It's well known that being obese increases the risk of death from multiple causes, including heart disease, stroke and certain cancers. But whether a few extra pounds contribute to an early death isn't so clear. Some research has suggested being overweight has little effect on health and may even offer some protection against early death.
But this new study, the largest of its kind to date, has found that even moderate extra weight can carry major health risks.
To investigate, researchers analyzed 19 long-term studies that involved a total of 1.5 million participants. They relied on the body-mass index (BMI) as the basis for comparing people.
A BMI between 19 and 24.9 is considered to be healthy, while a BMI between 25 and 29.5 is considered to be overweight and a BMI exceeding 30 is obese.
Researchers focused on people who were healthy at the beginning of the studies, excluding smokers and those with heart disease or cancer because those affect death rates and researchers wanted to see the impact of weight alone.
Researchers found that healthy adults who were overweight were 13 per cent more likely to die during the time they were followed in the study than those whose weight was in an ideal range.
The lowest death rate for healthy women who had never smoked was in the high end of the ideal body mass index range - between 22.5 and 24.9.
Compared with that group, those who were overweight had an increased risk of death of 13 per cent. The increased risk ranged from 44 to 88 per cent for those who were obese. The morbidly obese were more than twice as likely to die prematurely. The results for men were similar.
According to Statistics Canada, the percentage of Canadians who are overweight or obese has risen dramatically in recent years. It's estimated that 23 percent of Canadians aged 18 or older, an estimated 5.5 million adults, have a BMI of 30 or more, indicating that they were obese, and another 8.6 million, or 36 percent are overweight.
All research on this web site is the property of Leslie Beck Nutrition Consulting Inc. and is protected by copyright. Keep in mind that research on these matters continues daily and is subject to change. The information presented is not intended as a substitute for medical treatment. It is intended to provide ongoing support of your healthy lifestyle practices.