Debunking the 'Obesity Paradox'

Risk of dying was higher in people who were overweight, obese

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(RxWiki News) A new study's findings go against the so-called "obesity paradox." It found that patients who become overweight or obese had a higher risk of dying.

According to the authors of this study, that may cast some doubt on the obesity paradox — a finding in some past studies that being overweight or obese might actually lower the risk of dying from an illness.

These researchers looked at weight history over a longer period of time than many past studies that appeared to support the obesity paradox. The follow-up period was 12 years on average. Studies that looked at weight at only one point and then measured the risk of dying in participants might not have provided an accurate overall look at patients' weight histories, these researchers said.

"Having a history of being overweight or obese is linked to an increased risk for death from any cause," said study author Dr. Andrew Stokes, a professor at the Boston University School of Public Health, in a press release.

Some patients in past studies might have lost weight because of an illness, the authors of the current study noted. The current study found that the patients with the highest risk of dying were those who showed significant drops in weight, which might suggest they had serious illnesses.

"Prior studies showing an association between overweight people and lower mortality carried the risk of reverse causation bias — in other words, the conditions leading to death are what might have caused the lower body mass index (BMI), rather than the lower BMI causing death," said Dr. Andrew Stokes in a press release.

These researchers said their findings support following a healthy lifestyle and staying at a healthy weight. Talk to your doctor about how to maintain a healthy weight.

This study was published in the Annals of Internal Medicine.

The National Institutes of Health funded this research. Information regarding conflicts of interest was not available at time of publication. 

Last Updated:
April 15, 2017