Wednesday, 16 January 2013

Overweight People Appear to Live Longer

According to Melinda Beck of the Wall Street Journal, a US government study seems to indicate that overweight people (ie, those with a Body Mass Index - BMI - of 25-30) are apparently less likely to die in any 'given period' than people of normal weight (BMI between 18.5-25). People with a BMI of 25-30 have a 6% less chance of dying than those with a BMI between 18.5-25.

Beck (1 January 2012) reports "Even those who are moderately obese don't have a higher-than-normal risk of dying" (BMI 30-35) than those with a overweight BMI, having a 5% less chance of dying in a given period than those with a normal BMI.

However, having a BMI higher than 35 - being substantially obese - increases the risk of death by 29%.

The study was conducted by the US Center for Disease Control & Prevention (CDC), and analysed data from three million participants, looked at 270,000 deaths, and over 97 studies globally.

Senior CDC scientist and lead author, Katherine Flegal, said "The findings are very consistent across all different ages and continents", but hastens to add that this finding doesn't mean that being overweight is good for us long term. Obesity-associated illnesses - such as high blood pressure, heart disease, adult-onset diabetes, high cholesterol, joint failure, respiratory problems - get worse the heavier we get, and once we are substantially obese, our mortality risk increases by almost a third.

Beck states it is unclear "why people with heart disease, diabetes, hypertension and kidney disease live longer if they are overweight or obese". It is possible that carrying a few extra pounds gives us a metabolic reserve when we are ill: 'something to go on' (as my mother used to say); or that a little fat gives us padding to better deal with traumatic injuries (1 January 2013).

But the results of this study are surprising. It will be interesting to read what other researchers uncover as the findings are further analysed.

Reference: Beck, Melinda (1 January 2013). A Few Extra Pounds Won't Kill You—Really. USA: The Wall Street Journal. Retrieved 3 January 2013 from


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