Maintaining a healthy weight can be tough for many of us. In fact, more than two-thirds of American adults are overweight and one-third are obese, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).
But a new study suggests you may want to work harder to shed those few extra pounds if you want to live a longer life. The study, which was published in this month’s edition of Annals of Internal Medicine, found that even those participants who were just slightly overweight saw a decreased lifespan.
Their findings appear to counter a controversial theory — called the “obesity paradox” — that being overweight, but not obese, can lengthen your lifespan more than being slim, NPR reported.
Researchers at the Boston University School of Public Health and Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health analyzed the self-reported weight history, diet and lifestyle habits of about 225,000 men and women who were either 50 or 60 years old. They used the participants’ 16-year weight loss history to calculate their body mass index (BMI), a standard measure of body fat, then tracked them for 12 years, the Tech Times reported.
According to the National Institutes of Health, people with a BMI under 18.5 are underweight, those with a BMI of 18.5 – 24.9 have a normal weight, those with a BMI of 25 – 29.9 are overweight, and those with a BMI of 30 or more are obese. (You can calculate your BMI here.)
Study authors followed up with about 32,600 participants and, excluding those who lost weight due to an illness, found that those who were obese or severely obese (having a BMI of 35 or more) at any time were more likely to die than those who had a normal weight, the Tech Times reported.
Overall, people with a normal weight were less likely to suffer from premature death compared to the other weight groups.
But, the authors also observed that those who recorded being overweight were 6 percent more likely to die during the follow-up period — seemingly debunking the obesity paradox, which a 2013 article led by CDC epidemiologist Katherine Flegal coined after analyzing results from 97 obesity studies, NPR reported.
To draw their findings, researchers for the current study used the maximum BMI participants recorded for themselves during the study period.
While the senior author of the current study and Flegal disagreed on the best way to study the link between weight longevity ,Dr. Steven Hymsfield, an obesity researcher at Louisiana State University, told NPR that generally people should consult their doctors yet aim to maintain a healthy BMI.
That’s because a wealth of research supports the idea that having an unhealthy weight can increase the risk of type 2 diabetes, heart disease and even cancer.