Why Few Extra Pounds Can Be Good For You

Here’s a challenge to the idea that those of normal weight live longer. In fact, according to new research, those who are carrying a few extra pounds tend to live longer than those of either normal weight or who are very obese. The review covered 97 studies that included 2.88 million subjects, of whom just over 270,000 died during study follow up. Surprisingly for our thin-obsessed culture, it may be that under certain conditions, being a bit overweight is actually a good thing.

Earlier studies have hinted at lower mortality for the moderately overweight. This latest research review is the largest, most comprehensive and carefully conducted work in the area.

The review appears in the well-regarded Journal of the American Medical Association and looks again at nearly 20 years of study into the relationship between body weight and risk of death. The participants came from countries the world over. Those who had a BMI under 30 but still above the normal range were less likely to die during the studies examined compared to those who had normal BMIs.

The reduction in the risk of death was about 6% lower for those who were overweight, remarkably consistent from study to study. This is reassuring to those who are carrying more weight than they know they should be, but are otherwise in good health. There is some thinking that a little “padding” isn’t so bad, and perhaps provides some resilience in terms of enduring an illness.

Also important to know, those considered obese by BMI (numbers over 35) were worse off, about 18% more likely to die of any cause compared to those at a normal weight according to the review. Once you’re carrying this much weight, the risk to your health is serious.

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Why Few Extra Pounds Can Be Good For You Continued…

The review findings do add fuel to questions about the accuracy of body mass index, and remind us that this is a measure, not a diagnostic tool. BMI is simply a ratio of height to weight, it doesn’t account for age, gender or muscles. It can’t tell the difference between lean body mass and fat mass and it doesn’t tell us where fat is located. A heavily muscled athlete might have a high BMI, an elderly patient can have a normal BMI that masks age related muscle loss. These examples fuel the argument for waist circumference being a better overall measurement than BMI.

Today almost 30% of women, 40% of men are considered overweight using body mass index (BMI) measures. But while these folks might not be the smallest size on the clothing rack, they aren’t necessarily sicker than those who are at what’s considered a normal weight. For those who are overweight, and do not have traditional risk factors (high blood pressure, high lipid levels, or high fasting blood glucose levels, large waistline) for health problems, there may be no need for undue concern about early death.

Findings like these show us why it’s so important to be eating a healthy, balanced diet and getting physical exercise on a regular basis. Despite the current review findings on being overweight and death risk, no one is suggesting you gain weight or gorge on unhealthy foods. It may be that part of the reason the overweight do better is that these people go to the doctor, perhaps have identified other conditions that might be linked to weight, and are taking steps to address them.

To your good health,