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Western society tends to denigrate plump people, regarding them as slobbish, lazy, and inherently unhealthy. There is no doubt that extreme obesity is unhealthy, but people with body fat slightly above average are unlikely to be jeopardizing their health. On the contrary, the general medical consensus is that moderate plumpness, particularly in younger women, has several health advantages. These include a lower risk of suffering osteoporosis and some other postmenopausal disorders. Plumpness in men may carry more risk, especially if the fat is distributed mainly around the waist (see Syndrome X). Nevertheless, even in men, slight plumpness is unlikely to be harmful.

It is often forgotten that the risks from being underweight can be as great or greater than those from being overweight. As far as health is concerned, there is probably an optimum weight and level of body fat for each individual dependent on a number of factors, including height (see body mass index) and body build. As a person's weight diverges from this optimum, the risks to health increase. Because of Western society's obsession with slimness, the body weight that most people prefer is probably less than the optimal weight for health.

Subjects: Medicine and Health.

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