Extra Pounds Probably Not Protective


Could carrying a little extra weight protect you from an early death – perhaps by giving you an energy reserve if you fall ill? Past studies have suggested this might be the case, but new research published in Annals of Internal Medicine challenges this thinking.

“We showed that this ‘obesity paradox’ arises because sickness often leads to weight loss and then early death, which inflates the mortality rate in the healthy weight category – so the overweight and obese categories may falsely appear protective,” says Edward Yu, MS, who led the research and is a doctoral candidate at Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health. “And, there’s currently no strong biological evidence to support the claim that extra weight could be protective.”

Yu’s study involved 225,072 adults over age 50 who reported their weight and other health details every two years over a 16-year period. “By looking at a person’s maximum body mass index (BMI) over a weight history period, we were able to show that those who maintained a healthy BMI over a long period of time had significantly lower risk of early death compared to those who were ever overweight or obese,” Yu says. “We recommend people maintain a BMI in the healthy range (18.5-24.9) through a nutritious eating plan and exercise.”

To learn more: Annals of Internal Medicine, May 2017


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