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Could Fat Be Your Friend Over Age 85?
Date:3/10/2012

By Madonna Behen
HealthDay Reporter

THURSDAY, March 8 (HealthDay News) -- Medical experts have long known that obesity can take years off your life, but a new Israeli study suggests that if you're lucky enough to reach your mid-80s, carrying some extra pounds might actually help you live longer.

The study, by Tel Aviv University researchers, revealed that while obesity did increase the risk of dying for people in their 70s and early 80s, when people lived longer than that those who were obese had a slightly lower risk of death than their underweight or normal-weight peers.

The main message of the study is that "very old age has different rules, and just because something is true for most ages does not necessarily mean it is true above age 85, which is not an unusual age for older persons," said study co-author Jiska Cohen-Mansfield, director of the Herczeg Institute on Aging at Tel Aviv University.

"It may be that as one gets older, the protective effects of obesity become more pronounced," the authors wrote. For instance, heavier people are known to have lower rates of the bone-thinning disease osteoporosis and therefore have a lower risk of falls and injuries.

"Obesity may also provide energy reserves in times of stress, illness and trauma. In addition, obesity may prolong the period of pre-death weight loss, as aging is associated with decreased food intake," they wrote.

But Cohen-Mansfield cautioned that the findings don't mean that people in their mid-80s who aren't overweight should try to fatten up in order to live longer. "That is a question for a separate study," she said. "We did not examine changes in weight during the lifetime and their impact. It is possible that gaining some weight may be desirable and it may not make a difference, or it may have negative effects."

What's more, a key limitation of the study is that it only examined mortality, Cohen-Mansfield said, "and other indi
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