- Study shows that overweight and maintaining it has health benefits
- No surprise as most at risk of death are obese who continue to pile it on
- Losing weight may not be the answer to prolonging your life
As middle-age approaches, the health risks of being overweight are well-documented.
But a new study has found that those who are classed as ‘overweight’ in their 50s yet kept this stable, were in the group most likely to survive the next 16 years.
It appears that weight retention is key – this group were deemed to be better off than a normal-wight individual who added weight but kept within their range.
The study, conducted by Ohio State University, did back up the prominent belief that those most at danger are the obese, who continue to pile on the pounds.
The weight categories were set by using people’s BMI Index – their height-to-weight ratio that can identify body fat.
Almost 10,000 people were interviewed every two years from 1992 until 2009, with their BMIs recorded, and it concluded that 7.2 per cent of deaths after the age of 51 are due to weight gain among obese people.
In a release from the Ohio State University, lead author of the study and assistant professor of sociology Hui Zheng said: ‘You can learn more about older people’s mortality risk by looking at how their weight is changing than you can by just looking at how much they weigh at any one time.’
Those involved in the study were classified into six different groups, depending on their BMI at the beginning of the study and how it changed over the 16-year period they were surveyed.
While slightly overweight people (BMI of 25 to 29.9) whose weight was steady had the highest survival rate, those who moved from overweight to obese (BMI 30 to 34.9) were close behind.
‘This suggests that among overweight people at age 51, small weight gains do not significantly lower the probability of survival,’ Zheng added.
Third were normal-weight individuals who add gradual mass, followed in fourth by Class I obese people whose weight was on the rise.
Next to last were those of normal weight who were reducing in size, followed by the most susceptible group who were the most obese, BMI of 35 and over.
So carrying a few extra pounds as we hit the big 5-0 is not such a worry after all.
‘It is probably because the older population is more likely to get illnesses and disease, especially cancer, that cause dangerous weight loss,’ Zheng added, explaining why being slightly overweight might not be so bad.
‘In that case, a small amount of extra weight may provide protection against nutritional and energy deficiencies, metabolic stresses, the development of wasting and frailty, and loss of muscle and bone density caused by chronic diseases.’