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Overweight may extend lifespan?

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Being overweight may not be a bad thing for elderly people, according to a new study which showed that those who were overweight were less likely to die for a period of 10 years than those with normal weight.

The Australian study published Jan 28 in the Journal of the American Geriatrics Society contradicted with what was found in previous research which suggests that being overweight may raise risk for many health problems.

For the study, researchers examined data from 4,677 men and 4,563 women aged 70 to 75 who were recruited in 1996 and followed for up to 10 years.

Overweight was defined as having a person's body mass index between 25.0 and 29.9 kg/m2. 

Leon Flicker, PhD of The University of Western Australia and colleagues found the death risk was lowest for overweight people compared to those who were obese or had normal body weight.

Compared to those with normal weight, overweight people were 13 percent less likely to die.  The risk of death for the obese and the normal-weight subjects was similar.

The researchers concluded that "overweight older people are not at greater mortality risk than those who are normal weight."

A health observer said that caution needs to be exercised in the interpretation of the findings and he suggested that the conclusion is not applicable to a general population.
The researchers excluded people who died before the study got started and other "illegible participants".  These people if included in the analysis may or may not result in a different conclusion on the associaiton between overweight and mortality.
Medpage Today reported that the study limitations include "observational design, measurement of height and weight only once at study entry, use of BMI as a surrogate measure of body fat, reliance on self-reported height and weight, and lack of generalizability to older people who are frail and at risk for death."

By Jimmy Downs

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Subscribe to comments feed Comments (5 posted):

Gabe on 01/29/2010 18:25:32
The BMI is broken! That's what this study affirms. Nothing more. The BMI index has a tendency to call perfectly healthy people overweight. You can't decide how much someone should weigh based on their height alone!

Example: I weigh 175 pounds, am 5'11", 26 years old, and am in great physical shape. I train Brazillian Jiu Jitsu for 4-6 hours per week and eat healthily. I could easily put on 15-20 pounds of muscle if i started power-lifting. As it stands now, I have nearly no excess body fat. According to the BMI, however, if I gain 5 or 10 more pounds, I'll be officially overweight. What a load of BS!
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Robin on 01/29/2010 18:47:57
It could just be that the fatter people lived longer on their own body weight while the thin were not fed enough food because they could or did not do it for themselves.
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Josh on 01/29/2010 19:01:31
I'm not overweight - just saving up excess stores for the apocalypse.
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Benjamen on 01/30/2010 07:46:48
I am pretty thin, and i am considered over weight. Anyone who has a big structure, i.e. big shoulders, will be tending towards overweight according to the BMI.

One of the reasons why the Maori are nearly always overweight. They are shorter but have the same thickness.
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Satyr Icon on 01/31/2010 00:47:26
The difference between a survey and actual research findings [based on hypotheses] is that the survey merely highlights the observables, but does not provide an explanation, or reasons why this is happening. Surveys mean little. One can dig deeper into survey results and find plenty of other findings, including quite the contradictory finding pending on interpretation. I'm not trying to undermine the value of surveys, but surveys simply don't tell us WHY these things are happening. For that, real research is required.

Also, in this article, the BMI units should be per cubic meter, not square meter. Also agree with Gabe that BMI's are too crude for research or study purposes.
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