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Contrary to earlier findings, excess body fat in elderly decreases life expectancy
Date:8/11/2011

LOMA LINDA, Calif. While some past studies have shown that persons carrying a few extra pounds in their 70s live longer than their thinner counterparts, a new study that measured subjects' weight at multiple points over a longer period of time reveals the opposite.

Research from Adventist Health Studies recently published in the Journal of the American Geriatrics Society showed that men over 75 with a body mass index (BMI) greater than 22.3 had a 3.7-year shorter life expectancy, and women over 75 with a BMI greater than 27.4 had a 2.1-year shorter life expectancy. Generally, a BMI between 18.5 and 24.9 is considered normal weight, and a BMI of 25 to 29.9 is considered overweight. A BMI of 30 or more is considered obese.

Previous work in this area by others found a protective association for a high body weight among the elderly. Pramil N. Singh, DrPH, lead author of the paper and an associate professor in the School of Public Health at Loma Linda University, says the data from many past studies is problematic because only a single baseline measure of weight was taken, which does not account for weight changes or how weight changes affect life expectancy. Additionally, most past studies had mortality surveillance of fewer than 19 years, which analyses have shown to be an inadequate amount of time to study risks associated with weight.

"We had a unique opportunity to do 29 years of follow-up with a cohort that was also followed for mortality outcomes," Dr. Singh said. "Across this long period of time, we had multiple measures of body weight, which provided a more accurate assessment."

The study looked at 6,030 adults who never smoked and who were free of major chronic diseases at enrollment. It then examined only those adults who maintained a stable weight. This was done in an effort to exclude individuals who, for example, were in the normal weight category because they experienced significant weight loss due to a d
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Contact: Heather Reifsnyder
hreifsnyder@llu.edu
909-558-1000 x42932
Loma Linda University Adventist Health Sciences Center
Source:Eurekalert

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