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Getting Fat Lengthens Lifespan by Protecting the Brain, Says Obesity Expert

Update Date: Feb 28, 2013 04:09 PM EST

A German obesity expert claims that fat people live longer than skinny people because their brains get more nourishment under stress.

Professor Achim Peters from Lübeck University in Schleswig-Holstein claims that overweight people are more suited the stresses of modern life because their metabolisms are better at dealing with it.

Peters, who wrote the book "Overweight Myths - Why Fat People Live Longer," has studied the connection between the brain and weight for 30 years.  He insists that the common assumption that fat people die earlier than thin counterparts is a myth.

In an interview with Die Welt newspaper, the professor explains why being overweight is actually beneficial when dealing with stress.

"People react to a stressful, uncertain circumstances in two different ways. Some eat and become fat," he said. "The others refuse food and become thin. The ones who become really ill are the thin ones. The fat ones are, in comparison with the thin ones, much healthier."

While being thin in itself is not unhealthy, Peters stresses that those who lose weight when under stress have the most health-related problems, adding that those who have no stress and are thin actually do the best.

"When under stress one becomes either fat or sick," he explained to the German newspaper.  "We have to worry much more about the thin stressed people than about the fat stressed people. Yet they are not regarded widely as having a problem precisely because they are thin. But in fact they die earliest."

After studying the how "toxic stress" brought on by factors such as poverty, bullying abuse, divorce, low self-esteem and trouble in the workplace, Peters and his team found that stressed individuals who piled on the pounds in such circumstances beyond their control "get the nutrients they need to feed their brains".

"When the brain doesn't get them from external sources, it gets them from within - from muscles and even worse, from the organs. Thin stressed people are the least healthy people," he said. "So far, only the relationship between being overweight and mortality has been studied. The cause of the mortality is not in just being overweight, it lies in stress."

"If you look carefully there were or are stressful circumstances for fat people who do not seem stressed. But these people have found a solution. They have become stress tolerant and in return, get a balanced mood. But they have to pay a price for this - eating," he explained.

Peters said there were anti-stress therapies that he believes are effective in the long term and could change eating behavior and lead to weight loss.  However,, he added that there was no ideal weight, rather ""each person has an ideal survival strategy for their period of life, and the associated weight."

He said that the "ostracism of fatties" puts overweight people under a great deal of psychological pressure. 

"There are studies which show that fat people earn less, are more likely to be fired and are more often bullied. The beauty ideal of being slim contributes much to the unhappiness of fat people," he explained.

"Society needs to change, not fat people," Peters concluded.

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