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According to Doctors, Being Overweight Offers Health Benefits

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iStock

Society teaches us from an early age that being overweight is bad for your health. But for a little over a decade, doctors have been reporting evidence of the “obesity paradox”: cases of overweight or mildly obese patients faring better with several health conditions than their thinner counterparts.

Quartz recently published a feature story exploring the phenomenon that includes insights from several physicians. Carl Lavie, a cardiologist in Jefferson, Louisiana, was one of the first clinicians to get a paper published describing the paradox. Since then, dozens of studies have been released supporting its existence. It’s now a commonly held belief in the medical community that being overweight can protect patients against issues like burns, stroke, hypertension, pneumonia, and heart disease.

As you may have guessed, these findings have stirred up their fair share of controversy. Many scientists have taken a strong stance against any evidence supporting the paradox, saying it can be explained away by other factors. One popular theory is that overweight people are receiving better treatment than thinner people, but when you look at actual studies on the care received they tend to show the opposite

Even if heavier people are more likely to survive life-threatening conditions like heart disease, they’re also more likely to be diagnosed with them in the first place. But weight isn’t the only factor that influences a person's chances of having these issues. Add that to the fact that a strong correlation between weight and disease only appears in the morbidly obese and the health benefits of being overweight start to look more convincing. 

There are others who say that smokers and sick people, who tend to be thinner but also less healthy, skew the data. While this could be possible, the studies on the issue aren’t concrete enough to say for sure. The data that’s been collected on the obesity paradox, however, is hard to contest. 

Katherine Flegal, an epidemiologist at the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, has examined hundreds of mortality studies including information on body mass index (BMI). What she found is that patients in the overweight and mildly obese classifications suffered the lowest mortality rates. Her study, published in the Journal of the American Medical Associationanalyzed data from nearly 100 studies looking at close to 3 million participants. 

But just because researchers buy into the phenomenon’s validity doesn’t mean they’re any less perplexed by it. The medical field has used weight as a marker for health for a long time, but the obesity paradox suggests that the two may not be as intimately linked as we previously believed. In response to the findings, many doctors are now taking the “Health at Every Size” approach to healthcare. This initiative is built around placing a greater emphasis on healthy behaviors like nutrition and exercise. So don’t use this news as an excuse to switch to an all-ice cream diet.

[h/t: Quartz]

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The Hidden Benefits of Your Health Insurance Plan
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iStock

When we talk about health insurance, it’s usually in the context of a complaint. While it’s true that insurance companies often fight tooth and nail to keep their financial exposure limited, they’re also making moves to offer benefits beyond standard health care—and you might not even know about these perks.

A prime example is the recent trend for companies to offer a discount savings card on groceries. United Healthcare, Humana, and Medica are just a few of the insurers who have issued cards that can be used for an instant price reduction when checking out at participating stores. The catch? The programs typically cover healthy or organic foods. Along with discounted gym memberships, the benefit is an effort to keep policy holders fit and—at least theoretically—to reduce the need for medical interventions.

If you’re surprised to hear about it, you’re not alone. Here are some other programs offered by the nation's largest insurance companies that you might be missing out on. (Bear in mind that each company has various tiers of coverage and not all perks may apply to all levels.)

UNITED HEALTHCARE

The company’s Healthy Savings program for groceries allows shoppers to save on select items that change on a weekly basis. Each Sunday, the cards will recognize between $40 and $50 in deals on healthier grocery options. It’s only good at participating retailers, including Shop ‘n’ Save, Giant, and others. You can search for locations on their website.

Through UnitedHealth Allies, the company also offers discounts on weight loss programs like NutriSystem and Jenny Craig, as well as gym memberships and even active footwear [PDF].

CIGNA

The Northeast-based insurance company provides an umbrella discount service, Healthy Rewards, that offers savings on eye exams and up to 25 percent off alternative health therapies like acupuncture, chiropractic, and massage appointments [PDF]. They also offer fitness membership discounts. More information can be found at MyCigna.com.

AETNA

It’s hard to know what the pending acquisition of Aetna by pharmacy giant CVS will mean for health care perks moving forward. Currently, the company offers discounted memberships and trial passes to more than 10,000 gyms nationally, as well as discounts on home fitness equipment like treadmills [PDF]. You can also find discounts on meal home delivery subscriptions. Logged-in members can go to the Aetna website and select “Health Programs” then “Discounts” to determine your eligibility.

ANTHEM BLUECROSS

In addition to savings on groceries, gym memberships, and weight loss programs, Anthem BlueCross offers savings for members on DNA ancestry kits, pet insurance, and even baby-proofing.

HUMANA

Humana offers an impressive array of “lifestyle discounts” that range from basic wellness perks to teeth whitening, identity theft services, and 15 percent off in-network LASIK procedures. They also offer discounts on over-the-counter medications like Claritin and Advil. You can register at MyHumana.com to find out more.

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Bose
Bose's New 'Sleepbuds' Are Designed to Help You Doze Off Faster
Bose
Bose

If you’re the kind of person who can’t fall asleep without the whir of a fan or some other ambient noise in the background, then Bose has a product for you. As spotted by The Verge, the audio equipment company’s new wireless noise-masking Sleepbuds are designed to fit comfortably into your ears and help you doze off faster.

The Bose sleepbuds
Bose

Unlike other Bose earbuds—and, well, most headphones in general—the Sleepbuds don’t actually play music or allow audio to be streamed from external devices. Instead, they come equipped with 10 soothing audio tracks, including brown noise, rain, ocean waves, a running stream, and more.

The earbuds aren’t noise-canceling, but their audio tracks are specifically engineered to mask certain outside sounds like traffic and, perhaps most impressively, your partner’s snoring. The rechargeable battery lasts for 16 hours, and at just 1 centimeter in width and height, they’re Bose’s tiniest product yet.

For early risers whose partners like to sleep in, the Bose Sleep app can sound off an alarm in your ear that only you can hear. The app can also be used to adjust your sleep settings, including your noise of choice, volume levels, and how long you want the sound to play for.

Bose spent a couple of years developing the product and raised over $450,000 in an Indiegogo campaign to help improve the Sleepbuds by getting backers to test them out and provide feedback. The Sleepbuds are now available for purchase on Amazon for $249.

[h/t The Verge]

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