The Obesity Paradox Debunked
Overweight People Don't Live Longer
In 2013 a group of researchers made a startling claim. They said that people who were overweight, actually lived longer than normal “healthy” weight individuals. It was dubbed the “obesity paradox” and the story was picked up by news organizations around the world.
My job is to help people get in shape and live longer, healthier lives. If this research meant I should suggest a little extra weight for my clients, I needed to know more. I began asking questions to figure out what it all meant.
Within a few weeks, scientists found the “obesity paradox” was riddled with errors. Smokers, who tend to be thinner, were not put into a separate statistical group. People who experienced weight loss due to illness were not broken out. The average weight over time wasn't taken into consideration, just the weight when heart disease was first detected.
All those risk factors were ignored, and the results didn't match the data from decades of clinical studies. So researchers decided to take a deeper look. They tracked 190,672 Americans who had no cardiovascular disease at the start of the study. The subject's body mass index (BMI) was recorded and the patients had follow-ups for 10 years. (Obviously, this was from data that had been gathered before the release of the “obesity paradox” study.)
The study was titled, “Association of Body Mass Index With Lifetime Risk of Cardiovascular Disease and Compression of Morbidity.” It was released in the February 28th, 2018 issue of the journal JAMA Cardiology.
The findings were bad news for overweight people. Rather than concluding extra weight was good, it showed serious problems linked to extra pounds.
A middle-aged man who is considered overweight, with a BMI of 25 to 29.9, has an 18% higher risk of suffering a heart attack than a normal weight man. That increases to 42% higher for obese men with a BMI of 30 to 39.9. It soars to an incredible 98% higher for morbidly obese men with a BMI of 40 or above.
Women have equally frightening statistics. An overweight woman has a 42% higher risk of heart attack. Obese women have a 75% higher risk and morbidly obese women are 80% more likely to suffer a heart attack than healthy-weight women. And those are just the cardiovascular risk factors. There are also dramatic increases in cancer with people who are overweight or obese.
The QUALITY of your years is important too. This study and hundreds of others show that normal-weight people live significantly more “disease-free” years of life. Morbidly obese men and women typically experience a cardiovascular event over 7 years earlier than healthy-weight individuals. Plus, those middle-aged men and women with normal weight, can expect to live a minimum of two to five years longer than their morbidly obese counterparts.
So how could the researchers conclude that extra weight was good? It all came down to when they started tracking people. In the obesity paradox study, they were tracking people AFTER they were diagnosed with cardiovascular disease.
Let's say you're overweight and 40 years old. You suffer a heart attack. The younger that heart attack hits you, the stronger your body is. So you may live with heart disease for another 15 or 20 years. You die at the age of 60.
Now let's say you're normal weight and suffer a heart attack when you're 60. Your body isn't as strong and you might live just 10 to 15 more years with heart disease. You die at the age of 70.
The overweight person who had the first heart attack at 40, lived 10 years LESS than the person who their first heart attack at age 60. BUT, the researchers only added up the years they lived AFTER the heart attack. In this case, that overweight 40-year old lived more years after the heart attack than the 60-year-old. So they wrongly concluded that having that extra weight could help people live longer.
The obesity paradox doesn't exist. The heavier you are, the more likely it is you'll suffer a heart attack or stroke and your life expectancy will drop. Take steps to start dealing with extra weight now, to live a longer and healthier life.
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