COLUMBUS, Ohio -- Some overweight older adults don't need to lose weight to extend their lives, but they could risk an earlier death if they pack on more pounds.
In fact, the nationwide study found that people who were slightly overweight in their 50s but kept their weight relatively stable were the most likely to survive over the next 16 years.
They had better survival rates than even normal-weight individuals whose weight increased slightly, but stayed within the normal range.
On the other hand, those who started out as very obese in their 50s and whose weight continued to increase were the most likely to die during that period.
Overall, the results suggest that about 7.2 percent of deaths after the age of 51 are due to weight gain among obese people, at least among the generation in this study, said Hui Zheng, lead author of the study and assistant professor of sociology at The Ohio State University.
"You can learn more about older people's mortality risk by looking at how their weight is changing than you can by just looking at how much they weigh at any one time," Zheng said.
While some extra weight seemed protective in this study, Zheng cautioned that these results applied only to people over 50. His previous research, published in Social Science & Medicine, suggests that being overweight may not be helpful for younger people.
"Our other research suggests that the negative effect of obesity on health is greater for young people than it is for older people, so young people especially shouldn't think that being overweight is harmless," he said.
This new study was published online this month in the American Journal of Epidemiology. Co-authors are Dmitry Tumin, doctoral student, and Zhenchao Qian, professor, both in sociology at Ohio State.
The researchers used data from the Health and Retirement Study, a nationally representative survey of Americans born between 1931 an
|Contact: Hui Zheng|
Ohio State University