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Being Overweight Does Not Prolong Lives

A meta-analysis of a hundred large studies showed that being a little bit overweight offers slight protection (a six percent decrease) from premature death (Journal of the American Medical Association, January 2, 2013). This study has been widely reported in the media, with headlines such as "Our Imaginary Weight Problem".

Instead of being told that overweight is beneficial, people should continue to hear that excess weight shortens lives, particularly if their fat is stored in the belly.

Why the Report is Flawed
People with wasting diseases usually lose weight long before they die. All chronic diseases that shorten lives have a tendency to make people lose weight. Heart diseases, cancers, late stages of diabetes, kidney failure, arthritis, and even aging itself, usually cause weight loss before death (J Cachexia Sarcopenia Muscle, 2012;3(1):1-4). Weight loss that precedes death can last as long as 10 to 20 years, so it is impossible to correct epidemiological studies for this effect.

As people with wasting diseases approach death, their rate of weight loss increases dramatically. Sicker people, and those closer to death, lose weight faster than people with wasting diseases whose immunities are successfully holding their diseases at bay. It is true that people who have diseases that will eventually kill them may live longer as long as they do not lose weight.

Even a Little Fat in Your Belly Can be Deadly
Not all fat is harmful. Fat stored on your hips and upper legs protects you from disease. It does not turn on your immunity or cause inflammation; and it helps to prevent diabetes and heart attacks.

However, fat located inside your belly and around your organs:
• turns on your immunity to cause inflammation that leads to cancers, heart attacks, strokes, diabetes, inflammatory types of arthritis and so forth; and
• blocks insulin receptors to raise blood sugar levels, leading to diabetes that can damage every cell in your body.

This large study should not make you believe that being overweight is beneficial. You should maintain a healthful weight and try to lose any excess fat that you have in your belly. Belly fat is harmful and shortens lives.

Checked 12/1/16

May 1st, 2015
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About the Author: Gabe Mirkin, MD

Sports medicine doctor, fitness guru and long-time radio host Gabe Mirkin, M.D., brings you news and tips for your healthful lifestyle. A practicing physician for more than 50 years and a radio talk show host for 25 years, Dr. Mirkin is a graduate of Harvard University and Baylor University College of Medicine. He is board-certified in four specialties: Sports Medicine, Allergy and Immunology, Pediatrics and Pediatric Immunology. The Dr. Mirkin Show, his call-in show on fitness and health, was syndicated in more than 120 cities. Read More
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