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BMI a Bit High? Your Life Isn’t Necessarily on the Line

An analysis of nearly 100 studies involving data on more than 2.88 million men and women found that being a bit overweight doesn’t automatically pose a risk to your lifeHere’s some cheerful news: an analysis of nearly 100 studies involving data on more than 2.88 million men and women found that being a bit overweight doesn’t automatically pose a risk to your life. In fact, researchers from the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) concluded that if you’re overweight with a BMI (body mass index) ranging from 25 to 34.9, you have a 6 percent lower risk of dying than those of normal weight (earlier studies have yielded similar findings but none are as large or as carefully done as this new one). The data showing that being overweight may not put you at a higher risk of dying doesn’t apply to the obese with BMIs of 35 or more – here, the risk is 29 percent higher than it is for the merely overweight and those of normal weight. Of course, those figures may not apply to you personally if you have other risk factors for heart disease such as diabetes or high cholesterol, and some critics appropriately disputed the conclusions, which are based on meta-analysis and not a real clinical trial. However, the analysis suggests that seniors over age 65 were at no higher risk of death than younger subjects even if they are obese (but not if they have diabetes and other risks to health). The analysis was published in the January 2, 2013 issue of the Journal of the American Medical Association.

Katherine M. Flegal, PhD, et al. “Association of All-Cause Mortality With Overweight and Obesity Using Standard Body Mass Index Categories: A Systematic Review and Meta-analysis”, Journal of the American Medical Association. 2013;309(1):71-82. doi:10.1001/jama.2012.113905.

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Reader Comments (4)

This study has been largely discredited, as it did not take into account the health of the thin and normal weight people in the study. Some of the people in the study may have been thin because they were ill, predisposing them to dying. Also, the overweight people may have been seeing doctors and getting treated for weight-caused illnesses that may not have been killing them immediately, but contributing to poor health. Finally, the study does not mention the immobility that may accompany obesity.

March 20, 2013 | Unregistered CommenterMalone

I'd be interested in hearing what their possible explanations are for why those in that overweight BMI range lived longer!

March 21, 2013 | Unregistered CommenterErica House

It always worries me when I see research that effectively says it's OK to be over weight. Not really the message we need out there with the over-weight/obesity issues we have around us today.

March 26, 2013 | Unregistered CommenterSarah

The research isn't saying that it's ok to be obese or overweight. It is just saying that being a little overweight actually puts you at a lower risk for the very disorders that people were told they were at risk for. Manipulating data so that people think that being overweight is worse for them than it really is, is just bad science. It hasn't worked to reduce obesity. Encouraging people to take responsibility for their happiness and wellbeing has helped greatly.

April 23, 2013 | Unregistered CommenterBrittany

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