Study: Being Overweight Less Deadly Now than 40 Years Ago
But still fraught with costly health conditions
Is it me, or does it seem like every time a study comes out saying 1 thing, another study comes out a week later with the opposite findings? I mean, how long has everyone been told that being overweight is a 1-way trip to an early grave? Well, a new study suggests that being overweight might not be as bad as we all thought. It’s just 1 study, but seriously science, make up your mind.
Being overweight was more of a health risk 4o years ago, according to Danish researchers, who say they’ve discovered that people who are “moderately” overweight had lower rates of death than those who were normal weight, underweight, or obese.
For the study, published in JAMA, the researchers examined the height and weight of thousands of individuals, along with death rates at 3 different time periods since the 1970’s.
In the mid-1970’s, people of normal weight had the lowest death rate, while obese people had a 30% higher risk of dying early. But now, the Copenhagen University scientists say, the threat to people’s survival due to carrying a bit of extra weight is almost negligible. They believe that’s because health systems have greatly improved in the way they treat obesity-linked health problems, such as high cholesterol and blood pressure.
Lead investigator Prof Borge Nordestgaard told the BBC:
“Our results should not be interpreted as suggesting that now people can eat as much as they like, or that so-called normal-weight individuals should eat more to become overweight.
“That said, maybe overweight people need not be quite as worried about their weight as before.”
Other experts say the results should not be misinterpreted; overweight people may not be dying at as high a rate as they once were, but many of them are still plenty sick, and believe the data should not change the advice that doctors have been giving to patients concerning obesity for decades. One such dissenter is Naveed Sattar, from the University of Glasgow, who told TechieNews:
“The current findings do not mean that being overweight is protecting you from death, far from it.
“Obesity and overweight categories also signal risks for many diseases – such as type-2 diabetes, liver disease, cancers, sleeping problems, multiple pregnancy complications, to name but a few.
“Although we can manage many of those much better these days, such complications also impair quality of life and self-esteem, as well as increase health costs for societies.”
In other words, you might not die young, but you might spend your later years with 1 less leg because of diabetes, or in and out of the hospital with heart problems.
Lastly, the researchers said it’s time to update the global categories – body mass index (BMI) – that define at what weight someone is overweight or obese, which have existed for 2 decades now.
Julie Fidler is a freelance writer, legal blogger, and the author of Adventures in Holy Matrimony: For Better or the Absolute Worst. She lives in Pennsylvania with her husband and two ridiculously spoiled cats. She occasionally pontificates on her blog.