin-care packaging. Turns out they're great even if you have oily skin, and even on your face (adding oil to oily skin can actually help balance skin, because often excess oil production occurs because skin is too dry). 

Similarly, healthy fats are increasingly popular in cooking; olive oil, avocado, nut butters and even moderate quantities of butter are used by health-promoting cooks for their full flavor (which I have found is so satisfying it helps me eat less overall), and for their health-promoting benefits. Some fats may help metabolize less-healthy fat, stave off heart disease, reduce inflmmation and even prevent cancer. Again, after years of "no fat" and "low fat" options, good fats have made a comeback (saturated and processed fats are still unhealthy though, so this definitely doesn't mean that french fries are health food!)

Turns out that despite what we heard from doctors, health-food purveyors and skin-care specialists for about 20 years, (some good) fat is healthy after all. 

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Starre Vartan ( @ecochickie ) covers conscious consumption, health and science as she travels the world exploring new cultures and ideas.

Maybe (some) fat's not so bad?
Turns out that some fat (whether you're eating it, covering your skin in it, or carrying it) isn't as bad as we thought.