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Medicine Science

Being Slightly Overweight May Lead To Longer Life 383

Posted by ScuttleMonkey
from the good-news-for-geeks dept.
Hugh Pickens writes "Findings of a new study show that underweight people and those who are extremely obese die earlier than people of normal weight — but those who are only a little overweight actually live longer than people of normal weight. 'It's not surprising that extreme underweight and extreme obesity increase the risk of dying, but it is surprising that carrying a little extra weight may give people a longevity advantage,' said one of the coauthors of the study. 'It may be that a few extra pounds actually protect older people as their health declines, but that doesn't mean that people in the normal weight range should try to put on a few pounds.' The study examined the relationship between body mass index and death among 11,326 adults in Canada over a 12-year period. The study showed that underweight people were 70 percent more likely than people of normal weight to die, and extremely obese people were 36 percent more likely to die. But overweight individuals defined as a body mass index of 25 to 29.9 were 17 percent less likely to die than people of a normal weight defined as a BMI of 18.5 to 24.9. The relative risk for obese people was nearly the same as for people of normal weight. The authors controlled for factors such as age, sex, physical activity, and smoking. 'Overweight may not be the problem we thought it was,' said Dr. David H. Feeny, a senior investigator at Kaiser Permanente Center for Health Research. 'Overweight was protective.'"
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Being Slightly Overweight May Lead To Longer Life

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  • But it's in CANADA (Score:2, Insightful)

    by gbulmash (688770) *
    Wow, that makes me feel better about the batch of chocolate cheese [brainhandles.com] I whipped up this weekend and the fact that later in the week, I'm going to experiment with substituting it for ganache in a chocolate truffle recipe.

    Of course, the study took place in Canada. Skinny, underweight people dying faster in the cold of Canada just seems like a no brainer. I'd like to see the study replicated in the tropics to see if the numbers stand up somewhere that extra insulation doesn't help as much.

    Based on the stu
    • by McNihil (612243)

      I dare you to make a "400 pounder" get down to the tropics for that longevity test :-D

      And yup... I would not want to be too skinny up here in Canada... when it gets cold... its friggin COLD... and I am pretty far south... I wouldn't survive Edmonton for instance.

      • by 0racle (667029)
        Now, I know it's not en vogue to point this out, but they do have central heating and cars in Canada. You'd be ok.
        • by tnk1 (899206) on Monday June 29, 2009 @03:35PM (#28519247)

          The ignorance of some humor is just shocking!

          Of course Canadians have cars and central heating. How else would they get to and stay warm in their yurts? Although the heating is a tricky business for those who live in igloos, but they're just a smaller portion of the population. Only about 35% or so.

        • Re: (Score:3, Funny)

          by PopeRatzo (965947) *

          but they do have central heating and cars in Canada. You'd be ok.

          Sure, you'll be fine if you spend your entire life indoors. Which I'm guessing is what you'd do anyway, being on /.

          • by badasscat (563442) <`basscadet75' `at' `yahoo.com'> on Monday June 29, 2009 @04:30PM (#28520239)

            Anyway, there's more to the "but it's Canada" argument than just heat.

            Japan tops the world in longevity and they also have some of the lightest people in the world. While obesity isn't unheard of there, and neither is being slightly overweight, it's a lot more common to be underweight by the accepted western definition. I couldn't find the average weight for adults, but the average weight for a 16 year old male in Japan is around 136 pounds at a height of around 5'6". In the United States, that is the lowest recommended weight even for someone with a "small frame" at that height.

            So why do they have such long lifespans if being slightly overweight is better than being underweight?

            I'm sure it has mostly to do with the amount and type of nutrients a person is ingesting. Westerners eat a diet that's higher in fat and calories per nutrient. For example, they eat a lot more fish than we do; we eat more red meat. They eat more rice; we eat more potatoes. Without making a real effort or taking supplements, a westerner will need to ingest more calories and fat to get the same nutrients as a Japanese person.

            I would strongly suspect that this is a case where correlation != causation in terms of being slightly overweight and living longer. A person would probably live longer still if they were slightly underweight but got the same (or better) nutrients, which is basically the situation in Japan and that is exactly the result.

      • by davester666 (731373) on Monday June 29, 2009 @03:29PM (#28519131) Journal

        It's not that bad. The igloo I grew up in, in Edmonton, worked pretty good at insulating us against the cold.

        I remember coming in off the ice-flow, after spending the day hunting sea-lions for food and fuel-oil, the igloo was so warm I had to pretty much strip off all my clothing.

        But now that I've moved to Vancouver, where we've got these new-fangled things called 'houses', I find that I'm expected to remain mostly clothed both indoors and out. And my snowmobile only is useful a couple days a year.

    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      by Anonymous Coward

      "70 percent more likely than people of normal weight to die" did they also find the fountain of youth? I'm pretty sure that humans have a 99.9999% chance of dying taking into account the humans currently alive who still have a chance of finding that fountain of youth. Its not the destination its the trip that truly matters.

      • "70 percent more likely than people of normal weight to die" did they also find the fountain of youth?

        It's the other way around: they found the fountain of zombies, and it's apparently in Canada!
        Normal people have a 100% chance of dying (obviously), so these poor saps must have a 170% chance of dying. On average, therefore, they will die 1.7 times each. Damn Canadian zombies.

    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      by kramulous (977841)

      The other thing to be careful about with these statistics is that Canada has a very good public health system. One that far outranks just about every other western country on this blue marble. That will surely shift the results to the right compared to other countries.

      And yes, I am dirty about it. My country *used* to have a superior public health care system. That is until a prime minister thought it would be a good idea to follow the US. There's the lingering shell but that'll be gone in a couple of

      • by Critical Facilities (850111) * on Monday June 29, 2009 @04:10PM (#28519883) Homepage
        Not so fast. As a guy who has married into a Canadian family (hailing from Vancouver, to be specific), I have had quite a re-education as to how bad the Canadian Health Care system is. I, like many other Americans, bought into the idea of how great Canada's Health Care System was, but I have been taught that this is absolutely not the case. I've learned this from many family members and friends. I've read many articles and stories like this one [city-journal.org] that paint a very different picture than the rosy one I had heard about before.
        • by ceoyoyo (59147) on Monday June 29, 2009 @09:14PM (#28523323)

          Canadians love to complain about our health care system, but the numbers show that it does very well compared to other systems.

          The article you link to seems pretty shady. It's clearly looking for reasons why the US should not change their private health insurance model. The first paragraph talks about how Erbitux (cetuximab) "... targets cancer cells exclusively, unlike conventional chemotherapies that more crudely kill all fast-growing cells in the body" even though standard treatment with cetuximab is used in conjunction with chemotherapy and/or radiation therapy, in patients who do not respond to chemotherapy alone. Did she already fail a course of chemotherapy? She went to a cancer clinic in a foreign country (the US) and was surprised that it was hard to get reimbursed? Finally, cetuximab is only used in cases of colorectal cancer where there's EGFR expression. If her tumor was not this kind then treating her with cetuximab would indeed be unproven. It also appears that cetuximab has not yet completed it's phase III trials, which again makes it experimental. Nevertheless, it has been approved by Health Canada for patients who meet the criteria above.

          You can read the Health Canada Summary Basis of Decision on cetuximab here: http://www.hc-sc.gc.ca/dhp-mps/prodpharma/sbd-smd/phase1-decision/drug-med/sbd_smd_2007_erbitux_088225-eng.php [hc-sc.gc.ca]

  • by MarkPNeyer (729607) on Monday June 29, 2009 @02:56PM (#28518559)
    Someone with a high BMI might be overweight - or they might be in really good shape and have lots of muscle. Just something to think about.
    • by Anonymous Coward

      bringing the health industry profits since 1830

    • by fuzzyfuzzyfungus (1223518) on Monday June 29, 2009 @03:01PM (#28518651) Journal
      BMI is a heuristic. If you follow it slavishly, you'll paint yourself into a corner case.

      However, given the current Body Builder/All American Lardass ratio, and the fact that BMI's failure in high muscle scenarios isn't exactly a secret, I suspect we'll muddle through somehow. It is a pity that more precise measurements aren't cheaper to make.
      • by MrCrassic (994046) <deprecated&ema,il> on Monday June 29, 2009 @03:21PM (#28519025) Journal
        Body fat calculators are free, and correlate body weight to body type significantly better than BMI does.
      • Except for do have easy to measure heuristics that are significantly more reasonable.

        Even taking BMI and correcting it for waist size goes a long way into taking muscle mass into account.

    • by MyLongNickName (822545) on Monday June 29, 2009 @03:03PM (#28518689) Journal

      Agreed. I was 10 pounds over my "ideal range" five years ago. But I was lean and had decent upper body muscle from doing a lot of construction work. After ending that, I made a conscious choice to drop those ten pounds since I knew I would not be keeping the muscle. So, I became "ideal weight" even though I was in worse shape physically. Since then I have put on those 10 pounds (mid-age metabolism slow down). So according to the chart, I am in the same place I was five years ago.

      BMI is a nice quick rule-of-thumb, but the better test is to see how long it takes for you to get winded running at a moderate pace.

      (and thanks Slashdot for the five minute wait between posts)

      • BMI is a nice quick rule-of-thumb, but the better test is to see how long it takes for you to get winded running at a moderate pace.

        For testing health? Bah. Better test would be to see how long it takes you to get winded screwing at a medium pace.

        Besides, I'm not as concerned about my health in re: longevity. What's important is my evolutionary health.

        And I can pretty much guarantee that I'll have many more chances to sire crotch potatoes on random women if I'm at the "ideal" weight instead of "slightl

      • by MrCrassic (994046)

        BMI is a nice quick rule-of-thumb, but the better test is to see how long it takes for you to get winded running at a moderate pace.

        This is a little contentious, since there are different ways of being "fit." For instance, many cyclists, even at the professional level, make pretty bad runners, and vice versa.

        Aren't there all-around fitness tests that gauge this metric more accurately?

        • by Hijacked Public (999535) on Monday June 29, 2009 @04:02PM (#28519753)

          Crossfit type workouts can give a good measure of several metrics, but it isn't exactly easy to quantify.

          I think what you refer to in your example is less a case of measuring fitness than it is measuring performance in some extremely specialized circumstances where the difference between first and last isn't all that much. Lance Armstrong wasn't a great runner despite being a great cyclist, but he is probably far better than most other non-runners. Just like Robbie McEwen can't match Armstrong in the Alps but would crush him in the last 100 meters of the flats.

          When I was in the USMC we did a lot of 'fitness' stuff and everyone was more or less in pretty good shape. When I went to sniper school there were some physical requirements that were different and others that were under more scrutiny. That made obvious what were previously undetectable differences. Two guys could finish a run side by side but one of them would be so taxed he couldn't steady his rifle, despite both having first class PT scores. After I was discharged I worked more on strength than anything else and when I got back into competitive shooting I immediately noticed the difference. Hard to say which constitutes 'fitter', benching 325 or being able to march all day with a full pack and a 16 lb rifle.

    • by piojo (995934) on Monday June 29, 2009 @03:12PM (#28518879)

      I wish they had analyzed body fat percentage, in addition to BMI. The two numbers together could yield much more specific information.

      • by Thaelon (250687) on Monday June 29, 2009 @04:04PM (#28519787)

        Or drop BMI entirely, it is worth than worthless. It's misleading.

        BMI is nothing more than a height to weight ratio, completely ignoring the fact that muscle weighs more than fat.

        Most body builders you'll see in competition are classified as obese based on the BMI scale, despite the fact that they often carry less than 4% body fat [healthchecksystems.com].

        BMI is only popular because it is a simple number with a simple scale that can be easily calculated and interpreted by simple people.

    • I think the best example I read of this was that Michael Jordan was considered obese according to his BMI number. No surprise someone with his level of fitness would live longer.
    • by relguj9 (1313593)
      BMI is completely inaccurate. I'm been overweight according to BMI for the past 15 years, if I drop closer to the "normal" rating, people start asking if I'm sick or not eating enough. If I was my "perfect BMI" weight, I'd be unhealthily scrawny. As someone said above "bullshit measuring index."

      If you do any kind of regular exercise for a long period of time, you may as well throw BMI out the window.
    • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

      by tixxit (1107127)

      Aside from the fact that even the summary says the study correct for physical activity, BMI is just weight normalized among height/gender. It may not be as good as body fat %, but its a load better then just weight. That said, BMI is still a good measure of the fat for the population. Your average person does a light amount of exercise. I'd say, the very active people are outmatched by the sedentary people. Given BMI accounts for the average, the sedentary people, who have a high fat:muscle ratio compared t

  • by MyLongNickName (822545) on Monday June 29, 2009 @02:58PM (#28518585) Journal

    Then let me ask this. If slightly overweight seems to be healthy, then how was the "ideal" weight range determined?

    • by NevarMore (248971) on Monday June 29, 2009 @03:05PM (#28518757) Homepage Journal

      Welcome to science, things change based on new information.

      We get a hypothesis, test it, and if it tests out we have a generally accepted theory. That theory is subject to change, someone reads its comes up with a new hypothesis and runs some more tests.

      I can't answer your question specifically, but what probably happened was that the ideal range was determined based on information available at the time. Now there is new info.

      There's an even chance that this will either shift the ideal range of BMI or place more emphasis on factors other than BMI. Maybe both.

      • by MyLongNickName (822545) on Monday June 29, 2009 @03:08PM (#28518809) Journal

        Welcome to science, things change based on new information.

        We get a hypothesis, test it, and if it tests out we have a generally accepted theory. That theory is subject to change, someone reads its comes up with a new hypothesis and runs some more tests.

        The problem is that folks are making life-changing decisions based on these theories. Doctors yell at us. TV "educates" us about what is acceptable. Then, something new comes along and says 'forget all that stuff, do this instead'. Doesn't take long before folks tune it out altogether.

        For me, it was salt. Loved it. The more the better. Then I read about how bad it is for your heart. So I cut it out dramatically. Then a couple years later, I read about how it isn't very bad at all, unless you already have a heart condition, or family history. So basically I got duped into giving up something I enjoyed. Makes me more skeptical about the next scientific finding about my diet.

        • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

          by Anonymous Coward

          Heh, I just want to point out that without salt you would be dead. Back before it was easily available (which actually wasn't that long ago) salt was worth more than gold.

          Salt is one of those things that has to be "just right". Not too much and not too little. The amount needed is different for everyone. Depends on how much you sweat, what you eat, your other electrolyte levels, if you are sick (fluid loss), etc. Tons of variables.

          Personally I have to make sure I get enough salt, not too much. I make

        • by MrMista_B (891430) on Monday June 29, 2009 @03:27PM (#28519109)

          You're making the common mistake of confusing 'media hysterics' with 'actual science'.

        • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

          by nine-times (778537)

          For me, it was salt. Loved it. The more the better. Then I read about how bad it is for your heart. So I cut it out dramatically. Then a couple years later, I read about how it isn't very bad at all, unless you already have a heart condition, or family history. So basically I got duped into giving up something I enjoyed. Makes me more skeptical about the next scientific finding about my diet.

          You have a point about the sort of science-reporting that media outlets engage in. One year, coffee is bad for you and eggs are good. 2 years later, coffee is good for your and eggs are bad. A year after that, coffee and eggs are both good for you.

          But a fair amount of that isn't the fault of science, it's the fault of reporters. The truth is, things are rarely "good" or "bad", at least not completely and in all situations. Take your example of salt-- the science behind it really hasn't changed that mu

          • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

            by jeff4747 (256583)

            eating excessive amounts of salt still isn't good for you. It's just that, as with many things that are fairly bad for you, you can probably get away with indulging until you start experiencing adverse side-effects.

            Alternatively, one could simply drink a glass or 2 of water, and rid themselves of the excess salt.

            Kidneys are amazing things. It takes a hell of a lot of salt, or a very bad case of dehydration, to keep them from regulating your body's salt content.

        • by NevarMore (248971) on Monday June 29, 2009 @03:41PM (#28519357) Homepage Journal

          Then I read about how bad it is for your heart. So I cut it out dramatically. Then a couple years later, I read about how it isn't very bad at all...

          In that case the problem isn't really the science, the problem is panic and making drastic decisions based on limited information.

          The overall best advice for health has been moderation, its been that way for centuries:
            - don't do too much hard work or you'll burn out and get injured
            - don't sit around and do nothing, you need to move and use your body
            - don't eat a lot of one thing, variety is good
            - recognize things with negative effects and limit their use, if you ingest something that you react badly to, don't ingest it. More on this later
            - remember that your body changes gradually. Pushing it too hard too fast, even in a healthy direction, is bad
            - its YOUR body you have to take responsibility for it and understand what you do to it. If you don't entirely understand advice, ask more questions and do a bit of research and find out for yourself.

          Identifying things with negative effects is what really gets people. Smoking is bad, your body coughing and having nic fits is a sign of distress. Having a few drinks and relaxing and laughing is good, being hungover is your body telling you "that was dumb, we're OK now but don't do it again".

          Overeating and being dog tired isn't normal. Its OK once in a while, but usually you should be able to eat. Take a few minutes to let it all settle down, then have energy to go do stuff.

          I guess the overall answer is to take unsolicited advice or to take drastic all-or-nothing actions with a GRAIN OF SALT (long setup on that one). Anyone suggesting that you radically alter your life in a short time span, is either taking urgent action to keep you from dying or full of shit and trying to gain power over you. I have a good relationship with my doctor and put him in the first category and most others in the latter. Even then, I make sure that the actions my doctor advises are backed up not just by the latest research, but solid foundations and long term common sense.

          • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

            by BobMcD (601576)

            I'm a big fan of listening to one's body. Pay attention to what you're craving, and what's in it. I agree, your body really does know what is best, and is screaming at you. You should listen.

      • BMI is Bullshit (Score:4, Interesting)

        by bill_mcgonigle (4333) * on Monday June 29, 2009 @05:19PM (#28520851) Homepage Journal

        There's an even chance that this will either shift the ideal range of BMI or place more emphasis on factors other than BMI. Maybe both.

        BMI is a stupid measure. IIRC, it was developed in the 1830's for some kind of sociology study, nothing to do with health, diet, etc.

        Penn & Teller's BullSh*t has a good episode called "The Obesity Epidemic is Bullshit", which is currently on Netflix streaming. They make the point that Brad Pitt is overweight and George Clooney is obese, according to BMI. And this is what they base our insurance premiums on....

    • Re: (Score:2, Informative)

      There is no ideal weight range, only idea percentage of body fat.

    • by Jason Levine (196982) on Monday June 29, 2009 @03:20PM (#28518999)

      I'm not sure how it was determined, but I do know that my "ideal weight" (according to BMI) isn't my real ideal weight. A few years back, I seriously worked hard to lose weight. I went from 255 down to 173. At my height (5' 11"), BMI says that my ideal weight is 133 - 178.5. However, when I dropped below 180, people started telling me how I looked *too skinny.* (The first time I've been called that ever in my life.) Sure enough, my bones were showing way too much in my shoulders and face. So I intentionally put some weight back on. I determined that my ideal weight is about 185 - 190 so that's what I shoot for every time the pounds sneak back on*. According to BMI, I'm overweight, but I feel that I'm perfect weight-wise when I'm in that range.

      *Fighting my weight is going to be a lifelong battle. I'm on the path to healthy eating, but old habits can sneak back into my life all too easily. I just need to recognize when they're beginning to do so and nip the weight gain in the bud.

  • BMI doesn't take into account fat vs muscle. It's also pretty hard to be in the obese range of BMI with a low bodyfat percentage (possible, I'm sure, but very difficult without drugs). Perhaps the effect they're actually seeing is a few well-built people throwing the average off for the overweight range.

    • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

      by JorDan Clock (664877)
      BMI also assumes your height is what you "should" be. I have scoliosis to a fair degree, so I'm about and inch or two shorter than I would be without it. How does this skew my BMI results? Some quick checks with online BMI calculators shows that adding one inch removes almost a point from my BMI. Which number is more accurate?

      I'm not going to say BMI is a horrible thing, but as a critical data point in a study like this it is far too inaccurate. Body fat percentage seems like a much better factor.
  • by Dog-Cow (21281) on Monday June 29, 2009 @02:58PM (#28518595)

    Sounds to me like the definition of "over-weight" is based on appearance instead of health.

    • Re: (Score:2, Interesting)

      by jeffliott (1558799)
      As stupid as you make it sound, there is a reason trusting appearance might be better: millions of years of evolution.
      • by RobinH (124750)

        Following that logic, people that look better just possess some quality that makes them more successful at reproducing offspring that themselves reproduce. Which is kind of a circular argument, but you get my point.

        Living longer than it takes to raise your children to the point where they can raise their children would be pointless from an evolutionary standpoint.

        • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

          by JorDan Clock (664877)

          Living longer than it takes to raise your children to the point where they can raise their children would be pointless from an evolutionary standpoint.

          Naturally, humans don't live longer than it takes to raise offspring. It is our medicine and technology that enables us to do so.

          • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

            Naturally, humans don't live longer than it takes to raise offspring. It is our medicine and technology that enables us to do so.

            The natural human lifespan, barring death by disease or violence, seems to be about the Biblical "threescore and ten." Sure, life expectancies used to be a lot shorter than that, but it's not like healthy people routinely dropped dead of heart attacks as soon as their kids were out of the house; people died young for specific reasons, and those who dodged the various bullets (or

      • by jeffmeden (135043)
        Depends on what you trust it for... Evolution's motto is "live fast and die young (right after you procreate and get your kids kicked out of the house)". Optimizing longevity could very well run counter to the forces that have driven evolution in the past.
      • by nametaken (610866)

        Yeah but it wasn't that long ago that women who are overweight now were once what was pretty. I'm honestly not sure what evolution tells me and what I was raised to admire.

  • by jeffliott (1558799) on Monday June 29, 2009 @02:59PM (#28518607)
    Now I have an excuse to not lose those "extra pounds" my wife has been complaining about!
  • Depends on whether they factor in types of death, are 'ideal' weight people more likely to die while doing extreme sports?
  • The study showed that underweight people were 70 percent more likely than people of normal weight to die, and extremely obese people were 36 percent more likely to die.

    Wait... I'm confused... how is an underweight person 70 percent more likely to die than 100% of people dying. This... does not add up!

    Or perhaps it is better to be extremely obese so as to have a higher chance of being immortal than skinny people?

    • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

      That kind of survival statistic is always measured within some specified period of time, usually a year for this kind of study. So if, say, the annual death rate is 100 per 10,000 for people of normal weight (just pulling the number off the top of my head here), 170 per 10,000 for underweight people, and 136 per 10,000 for obese people, then the statement is correct.

  • "But overweight individuals defined as a body mass index of 25 to 29.9 were 17 percent less likely to die than people of a normal weight defined as a BMI of 18.5 to 24.9."

    Man, now that I know dying is optional, I'll have to start eating more...

    Seriously, does anybody ever actually pay attention to how they phrase this stuff?

  • They've been working up to outlawing eating fattening foods-- you can see it in the research being funded and articles in the paper and magazines.

    So now what? Force you to eat if you are underweight (70%??? Wow!)?

    BMI is also a problem. I'm 268-- 6'5". My doc says I should be 235.

    Problem is I have a six pack, visible veins sticking out on my arms and legs, and you can see individual muscle sections moving when I move. So I'm fairly lean.
    But my BMI is high. I can lose weight- probably 25 pounds-- no one

  • Yeah, it's true (Score:5, Insightful)

    by phantomfive (622387) on Monday June 29, 2009 @03:10PM (#28518853) Journal
    As someone who has been extremely underweight (body fat percentage down to 3.4%), 50 pounds overweight, and also a track runner in good shape, I can agree with this. Underweight is by FAR the worse: you feel absolutely horrible because your body doesn't have the nutrients you need to rebuild your body and keep it in good shape. It took me years to completely recover from that. There is nothing worse than waking up in the morning and feeling just as bad as when you went to bed because your body hasn't been able to repair itself in the night.

    If you are the exact weight you need to be, then you need to have a very well balanced diet, that includes all the nutrients you need in the proper proportions. Otherwise, obviously, you are going to be missing a few nutrients you need.

    If you are a little overweight, it's not nearly as hard to have a balanced diet: you can have a higher percentage of carbohydrates and lower percentage of protein in your diet and still be ok, because you are eating more than you need of both. It is more flexible and easier, even if less attractive.

    And don't forget to eat broccoli. You're going to have to eat a lot of beef and wheat and other foods to make up for the nutrients you are not getting in green vegetables. That can put you far overweight, especially as you age.
  • by MrCrassic (994046) <deprecated&ema,il> on Monday June 29, 2009 @03:14PM (#28518907) Journal
    I can see that the intent of the article will lead to immense amounts of false justification. See, the majority of people that are overweight usually arrive at that state from extended periods of poor eating habits (or lots of drinking), inactivity or a combination of both.

    It also appears that both articles base their study largely on BMI, which is well-known for being an outdated indicator of health in relation to weight. It works for those that are not athletic or abnormal, but is unreliable for anyone in those two categories. What might have been a better criterion for this study was body fat, which correlates much better to a person's weight.

    Intuitively, I agree with the point made here. From the little that I know about nutrition, I've read that having some extra weight (apart from lean body weight and the necessary amount of body fat) helps the body function much better in everyday situations. Should this reach mass media, I'm almost positive that this, amongst other things, will be the excuse for those that don't wish to consider improving their health and lifestyle choices.

    Oh well. Mental masturbation never fails to relieve.
  • Poor perspective. (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Jason1729 (561790) on Monday June 29, 2009 @03:16PM (#28518935)
    "They" say being slightly overweight leads to a longer life than "normal" weight. Perhaps the reality is "they've" defined normal a little too low.
    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      by Steve525 (236741)

      "They" say being slightly overweight leads to a longer life than "normal" weight. Perhaps the reality is "they've" defined normal a little too low.

      There's definitely some truth to that statement. In addition, there's a natural tendency for people to gain weight as they get older. In our youth obsessed culture thin=young=good, which may not actually be true.

      I think the real reason having a little extra weight is beneficial is that it helps if you get seriously ill. If you are very sick, you might not be a

  • A little extra blubber keeps the Canucks from freezing. It's science.

  • I must say that I usually feel better when I'm 2 or 3 kilos over the maximum weight that I may have according to the BMI 'norm.'

  • by SuperKendall (25149) on Monday June 29, 2009 @03:30PM (#28519165)

    ...or is it just that it takes longer for friends and family of the slightly overweight people to realize the fact they are still on the couch is not normal.

  • I'd really like to see the curves, and not just the conclusions on this study.

    This 1999 study by Calle et al. [ox.ac.uk] suggested that the optimum BMI is about 22-24. The new study summary says people with BMI 25 to 29.9 are less likely to die than people with B.M.I. 18.5 to 24.9.

    The problem is that there's a huge difference between "18.5" (= way underweight) and "24.9" (around the optimum). That's just too large a data bin to be useful. It's too large to be able to tell if the new data contradicts the old da

  • by M0b1u5 (569472)

    Why would the researchers be surprised by this? Jesus, you don't need to be in medicine (I'm not, but I am interested, and my Dad's a doctor) to easily know that a few extra pounds are good for you.

    When people get sick, their body often turns cannibalistic; consuming itself to try and heal. If you have no extra weight, then your body will start consuming muscle tissue, and all the associated problems that brings.

    By having some fatty tissue in excess of the ideal BMI, you provide yourself a reservoir of ener

  • This article is extremely flawed using the BMI, I have played football most my life and now play Rugby. I work out every day so my BMI says I am obese when in reality I'm just muscle. Muscle weighs more than fat, that's a fact. I would love to see the doctors and scientists who did this study. I they probably are all overweight slobs. This is just another flawed perspective that is fattening America...it like a few years back when some doctor said that being fat was a disease. PUT THE FORK DOWN!
  • Control (Score:3, Insightful)

    by xigxag (167441) on Monday June 29, 2009 @03:46PM (#28519445)

    The article mentions that they "controlled" for physical activity. Does that mean that they compared like for like? Fat couch potatoes with skinny ones, fat joggers with skinny ones? I'm not a statistician but it seems on the face of it there's a problem: Being overweight generally causes you to become less physically active, so comparing normal joggers to heavy joggers is comparing someone of high-normal fitness to an obese person who's extraordinarily fit (for their weight range). The comparison may not be fair because that extraordinarily fit person could have good genes to begin with.

    That aside, people who are skinny are sometimes skinny for health related reasons: cancer, AIDS, drugs. Here it's not the fact that they're skinny which is the issue but their low weight is a symptom of health problems. A more complex take on that would be a person who has lost weight because they were ordered to by their doctor. They're diabetic or have high blood pressure. So yes, they've lost weight and are healthier than before, but still less healthy than the slightly overweight person whose doctor didn't make them lose weight because they didn't have metabolic syndrome. Again, the low weight would not be a cause of illness, but an (indirect) effect.

    Also, if it's true that you tend to gain weight every year you remain alive, then people who live a long time are more likely to be overweight. Not because they're heavy but because they're still alive. And people who die prematurely young are more likely to be skinny, not because they're malnourished, but because they simply didn't live long enough for a slow metabolism to pack on the pounds.

  • by mtxf (948276) on Monday June 29, 2009 @04:02PM (#28519755)

    extremely obese people were 36 percent more likely to die

    That's nonsense.

    Everyone dies.

  • by taustin (171655) on Monday June 29, 2009 @04:05PM (#28519805) Homepage Journal

    When your research indicated that overweight people live longer, what it's really telling you is that your definition of "overweight" is broken. And BMI is, indeed, seriously broken, since it does not take in to account age, build, or even sex. BMI says that a man and a woman of the same height should be the same weight. Which is medically dangerous quackery.

    The BMI formula was created by a mathematician, not a doctor or someone with medical training. It was pushed as a medical standard by phamracuetical companies that have invested heavily in weight loss drugs. When they found that the 1985 standards for obesity (~27.5) wasn't selling enough weight loss prescriptions, they pushed to lower the threshold to 25 instead.

    The reason there are more overweight Americans in the last ten years is that the definition of overweight was changed in 1998. You'll never see a news article that says "Americans used to average ### pounds in weight, and now they average ###+n pounds, or even that the average BMI used to be ## and is now ##+n. All you'll ever see is "there are more overweight americans, with no explanation of how this is determined.

    Because, dammit! those pharmaceutical execs have boat payments to make!

  • Ummm (Score:3, Interesting)

    by Impy the Impiuos Imp (442658) on Monday June 29, 2009 @04:20PM (#28520065) Journal

    1. This is old news.

    2. They mean 20-30 lbs. overweight, not 100. I.e. the peak of the longevity Bell curve is about 20-40 pounds more than the supposed medically desirable weight. Then it goes back down again.

    The guy giving the South Park kids a run for their money on WoW has a life expectancy significantly lower than the "normal" weight people, who are lower than the "overweight but not obese" people.

    Cartman, however, remains doomed.

  • by Anonymous Struct (660658) on Monday June 29, 2009 @04:24PM (#28520139)

    I remember reading a study like this something like 2 years ago. I don't think this is a new idea at all. As I recall, the conclusion of the one I read a while back was that people who are a little bit overweight tend to exercise more frequently than people who are at a normal weight in an effort to lose the extra weight, and the extra exercise gave them bonus health points. Basically, by constantly wanting to lose that extra 10 lbs, you improve your cardiovascular health in a way that far outweighs the negative impacts of carrying an extra 10 lbs.

    It makes sense to me that people who are obese don't see the same advantages, because I imagine there is very little interest or incentive in getting out to exercise when you have such a long road to fitness in front of you. It also makes sense for obvious reasons that people who are naturally underweight or at a normal weight have less social pressure to get out and exercise.

  • by sean.peters (568334) on Tuesday June 30, 2009 @01:54PM (#28532917) Homepage
    If they did, I didn't see it in the article. The problem is that sometimes the causation factor runs the other way - being unhealthy causes you to lose weight. If you have, say, AIDS, tuberculosis, or certain cancers, the disease both causes body wasting, and makes you die sooner. This can skew the statistics - yes, these people are skinny and died younger than they should have, but the skinniness didn't cause the early death - instead, both were caused by the underlying disease. It's possible that if you controlled for that, that underweight people wouldn't show such a tendency to die young.

That does not compute.

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