Heavier People Don’t Die Young

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Being “overweight” may not be as bad for you as you thought.

People who have a body mass index of 27 — overweight by current guidelines — have the lowest risk of dying early from any cause, according to a new report. That B.M.I. number is higher than in earlier decades.

Danish researchers used data from three time periods: 1976-78, 1991-94 and 2003-13, to calculate B.M.I. and mortality in more than 120,000 people.

In the earliest group, mortality was lowest among those with a B.M.I. of 23.7, within the normal range. In the 1991-94 group, the lowest mortality was in those with a B.M.I. of 24.6, the high end of normal. But in the 2003-13 cohort, a B.M.I. of 27, well into the overweight range by current standards, was associated with the lowest all-cause mortality. The study was published in JAMA.

“The data are straightforward,” said the senior author, Dr. Borge G. Nordestgaard, a clinical professor at the University of Copenhagen. “Thinking about why is more complicated. It may be that we’ve become better at treating cardiovascular risk factors. But I have no data to support this belief.”

In any case, this does not mean that a person of normal weight should aim to gain weight. “If you’re at 27, then maybe you don’t have to worry as much as you did,” Dr. Nordestgaard said. “But that doesn’t mean ‘now I can eat as much as I want.’”