People who are overweight – but not obese – tend to live longer than people who are underweight or normal weight, according to a new study.
The Canadian study was published in the online journal Obesity, and found that people who were underweight or extremely obese (based on their body mass index or BMI) died the earliest reports WebMD.
BMI measures body fat based on a person's height and weight, and classifies people into four broad weight categories -- underweight, normal weight, overweight, and obese.
Those who were slightly overweight, with a BMI of between 25 and 29.0, lived longer even than those whose weight fell in the ‘normal’ BMI range of 18-24.
It’s not the first piece of research to suggest that those padded with a tiny amount of extra insulation tend to live longer than those missing out.
US Center for Disease Control researchers also found the same thing in a 2005 study, while another group of scientists said last month that heart patients who were overweight lived longer than thin ones.
These studies generally suggest that slightly overweight – but not obese – people survive better than those with higher or lower BMIs.
The latest study used data from an ongoing health survey in Canada that followed over 11,000 adults from the mid-90’s to 2007.
It found that compared to those in the ‘normal’ weight category, those classified as overweight with a BMI of 25-29.9 were 17% less likely to die.
• Those who were underweight were 73% more likely to die
• Those who were obese with a BMI 30-34.9 had about the same risk of death as a ‘normal’ weight person
• Extremely obese people with a BMI of 35 and higher were 36% more likely to die.
Study co-author David Feeny PhD said to WebMD there’s no hard evidence, only theories why a little extra weight could extend your longevity.
Weight management expert Keith Bachman MD, said that because the study didn’t also examine disease incidence or quality of life - only death risk, the risk vs. benefit profile of carrying extra weight was unclear.
"Good health is more than a BMI or a number on a scale," he said to WebMD. "We know that people who choose a healthy lifestyle enjoy better health."
Dr Feeny concurred that exercising regularly, eating well, managing stress, and treating risk factors for chronic disease is probably more important for longevity than having the perfect BMI score.
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