Gene Expression

Fat men are dumber!

I have a maxim, “beware of British newspapers.” I guess I should add the BBC to that list after reading this slapdash piece, Obese men ‘have lower IQs’. Speaking as a normal weight individual with a BMI of 22.8 I don’t have a personal axe to grind, but this study screams correlation does not equal causation.

The Boston study found that men with a BMI of 30 or more scored on average 23% lower marks in tests of mental acuity.

The authors make some noise about blood circulation, and I’m sure you can posit thousands of halfway plausible causative components, but perhaps fat dudes are just sluggish because they just ate before the test? Anyway, I suppose this is an example of a “contagious” meme. The science is plainly ludicrious, but it is pretty funny. And I am evil, so I guess it makes sense I would want to talk about obesity in somewhat mocking tones.

Addendum: The same researcher has found a positive link between high cholesterol and IQ.


  1. #1 Boknekht
    March 29, 2006

    Brings to mind the image of the stereotypical endomorphic dullard. I suspect that many people always had a gut feeling that fat men are/tend to be feebleminded. You know, the kind who keeps stuffing in the junkfood while entertaining himself with something classically idiotic. The complete opposite of the sensitive, gracile, ectomorphic genius type. Yea, it seems that Sheldon had it right all along.

    As for the positive link between cholesterol & intelligence, i’m wondering whether LDL or HDL predominates. I think i remember seeing something about a correlation between high LDL & low cognitive ability.

    Anyway, this high cholesterol is probably inconsequential, as high IQ men tend to be healthier throughout their lives, to engage in less risky behavior, be taller, more attractive, more myopic, & have longer lifespans, from what i’ve read. I even remember seeing a really old study indicating that the gifted were happier, more motivated, & athletic than average individuals.

    I believe that as more & more health studies are undertaken, we’ll see all the classic correlations being confirmed repeatedly(not that that would be a surprise to anyone)

  2. #2 Kapitano
    March 29, 2006

    Compare and contrast these two statement:
    1) Unhealthy people tend to score lower on IQ tests
    2) Fat people are dumb

    If you can’t see the differences, you’re probably obese ;-).

  3. #3 Rob
    March 30, 2006

    Some of the viruses that may cause obesity also cause low blood cholesterol. If low cholesterol lowers IQ, then if there is a virus that lowers cholesterol and increases obesity, they’ll be a correlation between low IQ and obesity.

    Was this a longitudinal study? If I had to place money, I’d bet that lower IQ men become more obese. Not only for behavioral reasons, but the working class seems to value big and muscular, then big and fat, then thin.

    Any studies like this on women?

  4. #4 Sarah
    March 30, 2006

    “However, it is unclear whether the obesity is causing the lower IQ, or vice versa.”

    Maybe neither of those options is true – isn’t that the other possibility? Maybe obesity and low scoring on IQ tests have a common cause, for example poor diet? Or maybe some other link, or maybe they are not related at all.
    It’s good that the reporter at least realised that the causation could be either way round – that’s more than you usually get in BBC ‘science’ journalism – but (s)he failed to go one step further and consider other possibilities as well.

  5. #5 William
    March 30, 2006

    Clearly these people forgot to include Nero Wolf.

    More seriouser, Herman Kahn, late of the Hudson Institute was about as bright as they come and I suppose he weighed in at well over a 1/6 of a ton. JS Bach was no scarecrow either, nor was Samuel Johnson.

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