Dieters 'have slim chance of happiness'

by JAYA NARAIN, Daily Mail

Last updated at 13:22 12 December 2005

Being slim has long been held as a key element in sexual attraction, success and happiness.

But a study shows that skinny people are more likely to be unhappy and commit suicide than those who are overweight.

Over a 16-year period, the ups and downs of more than a million lives were examined and scientists found that as a person's body mass index rose, so the risk of serious depression fell.

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The study will be be a blow to the dieting business. It will also give credibility to the theory that the overweight really are jollier.

The research, conducted by Bristol University, showed that 3,000 individuals who committed suicide had a BMI significantly lower than those who did not kill themselves.

Professor David Gunnell, of Bristol University, said: "We were quite surprised as there is a view that people who are overweight may be stigmatised and made to feel depressed.

"Our findings provide some support for the idea that fatter people are at a reduced risk of problems that lead to suicide."

The psychologists said the study took into account factors that could distort the results, such as socio-economic status. Anti-diet campaigners claimed the research gave scientific backing to their views that dieting caused misery.

"Slimming makes you miserable," said Joanne Roper of Hugs International. "Dieting can bring people down and make them obsessed with their body image.

"You've got to be happy with what you've got. If you can accept yourself as you are then you'll be happy generally."

She claims the dieting rollercoaster brings great unhappiness to millions with a variety of sizes and metabolisms who will never be able to attain an industry-invented 'ideal' size.

Former Spice Girl Geri Halliwell, 33, lost a huge amount of weight on a regime of exercise and starvation after leaving the band. She suffered years of unhappiness before coming to terms with her figure and regaining her curves.

She said: "I'm on the selfacceptance diet now; my bulimia is in the past.

"I've just learnt healthier ways of coping. If you're fit and healthy, your weight looks after itself."

Television presenter Fern Britton was criticised recently after she declared she was 'a jolly size 16' and said diets don't make anyone happy.

The pan-European study by Bristol University revealed that for each five point increase in BMI, the risk of suicide decreased by 15 per cent.

What the scientists do not know is why this happens, though some research suggests individuals with insulin resistance - a condition associated with being overweight - may have a reduced risk of depression and suicidal behaviour.

Also the feel-good hormone, Seratonin, is associated with insulin and one of the main ways of treating depression is by increasing the amount of this hormone.

But scientists behind the study have warned those who suffer from depression not to intentionally increase their weight to combat it.

BMI measures an individual's height/weight ratio. It is arrived at by dividing their weight in kilograms by the square of their height in metres.


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