Too hot? Blame it on fat!
The listing of weight as a risk factor does not bother, or even surprise, me. Fat is an insulator, so people that have more of this insulator will trap more heat than they lose. What caught my eye was the use of the terms “overweight” and “obese.”
Were the BMIs of the subjects for the study (assuming there was one) taken, or was it just assumed that if you looked fat, you were obese? People who appear to be of normal weight, or who have athletic, muscular builds, can register as overweight and obese. Fat people are not always as fat as they look, either. Are normal weight and thin people with muscular statures at the same risk for heatstroke? Muscles generate heat, after all. Could part of the risk factor regarding weight be because of additional muscle that fat people may or may not possess? We do not know this.
I would love to see a study that compared people with obese BMIs in urban vs. non-urban regions. Urban areas, because of the asphalt and concrete so commonly used in these areas, are prone to heat emergencies. Both urban residence and manual labor are listed as risk factors for heat stroke on the FEMA page. Cities have higher concentrations of poor and minority residents, which are statistically more likely to have obese BMIs. Would we see a similar heat stroke risk in fat people from rural or suburban areas? Because poor people are more likely to work menial jobs, could this also explain their higher likelihood of heat stroke if they are the ones disproportionately doing hard labor in extreme heat?
I examined risk factors for hypothermia on the Mayo Clinic site and noticed that thinness is not a risk factor for this condition, even though thin people lack the insulation necessary to forestall extreme cold emergencies. What I did notice, instead, was “poor nutrition.”
Is this their proxy for thinness?
You cannot tell who is starving based on what they weigh or what their body composition is. If poor nutrition really is a risk factor for hypothermia, then fat people would be at additional risk of developing it because most of them will be on low-calories diets at any given time. Everyone’s body functions on a different level of caloric intake, but there is a certain level at which point NO ONE can function long-term. It’s starvation, pure and simple. Basically, people that tell fatties to lose weight are putting them at risk for hypothermia. I doubt any articles would be written about that, though.
Otherwise, being fat (or thin) is largely genetic and may have an evolutionary survival advantage.
Tall, thin bodies theoretically hail from equatorial climates, which makes it likely that shorter and fatter bodies hail from colder climates. Then again, that would turn fat into a potential survival advantage, which is, of course, promoting obesity. It is also a potential explanation for the higher incidence of obesity in various ethnic groups as opposed to the traditional “obesogenic” environment theory.
I don’t think articles that list overweight as a risk factor for heat stroke are fat-hating. Thankfully (can you believe it?) no one is recommending weight loss as a way to reduce your risk of heat stroke! My issue is how they came up with that recommendation and why the implications of thinness or people suffering under-nutrition (fat or thin) are not accurately addressed.
And would it kill them to throw fat people a bone and admit that, yes, fat is genetic and a survival advantage if you live in cold climates?
That’s all. Thank you!