Nokyoung Xayasane
January 03, 2013

Can Being Overweight Equal a Longer Life?

Photo credit: Alamy/ The Telegraph

It’s the new year, and you know what that means: It’s crunch time (get it?) when it comes to getting to work on your weight loss resolutions — after all, you want to be healthy, and everyone knows skinny equals healthy, right? But before you down that bowl of nasty cabbage soup that some magazine told you would have you shedding pounds in no time, wait one minute. A new study has been released that may change the way we look at body weight.

A study released in the Journal of American Medical Association found that people who were overweight were 6% more likely to live longer than those who were of normal weight.

The study followed 3 million people from around the world, including the US, Canada, Europe, Brazil and India. Although, people who were significantly obese had shorter lifespans, those who were classified as overweight outlived their skinnier counterparts.

So, what’s the skinny on this counter-intuitive conclusion?

Lead researcher and epidemiologist for the CDC Katherine M. Flegal didn’t have any definitive answers, but said other studies have shown similar results in the past. Obesity researcher Dr. Steven B. Heymsfield thinks people with extra fat may have an advantage.

“I think we should be open-minded and ask, ‘OK, what could be helpful about fat?'” says Heymsfield.

The extra pounds may mean extra padding if a person were to tumble and fall, lessening the risk of hip fractures. The extra weight also means energy reserves for those with serious illnesses.

But before we gorge on that third cupcake, let’s remember that living longer doesn’t mean having a better quality of life. Being overweight can lead to health problems like high blood pressure and diabetes.

An article by the NHS warns that it “would would be unwise to interpret [these] findings as proof that being overweight is ‘healthy’ – rather it may be slightly less unhealthy than perceived.”

So, maybe you should consider changing your 2013 resolution from losing weight to improving your health. It seems that you don’t have to be super skinny to live longer, but no one can deny that staying fit and eating a healthy diet can go a long way.