Fat people are less intelligent? It's all in your head

Last week, I was walking in the Sydney CBD to meet mates when I received a call: "Can you chat with Mike Jeffreys from Radio 2UE in an hour to discuss whether fat people are less intelligent than thin?"

I spun around and headed home. I had to read more before taking this call. The producer sent an article upon which the discussion was to be based, which referenced a study showing overweight/obese subjects with scans depicting ill-effects on the brain. Researchers concluded overweight individuals' brains had variances that affect their ability to exert self-control and maintain healthy lifestyle choices.

Could it be true? My thoughts are:

No. The study draws a pretty harsh conclusion given only 32 subjects (16 men, 16 women) from Baltimore, in the US, were tested. Sure, I'm a personal trainer, but a master's degree in economics taught me this: there are lies, damn lies, and then there are statistics. So, more work needs to be done.

No. The study is putting the cart in front of the horse. The correct study would take 30 years. It would need to monitor IQ tests of children, and see if as adults, intelligence is a predictor of weight, not vice versa. And remember – correlation does not mean causation.

No. If Australia is one of the fattest nations in the world, is anybody prepared to say we are one of the dumbest? I've lived in the US, UK, and now Australia. Seventy per cent of us may be overweight; but I would not call us of lesser intelligence. Unless you're an adult playing Pokemon Go – I'm prepared to leave the question open in your case.

No. In the 2016 CrossFit Games, the prize pool has increased to $US2.2 million ($2.9 million). Individual male and female winners will receive a Glock pistol. Yes, a pistol. That's a hell of a lot of fit people rallying behind one very dumb-arse idea.

No. I've met significantly overweight geniuses, yet seen enough YouTube videos to know there are millions of Darwin Award winners at healthy BMI levels.

No. After years in the personal training game helping thousands of people achieve their fitness goals, not one of them has ever said to me: "My jeans no longer fit, but I feel so much smarter!"


Yet I will say this ...

We've got a lot of smart adults that are shopping like a child in a sweets store with a credit card, and not making time to exercise. Keep it up and they will create habits that not only add weight, but also heart disease, diabetes, and possibly dementia.

New research hypothesises a direct link between diabetes and dementia, with some in the medical community referring to Alzheimer's Disease as Type 3 diabetes. So, on that level at least, there is a potential causal link between what you shove in your mouth and your capability for rational thought. In other words, continue to eat junk and your brain could turn to junk.

A question such as "are fat people less intelligent?" is inflammatory, emotive and couched to create a debate. However, you don't need to be a brain surgeon to know that people with poor eating habits operate at a lower energy. I won't call it intelligence – I'll call it 'energy'. Some people have it, others do not.

While the weight versus intelligence argument rages on, it shouldn't cloud other important research out this week:


Strokes are preventable. Globally, "the number of strokes would be practically cut in half (48 per cent) if hypertension was eliminated; trimmed by more than a third (36 per cent) if people were physically active; and shaved by almost one-fifth (19 per cent) if they had better diets.".

Strength training

For decades the fitness community has believed to build muscle, one should lift heavy weights until exhaustion. Science is proving lifting lighter weights can result in equivalent gains. It's not the amount of the weights – it's performing repetitions to failure. This news could change training techniques forever.

Calorie reduction

A 25 per cent reduction in calories in non-obese individuals causes less inflammation and leads to longer, healthier lives without negatively affecting other parts of the immune system. It's what we've known all along – healthier foods and portion control matter.

Dementia vaccine

Work being done in the US and Australia might have an Alzheimer's vaccine ready for human trials in just three years. I'm all for childhood vaccination, but do we really require a dementia vaccine? Mother Nature's vaccine has been around for as long as we have: fruit, vegetables, protein, and a healthy dose of exercise. Prevention is simple, and so damn smart.

What do you think about weight versus intelligence? Let Michael know in the Comments section.

Passion for lifestyle change is the cornerstone for everything Michael Jarosky does. A Sydney-based personal trainer, he cajoled thousands of Executive Style readers to undertake his 'Cut The BS' diet, and champions a charity weight-loss event, Droptober.

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