Being Overweight May be Helpful-Being Thin May Not

April 20, 2005

Some Extra Heft May Be Helpful, New Study Says


People who are overweight but not obese have a lower risk of death than those of normal weight, federal researchers are reporting today.

The researchers - statisticians and epidemiologists from the National Cancer Institute and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention - also found that increased risk of death from obesity was seen for the most part in the extremely obese, a group constituting only 8 percent of Americans.

And being very thin, even though the thinness was longstanding and unlikely to stem from disease, caused a slight increase in the risk of death, the researchers said.

The new study, considered by many independent scientists to be the most rigorous yet on the effects of weight, controlled for factors like smoking, age, race and alcohol consumption in a sophisticated analysis derived from a well-known method that has been used to predict cancer risk.

It also used the federal government's own weight categories, which define fatness and thinness according to a "body mass index" correlating weight to height, regardless of sex. For example, 5-foot-8 people weighing less than 122 pounds are underweight. If they weighed 122 to 164 pounds, their weight would be normal. They would be overweight at 165 to 196, obese at 197 to 229, and extremely obese at 230 or over.

Researchers had a full gamut of responses to the unexpected findings, being reported today in The Journal of the American Medical Association.

Some saw the report as a long-needed reality check on what they consider the nation's near-hysteria over fat.

Source: Excerpt from NY Times article.

Better to Be Fat and Fit Than Skinny and Unfit

New York Times, Tara Pope August 19, 2008 (Archives of Internal Medicine)

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