-- Mary Elizabeth Dallas
WEDNESDAY, Aug. 17 (HealthDay News) -- Elderly people with extra
body fat may not live as long as those who maintain a normal
weight, according to a new study that contradicts previous
In following seniors over an extended period of time and
accounting for changes in their weight, researchers found a higher
body mass index (BMI), or height-to-weight ratio, is associated
with a shorter life expectancy.
"We had a unique opportunity to do 29 years of follow-up with a cohort that was also followed for mortality outcomes," said study lead author Pramil N. Singh, associate professor in the School of Public Health at Loma Linda University, in a university news release. "Across this long period of time, we had multiple measures of body weight, which provided a more accurate assessment."
For the study, recently published in the
Journal of the American Geriatrics Society, researchers examined 6,030 healthy adults who never smoked. They found that men older than 75 years with a BMI greater than 22.3 would live nearly four years less than those with a lower BMI.
Similarly, women older than 75 years with a BMI greater than
27.4 would live roughly two years less than other women their age
who were of normal weight.
A BMI between 18.5 and 24.9 is considered normal weight. A BMI
of 25 to 29.9 is considered overweight, and a BMI of 30 or higher
is considered obese.
The study pointed out, however, that the negative effects of
excess weight kick in for men and women at different BMIs. Men
experienced a greater risk of dying beginning with a BMI of 22.3,
while this risk did not appear for women until they had a BMI of
The study authors suggested this difference may be because in
postmenopausal women body fat is the main source of estrogen, which
may help protect them from heart disease and hip fractures.
These findings contradict previous studies, which concluded that
overweight elderly people live longer than their thinner peers. The
authors of the current study said previous findings are limited
because they do not account for participants' weight changes over
an adequate length of time and consider how these fluctuations in
weight might affect their life expectancy.
"This suggests that elderly individuals of normal weight should continue to maintain their weight," said Singh.
The authors said additional research is needed to explore how
lifestyle patterns help people maintain a healthy body weight over
The U.S. National Library of Medicine provides more information
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