In a controversial new study, researchers are claiming that being overweight can actually help you live longer. When comparing body mass index (BMI) to thin people, they found being overweight or slightly obese was linked to about a 6% lower risk of dying, compared to those who are considered “normal weight.” Intrigued? So were we. Here’s what we know…
Published in the Journal of the American Medical Association, researchers collected data from over 100 past studies with nearly three million people, and classified the risks according to BMI categories accepted by the World Health Organization and the U.S. National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute. For their ranking, they used the standard BMI measurements: 18.5 to 24.9 was considered a normal weight, 25 to 29.9 was considered overweight, and 30 or above is classified as obese.
Contrary to what we have been led to believe, being overweight was linked to a 6% decreased risk of death compared to someone who is a “normal weight.” In addition, being slightly obese was linked to a 5% lower risk.
Meanwhile, being obese was actually linked to an 18% greater risk of death, compared to a normal weight, and being severely obese was linked to a 29% greater risk of death.
It’s a finding that the researchers are saying is actually quite common, and it confirms past research that has uncovered similar links between being overweight and longevity: being slightly above ideal an weight is not unhealthy, but being grossly over that weight is.
So how can someone who is considered overweight actually live longer? Well, the researchers aren’t sure, but some theorize that being thin, especially in old age, is often a sign or a result of serious illness, so the thinner people appear to have higher mortality rates. Others believe BMI to be an inaccurate measurement of weight and health because someone with a large amount of muscle could easily be considered overweight when they are not.
Whatever the reasoning, experts warn that these findings should not give us permission to pack on the pounds. Eating healthy, daily exercise and maintaining healthy cholesterol and blood pressure levels is still of utmost importance.