Being Obese Is Better Than Being Underweight

Modern society is obsessed with weight: everyone longs to be skinny, and obesity is demonized. But while being overweight does carry with it health risks, a new study suggests that being underweight is far more dangerous than being obese.

In fact, the study, carried out at University of California Davis School of Medicine, shows that it is far more dangerous to be assessed as "underweight" than it is to be assessed even as "severely obese". Prof. Anthony Jerant, one of the researchers, explains:

"There is currently a widespread belief that any degree of overweight or obesity increases the risk of death, however our findings suggest this may not be the case. In the six-year timeframe of our evaluation, we found that only severe obesity was associated with an increased risk of death."

Jerant and his team surveyed almost 51,000 Americans of all ages over a period of six years to gather data for their research. Upon analysis, it transpired that those participants with BMI that determined them "underweight" showed a risk of death twice as high as the "normal" participants. Weirdly, it was considerably safer to be "severely obese" than underweight. Those with a BMI classifying them as such were just 1.26 times as likely to die as "normals".

The result, published in the Journal of the American Board of Family Medicine, in part shows a problem with the BMI measurement. Developed by a Belgian sociologist without medical qualifications, the truth is that Body Mass Index struggles to cope with extremes of height or mass. Validity of the measurement aside, though, the fact remains that—while being obese carries its own risks—a BMI classification of "underweight" is still something you want to avoid. Pass the pizza! [Journal of the American Board of Family Medicine via The Register]

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