Well Being

Obesity Paradox A Myth; Death Risk From Obesity Increases Steadily With Age

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For a while now, scientific wisdom has held that there's an “obesity paradox” — while having a high body mass index increases death risk in those under 65, older adults can actually benefit from some extra weight. That wisdom is wrong, say Columbia University researchers.

In a new article in the American Journal of Epidemiology, they argue that previous studies on obesity and longevity were biased due to data that excluded seniors institutionalized in places like hospitals and nursing homes. This leaves out a lot of seniors and overrepresents older respondents who are healthy, “including the relatively healthy obese.”

It also fails to take into account obese individuals who't don't make it to age 65.

In a new analysis, Ryan Masters, a professor at the Columbia School of Public Health, and his team found that as obese Americans age, their risk of death indeed climbs. There is no obesity paradox. The risk for death from obesity increases the older obese individuals get.

“This study should put to rest the notion that it's possible to ‘age out' of obesity risk, and provides a powerful counterfactual against those who say concern over obesity is overhyped,” said Bruce Link, a professor of epidemiology at Columbia and one of the study's other authors.