Archive for the tag - bmi

Do Overweight People Live Longer?

Do overweight people live longer? Yes, according to a slew of new research.

The study, which was recently published in the Journal of the American Medical Association, reviewed more than 100 previously published research papers about the link between body weight and mortality risk for nearly 3 million participants. Not surprisingly, obese people had an increased risk of death during the course of the study. But interestingly, overweight (but not obese) individuals had a 6% decreased risk of mortality when compared to their so-called “normal weight” counterparts. The findings held true despite gender, smoking status and region of the world.

With more than 2/3 of Americans overweight, the term “normal weight” is actually a bit misleading. The study used body mass index (BMI) categories set by the Word Health Organization as follows:

  • Underweight = BMI less than 18.
  • Normal weight = BMI between 18.5 and 25
  • Overweight = BMI between 25 and 30
  • Obese = BMI of over 30

The findings aren’t really new, but many people continue to be surprised by the data. Most people don’t expect to find a benefit associated with being overweight, so what’s the real story? Why might overweight people actually live longer?

There are a few theories.

For one, overweight people may get better medical care because they’re either screened more regularly or already seeking treatment for an ailment. This added medical care might give overweight individuals a leg up on their thinner counterparts.

Alternatively, the researchers believe there may be a high chance for overweight people to survive medical emergencies. For example, if you get sick and lose 20 pounds, it helps to have the extra 20 pounds to lose.

Or it could be that the thin people are thin because they’re already sick. It could basically be a case of reverse causation. Perhaps being thin doesn’t make you sick, but being sick makes you thin.

Moreover, the study doesn’t look at quality of life or how healthy thin vs. overweight individuals were at the time of death.

The study certainly isn’t a free pass to gain some extra weight or to eat an extra scoop of ice cream. Instead, it shows us how complicated the link is between our weight, our health and our longevity.

Feeling Fat Makes You Fat.

This morning, I came across an absolutely fascinating study by researchers from the Norwegian University of Science and Technology. According to the study, normal weight teenagers who perceive themselves as fat are more likely to become overweight adults.

Back in the mid 1990s, researchers surveyed nearly 1200 teenage boys and girls with normal bodyweights. Roughly ten years later, the researchers followed up with the now-adult participants. While half of the participants still had normal bodyweights, the researchers found some interesting insights about the now-overweight individuals:

  • 59% of the girls and 65% of the boys who perceived themselves to be fat as teenagers grew up to be overweight according to their body mass index (BMI).
  • 78% of the girls and 55% of the boys who perceived themselves to be fat as teenagers grew up to be overweight according to the circumference of their waist.

In contrast:

  • 31% of the girls and 29% of the boys who perceived themselves to be fat as teenagers grew up to be overweight according to their body mass index (BMI).
  • 55% of the girls and 48% of the boys who perceived themselves to be fat as teenagers grew up to be overweight according to the circumference of their waist.

In other words, far more of the normal weight teens who felt fat (even though they weren’t) actually became overweight as adults. In fact, their BMI averaged .88 higher and their waistlines were 3.46 cm larger. But why?

Researchers speculate that teens who felt fat were more stressed than their counterparts. Since stress is associated with weight gain, this could offer one an explanation. Moreover, these teens may have tried to lose their perceived fat by skipping meals and starvation – a strategy that ultimately results in weight gain.

Personally, I think the answer could be a bit deeper. If we have a good, healthy relationship with our body, then we’re more likely to do things that honor it – like eat a healthy diet and engage in exercise. If, on the other hand, you don’t like your body and use negative words against it – like calling it fat – then that relationship can deteriorate and lead to unhealthy habits.

And let’s not forget the power of visualization. By visualizing something, you can help bring it into reality. If you see yourself winning the gold medal or lifting a certain amount of weight or just eating your vegetables, you can breath life into your thoughts. Perhaps, by seeing themselves as fat, these individuals subconsciously cultivated habits that made their belief an reality.

Obviously, it will take subsequent research and data to draw stronger conclusions – but, in the meantime, this study is great food for thought.

What do you think? Are you surprised by the results of this study?