Dreading your diet? Don’t worry… plump people live LONGER than their skinnier counterparts (but only if they’re a few pounds overweight)
People who are overweight may actually outlive their thinner counterparts, a landmark study has suggested.
Men and women who are slightly plump – essentially carrying a few extra pounds – have longer lives than those of a normal weight, according to a study of more than three million people.
The research flies in the face of conventional thinking that being a normal weight is a barometer for good health.
How weight affects life expectancy, based on the recommended BMI for a a 5’8″ man
However, those who were any bigger than this were around a third more likely to die during the months or years they were being studied than those of normal weight.
And obesity experts have warned that the research should not be taken to mean there are no negative health effects if being overweight.
For the latest study, US government researchers read 91 previous research papers on the topic from around the world – involving millions of men and women.
They looked at the subjects’ body mass index at the start of the research and how likely they were to have died by the end of it.
Body mass index, or BMI, is a mathematical formula relating height to weight.
People are classified as being of normal weight if they have a BMI of between 18.5 and 24.9 and overweight if their reading is between 25 and 29.9.
People who are pleasantly plump, such as the singer Adele (left) may live longer than those who are slimmer, such as the supermodel Kate Moss (right)
A BMI higher than this is classified as obese and the bigger the reading the greater the risks to health are thought to be.
The results, published in the Journal of the American Medical Association, showed that those judged to be overweight were 6 per cent less likely to have died by the end of the study period than those of normal weight.
Having a BMI of between 30 and 34.9, and so being slightly obese, also did not seem to harm health.
However, those whose BMI was greater than this were 29 per cent less likely to live to see the end of the study than those whose weight was classed as ‘normal’.
The analysis is not the first to suggest that a bit of extra weight is actually good for health.
Previous research Toronto’s York University has indicated it may be better to stay fat than being constantly on a diet. A study of thousands of obese men and women found that more than one in three were perfectly healthy or had only slight health problems.
Contrary to the much-publicised message that you have to be thin to be well, they were no more likely to die at any given time than someone of an ideal weight. Indeed, they were less likely to be killed by heart disease.
They were also in better health than those who had fought a constant battle with their weight by repeatedly dieting, only to pile the pounds back on.
Explanations as to why this might be include the possibility that those who start out slightly heavier will have more fat reserves to call on should they lose weight due to ill health as they get older.
It is also possible that concerns about the health of the overweight and obese means that problems linked to weight, such as high blood pressure and diabetes, are more likely to be spotted and treated, improving that person’s overall health.
It has also been suggested that some people’s genes may help them escape the health consequences of being slightly overweight, while a bit of extra padding could help the elderly to survive falls unscathed.
Another theory is that some of those who are overweight may actually exercise more and eat better than thin people who starve themselves or smoke to suppress their appetite.
But Tam Fry, spokesman for the UK National Obesity Forum, told The Independent he was ‘flabbergasted’ with the findings.
He said: ‘The sum total of medical expert opinion cannot have got it so wrong. The consequences of people taking this research and deciding “let’s eat and be merry” will be catastrophic.
‘Mortality [the death rate] is one thing but morbidity [the disease rate] is another. If people read this and decide they are not going to die [from overeating] they may find themselves lifelong dependents on medical treatment for problems affecting the heart, liver, kidney and pancreas – to name only a few.’
However Dr Flegal herself stressed the findings are not a green light to overindulge, stating the research only looked at the death rate and not health.
DROP-A-DRESS-SIZE PILL ON SALE IN MONTHS
A ‘drop-a-dress-size’ diet pill that acts on the brain to curb appetite could be on sale within months.
An American company has applied for permission to sell lorcaserin in the UK and Europe.
The drug, which is taken before breakfast and dinner, affects the way the brain uses ‘appetite-regulating’ hormone serotonin, making those who take it feel less hungry.
In a large-scale study, 7,000 men and women who took lorcaserin for a year lost an average of 8 per cent of their body weight. This equates to a stone for a 12st woman – at least one dress size.
In one or two extreme cases, dieters lost up to 40 per cent of their body weight.
Crucially, lorcaserin appeared to be free of the cardiac and psychiatric problems that have caused other obesity pills to be removed from the market.
The drug will have the brand name Belviq and could be on sale before the end of 2013. In line with EU regulations, manufacturer Arena has also drawn up plans for a child version of lorcaserin for six to 18 year olds.