Being overweight can extend life rather than shorten it, according to a major new study that runs counter to widespread medical assumptions and years of warnings about the fatal implications of Britain’s expanding waistlines.
It sounds too good to be true, coming at the end of the season of excess, but after one of the largest reviews of research ever conducted, doctors say that carrying a few extra pounds may actually reduce the risk of premature death. Experts have repeatedly warned that obesity would soon exact a greater toll than smoking and the current generation could be the first to die before their parents.
Only yesterday, the Royal College of Physicians called for more to be done to tackle the UK’s obesity epidemic, criticising the NHS’s “patchy” services and inadequate leadership on the issue. However, the new study shows that people who are modestly overweight have a 6 per cent lower rate of premature death from all causes than people of ideal, “healthy” weight, while even those who are mildly obese have no increased risk. Overweight is defined as a body mass index above 25 but below 30. For a man of 5ft 9in, that is between 12 stone 4lb and 14 stone 6lb, or for a woman of 5ft 6in, it is between 11 stone 3 lb and 13 stone 4lb. Ideal, healthy weight is defined as a BMI between 18.5 and 25.