Will a few extra pounds kill you? That was just one question raised by a recent Center For Disease Control meta-analysis of 97 different studies involving nearly 3 million people and 250,000 deaths from around the world. The study found that people whose body mass index (BMI) qualifying as overweight (BMI of 25 to 30) had a 6 per cent lower rate of mortality than people of normal weight (18.5 to 25 BMI). Even those with a BMI denoting moderate obesity (30 to 35) do not have a higher mortality than people of normal weight. The study found that only the substantially obese (BMI of 35 and up) had a higher mortality rate.
Still, said Dr. Rudy Leibel, co-director of the Naomi Berrie Diabetes Center and the Christopher J. Murphy Memorial Professor of Diabetes Research at Columbia University Medical Center, “This is not a message for the general population to start gaining weight.” He pointed out that the elderly appear to be more metabolically tolerant of excess body fat, and that this fat may provide an advantage during acute or chronic illnesses.
Dr. Leibel explained that it’s not the bodyweight, per se, that causes most of the health issues—it’s the consequences from the excess fat, like high blood pressure, diabetes and heart disease. Since the clinical management of these co-morbidities of obesity is so effective, people can be moderately obese and it won’t necessarily impact how long they live. “You may live a little longer,” Dr. Leibel concluded, “but you will still require medical treatment for the consequences of your obesity.”