Why the Mildly Obese Actually Live Longer

What's the Latest Development?

After examining nearly 100 studies of more than 2.9 million people and 270,000 deaths, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has found that the prevailing measure of fatness, known as body-mass index (BMI), is an imperfect predictor of longevity. "[T]hose who were only moderately obese (with a BMI of 30-35) had a 5% lower risk of death than those of normal weight and those who were merely overweight had a 6% lower risk. The mortality risk was much higher for those with BMI of 35 or above—they had a 29% higher risk of death in a given period than those of normal weight." 

What's the Big Idea?

It may be that obese people live longer because they are more likely to receive medical treatment, particularly for conditions like diabetes and heart disease. And given higher reserves of fat, they may be better equipped to deal with chronic health conditions, which are metabolically demanding. Still, it may be in the best interest of governments to prevent even moderate obesity. "On the one hand, they run a higher risk than those who are less fat of developing chronic ailments such as heart disease and diabetes that require expensive treatment. On the other, corpulence may extend life, meaning such treatment may be needed for many extra years."

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